Author: V E Schwab
Rating: 5 Stars
Dates read: 15 Jun 18 – 17 Jun 18
Publication date: 10 January 2014
Genre(s): Fantasy; Science-Fiction
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in one another. A shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death-experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. They become EOs, ExtraOrdinaries, leaving a body in their wake and turning on each other.
Ten years later Victor has escaped from prison and is determined to get his revenge on the man who put him there, aided by a young girl with the ability to raise the dead. Eli has spent the years hunting down and killing every EO he can find, convinced that they are a crime against God, all except his sidekick, a woman whose power is persuasion and whom he cannot defy. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the arch-nemeses have set a course for revenge but who will be left alive at the end?
I absolutely adore the writing style and character development that V E Schwab is known for, so when I decided to venture outside of her fantasy Shades of Magic world into the Villains universe I did so with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. In the space of 3 books/1 series, she had cemented herself as one of my favourite authors, but I wasn’t sure about reading a novel of hers set in our world, the real world in which I live. Yes, there is a fantastical superpower elements, but it was a book that was routed in reality that strayed into the realms of science fiction and I was unsure it would be for me. I needn’t have worried, her superlative story was incredible to read.
The story follows multiple time streams to tell a narrative that spans over the space of a decade. It took me a couple of chapters to get used to the changing view points and the altering time streams, but the unusual narrative structure weaved a complicated and entrancing story that quickly had me asking questions and jumping both ahead and backwards at almost every turn. The unique writing structure gave a clear indication of the character’s thoughts and feelings, their viewpoints on life and the repercussions of their actions and how they deal with these, and how this changed at different points in their lives. We meet the characters 10 years after an event that changed their lives and friendships, and reading about their headspace in the ‘future’ is eye-opening when you read about events in the ‘past’, and reading about events in the ‘past’ make you realise just what a toll and effect these had to their ‘future’ psyche.
I really quite like dystopian fiction, but I haven’t really branched too far into anything else that could be considered science fiction. The story shows the development of Victor and Eli and their pursuit of superpowers via their academic theses. They both are following similar streams of thought in their academic pursuits, and in their past they pursue increasing dangerous and deadly pursuits to create the conditions in which they develop powers. The stress of such actions, the pressure of essentially dying and coming back to life, irrevocably damages their friendship, this damage fuelling the story between the future characters. Each action, be it between their ‘past’ or ‘future’ selves shows their characters differences and their flaws and how their differing powers have positively and negatively affect their lives.
The power differentials between the characters of ExtraOrdinary abilities (EO) fuel the plotlines of the ‘future’ portion of the book. We’re introduced to Eli and Victor’s EO obsessions in the ‘past’ sory, and are told of their developing powers, but the individual powers the main characters have pit the characters against each other and dictate the narrative. Eli’s powers of regeneration allow him to heal, prevents ageing, and encourages a jealous streak in Victor that ultimately sparks Victor’s death/attempt to become an EO and the development of his ability, that of pain manipulation. Both characters are somewhat manipulative and are undoubtedly evil, so pitting them together as villain v villain, foregoing the classic heroic protagonist is something that I enjoyed and believe was a stroke of genius by V E Schwab.
I actually feel like Victor and Eli’s true characters come in their relationships with their acquaintances, most specifically the Clarke sisters. We see more of the story through Victor’s eyes, a character who has developed a friendship with none-EO Mitch whom he met and befriended whilst behind bars, and EO teenager Serena, a 13yr old girl with a quiet personality, low heart rate and below average temperature, a girl who can resurrect the dead and becomes vitally important to Victor, but also falls under his protective wing. In stark contrast, Eli manipulates the mind control powers of the older Clarke sisters, using her abilities to find, hurt, and kill EO’s. I’m not sure I completely followed his reasoning, or maybe I just don’t remember at this point, but his chilling pursuit of his ’cause’ is superbly executed.
D’you know how much I absolutely adored this review? I actually pre-ordered the second novel in the Villains series, but, I then found out that the wonderful Illumicrate were doing a special edition Magic and Mayhem edition that includes lots of V E Schwab themed goodies and a SIGNED, EXCLUSIVE edition of Vengeful, so I just had to have it. I really think that V E Schwab has cemented herself as one of my favourite authors. She’s now the author that I follow religiously on social media, and instantly pre-order books for, because her writing is simultaneously mindblowingly refreshing whilst being classically fantastical and I adore her and her novels.