Villains Duology: Review
Happy 2019 everyone!
I consider myself to be a pretty loyal fan of Victoria Schwab’s- so much so that I’ve been to three of her signings and all of my books are signed by her, including a copy of The Steel Prince comic. Watching her stories rise to meteoric success has been thrilling, because it means that so many more people can enjoy the worlds that I’ve discovered. One of her series that I hadn’t read yet though, was Villains, which consisted of two books. Vicious was published in 2013 and the sequel, Vengeful, was only just released late last year in September 2018. So, it was high time that I read them both in succession and I’m really glad that I was able to squeeze them into my 2018 reading schedule! Read on for a spoiler-free review of both books.
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, 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.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
Vicious introduces something so delicious and tantalizing to geeks like myself- a world where ExtraOrdinary individuals exist. Not clothed in capes and skin-tight costumes. Just normal humans like you and I walking down the street harboring a deep, deep secrets borne from a traumatic and near-death experience. This book- science fiction at its core- establishes a logic behind how powers are developed and designed. And of course, we know how the moniker goes: with great power, comes great responsibility.
Enter Eli and Victor, probably the only two literary anti-heroes that I will truly enjoy reading about. This is because of their characters’ depth and deeply complex personalities that Schwab takes the time to explore and unfurl for readers. Layer upon layer of complicated reasoning, morality, and past experiences are exposed to give us a holistic view of who these two ambitious young men are and why they are so perfectly suited to be at odds with each other. Calling them each other’s archenemy might be cliche, but all great rivalries come from a shared understanding of pain and suffering. Eli and Victor have certainly had their fair share of that. They are a classic combo that still somehow manages to depart from the classic “superhero vs. villain” archetype- because the hero is flawed and the villain has a heart.
I am a self-described Marvel and DC geek and nowadays with the huge splash that those two comic book titans are making on the silver screen, everyone seems to fall into one camp or the other. So, it really tickled me to see how “superpowers” were molded into something more believable. Heck, for a moment Schwab had me believing that extraordinaries could exist based on Victor and Eli’s rationale, and isn’t that the beauty of science fiction? There’s a balance between action and exposition that I really appreciated, and in typical Schwab fashion, she spares no expense for beautiful prose.
Aside from our two main characters, we meet a cast of other characters, both ExtraOrdinary and ordinary, with whom I am head over heels in love with. Even the smallest character is given a backstory, with intricately defined relationships. There are some plot twists that I absolutely did not see coming, and am in awe that so much fit into just two books.