VICIOUS by V. E. Schwab or How to Sympathize With Villains




Victor and Eli started out as college roommates. Brilliant, ambitious and cunning, they got along more than fine until senior year. When a shared interest in adrenaline and near-death experiences helps them uncover the secrets behind EOs—ExtraOrdinary beings—Victor and Eli develop an obsession with turning themselves into EOs. 

Fast forward ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison with an insatiable desire to take revenge on Eli. With an escaped convict and hacker, a twelve-year-old girl with necromancy powers and an undead dog in tow, Victor sets himself on a hunt for his long-ago friend now foe. What could have happened ten years ago to make Victor and Eli turn against each other? And who between the two will be left alive at the end? 

Alternating between several perspectives and timelines, Vicious is a riveting tale of revenge, broken friendship, and sheer wickedness. 


GENRES: Adult Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Often enough, fantasy authors create two basic types of characters: the strong and virtuous protagonist and their devilish antagonists. I might be playing into the stereotypes here, but typical stories are indeed woven into this pattern—hopefully with a few creative elements incorporated in there. 

Imagine my wonder when I dived into Vicious by V.E. Schwab and was catapulted into a fantastic tale full of anti-heroes, betrayal, jealousy and lofty ambition. None of the typical tropes used in fantasy books found their way into Vicious. There’s no hero, no romance, no swords, no honor and no morals.

Let’s put the emphasis on “no morals” here. 

Our two main characters, Victor and Eli, are both terrible human beings. They are two of the most twisted and forbidding souls imaginable. And you know what’s most fascinating about Victor and Eli? As much as they’re portrayed as the most despicable of humans, it’s impossible not to sympathize with them to a certain extent.

That’s what I wish to discuss today. I think it is fascinating and no doubt thought-provoking that we, readers, are somehow able to find redeeming qualities in horrible characters. 

So let’s look into what makes Victor and Eli so evil and why they are deemed as likable, redeemable souls nonetheless. Does it have something to do about V.E. Schwab’s talent for creating complex stories and characters? Or does it rather have something to do with what qualities our society values? 

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