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Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Cover Artist: Victo Ngai
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765335340
Date: 24 September 2013 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

There is a fine line between hero and villain. Actions and perception play a role. Causing the death of someone is generally considered to be bad, but what if killing one person saves hundreds? Although based on classic comic book conflict, this isn't your typical hero and villain adventure. The powers of the ExtraOrdinary (EO) are fairly typical including healing, teleportation, and mind control. The transformation affects the EO in negative ways as well. Everything has a cost, but the cost of EO is more than many may be willing to pay if they understand what it takes to become EO.

Victor and Eli are friends and roommates at Lockland University. They are approaching the end of their academic careers. They are taking a class in preparation of a thesis. Eli, as a joke, says he wants to study the potential for EOs. People who have abilities that make them more than human. The joke turns into an obsession and a hint by Victor leads to a major discovery, the path to EO abilities.

The two college students, unsurprisingly strive to become more. But to do it, they must risk death. They do, Eli gets the gift first. When Victor pushes to gain his own abilities, something terrible happens that will pit friend against friend and sends him to jail. This fallout also leads to the path that Eli will tread over the coming decade. When Victor escapes, he sets out in search of Eli. Victor and Eli will not face off alone. Both Eli and Victor have a team to help them.

Part of their crews are sisters Sydney and Serene. Serene is several years older than Sydney. Sydney worshiped her older sister until Serene did the unforgivable to please her new boyfriend. Their split takes place around the time Victor escapes jail. Victor and Eli need Sydney and Serene to accomplish their ultimate goals.

Both teams also have ordinary humans. Detective Stell has been investigating EO since the beginning. He is drawn into helping stop the EO menace. Mitchell Turner is a big man. His size is only matched by his heart and loyalty. Unfortunately, he is always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you are looking for a true hero, you won't find one here. At times I thought I was reading Lawrence Block's take on heroes and villains. Every time I read a Block story that is supposed to be for a specific theme, he twists the theme in ways that leave me both frustrated and amazed. I can say the same about Vicious. I want a hero, but there were only flawed individuals but the story is good and sucks you in.

I wasn't sure what I was going to get when I started this novel. It is a wild ride as the action jumps between the past and the present. I cared and sympathized with every character at some point, even the most powerful and least likeable character in the story. I also can't say I really like any of the characters, because they aren't really likeable people. There are a couple characters that have the potential to be likeable, but at this point I am withholding judgment. There is potential for future adventures set in this world.

Vicious is an eclectic ball of energy, a true reflection of its author. I recommend getting Vicious and then following her on twitter (@veschwab) so you can follow her adventures in writing and life.

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