It’s a cardinal rule of being a writer. You must read in order to write. My only problem is that often, when I am deeply involved in a writing project (or even buried in editing my own work) any other reading I’m doing comes to a complete halt. I seem to be unable to focus on the novel while scrutinizing my own words. In my perusing of Facebook writing groups I’ve found that I’m not the only one with this particular issue. But then, occasionally, I find a book that I can’t put down; one that inspires my own desire to write.
Vicious, by V.E. Schwab is one of those such books. I could list the things I love about this book, but then I would never stop blogging about it and would spoil all the fantastic surprises she tucks in the pages.
And I won’t give a short synopsis, because you’re better off reading the blurb on the back or online. The long and short that Victor and Eli, two college friends, give themselves powers. And not necessarily of the typical superhero variety. These powers cause an irreparable rift between the two leading to an epic confrontation.
The way Schwab begins the book immediately hooks the reader. You are torn between the now and ten years ago and it is clear that the two timelines are going to come crashing together. After only the first two chapters I wanted to know what happened between Victor and Eli to drive them apart and yet force them back on a collision course.
On the greatest strengths of the book is Schwab’s ability to blur the lines between hero and villain. A case can be made for Victor or Eli on either side of the equation and none would be an incorrect interpretation. My favorite character trait of either is Eli’s religious background. It creates an interesting juxtaposition with his desire to play God in both cheating death and his aim once he’s beaten the odds and survived his near death experience.
Another of my favorite aspects is how she incorporates magic/superpowers into her world. As I’ve been working on a short piece that balances magic and technology myself, I couldn’t help but be in awe of how simply she manages this in Vicious. There is no need to explain the gritty details of how the powers come into existence or the reasoning behind them. The main characters are experimenting with the creation and circumstances themselves, so they don’t have all the answers and you never expect them to. It is a genius way to avoid info-dumping and explaining how it all works.
In all reality I could go on for hours about the details I love about this book and how expertly crafted it is. I don’t often find books that I can’t put down and books that I read in less than a week. This was both. The sequel comes out this fall. And I don’t usually pick up books when they’re released, but I will be there day one to see how this saga and these incredibly complex characters continue.