Vicious by V.E. Schwab
"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?"- summary from Amazon
I am so glad I gave Schwab another chance after reading her debut, which I thought was just an okay book. I absolutely adored her sophomore effort, The Archived, and now her adult debut is simply fabulous. Vicious is a fascinating, suspenseful book and Schwab crafted it so very well. Chapters take place in different time periods, from different characters POVs, and these really just help strengthen and create this gritty comic-book-like world. It also never really feels like a bunch of hopping around; the book is divided into two parts- the first part mainly focuses on the time Eli and Victor are in school together, and the second part focuses on the present day. In between, we get glimpses into each character's past or inner thoughts, but it feels like a natural progression; Schwab leads us up to each of these points and a particular scene evolves out of how the previous chapter ends.
There's a fascinating tug of war between Eli and Victor of what it means to be a hero and what it means to be a villain. Schwab deals with this dilemma deftly and toes the line between the two very well. It makes for a much more complex book and provides some interesting thoughts on it. These characters are deep and multi-layered with flaws and redeeming qualities and quirks and it's not always an easy case of good vs. evil.
Overall, simply an amazing book that I highly recommend and I hope that there is a sequel, but barring that, I'd love to just read more adult books from Schwab (as well as YA- ALL the Schwab books for me!).
FTC: Received hardcover from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.