Rating: 4.5 stars
Eli Ever and Victor Vale were only medical students when their mutual discovery that near-death experiences can, under the right conditions, manifest extraordinary abilities.
They were best friends, and rivals, and then enemies. They were dead, then alive, and then—Eli killed Victor, once and for all.
Or so he thought—but Sydney Clarke felt otherwise, and used her own superpower to tip the scales. Now, a trio hides in the shadows, while another takes advantages of post-death life to take over the city of Merit.
If there can be life after death—will there be calm after vengeance, or will chaos rule?
25th September 2018
Thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This is the first time I haven’t given a V. E. Schwab a resounding 5 stars, and I am a little heartbroken! This was still an absolutely amazing read but something about it just didn’t quite live up to my expectations, or to Vicious! But the world and characters were all fascinating and there were so many amazing aspects of this book so I am still extremely glad to have read it.
As this whole book (and duology) is based completely on the characters and their motivation, it feels fitting to start this review talking about these wonderful characters. There was a mix of old and new characters in this cast which created a lovely dynamic! Having characters we already know and love makes it really easy to get into the book but the new characters bring a level of intrigue and mystery that really adds to the story. Both Victor and Eli were still the protagonists in this book, and they were both still the fascinating and terrible people we came to know in Vicious. It was very interesting to see the role reversal in this book between their characters, and also to learn a more in-depth backstory of Eli. I found that this backstory made me sympathise more with him however it did not even remotely forgive what he did. Both of these characters do some truly horrible things throughout this duology but because of V. E. Schwab’s masterful writing that explains their motivations so clearly, everything is completely understandable! Her ability to do this is absolutely incredible as there is no way I should be able to relate to a character who is so completely different to myself, but somehow she finds that tiny part of all of us that can empathise and therefore feel for these characters even though their actions should cause us to despise them.
The other recurring characters from Vicious were Mitch, Sydney and Dol (yes that is the dog, but it is definitely a vital character!) These characters (plus Victor) brought some of my absolute favourite parts of the book, just seeing this rag-tag group of people living as a little family was so sweet, and I could easily read a whole book about that even without all the action and mystery! It was so endearing seeing them all and how even though they didn’t seem to make sense as a group they all complimented each other so well and worked perfectly. Mitch is so sweet, especially with Sydney, and I felt so sorry for him throughout this book! He always gets down on himself about everything even though he spends a lot of the book stuck in the middle of drama that has nothing to do with him! Obviously I want all of the characters to have good lives after the end of the book, but Mitch especially deserves a low-stress family life where he can actually enjoy himself for once! I also absolutely adored Sydney! As well as being a sassy teenager, there was a really interesting topic brought up about not looking your age and how frustrating it can be! Sydney has already not had a normal childhood at all but with the added aspect of her not really ageing, it means she doesn’t get any independence or anything else other teenagers get. I realise in the grand scheme of this book this isn’t the most important topic but I really enjoyed it as it isn’t often touched on. It is difficult enough to fit in (even more so in her case) and by not looking her age she doesn’t have a chance and I really felt for her!
There were also quite a few new characters in this book, most importantly the two kickass ladies we meet, Marcella and June. I did enjoy reading about these characters but I found I couldn’t empathise with Marcella nearly as much as Victor, Eli and June. Marcella was brash and even when I found out her backstory I just couldn’t relate to her motivations at all, she seemed to want to do bad things just for the sake of it which I can never condone. June however was quite an interesting character, and a lot about her was left as a mystery (do I sense a spin-off?). Her character and power brought up the very interesting topic of identity, how if you spend a long time masquerading as someone other than yourself do you completely lose your sense of self? This topic wasn’t explored in much depth but it was interesting nonetheless, and definitely delivered some food for thought after the end of the book.
The plot in this book was interesting but it definitely feels like the focus is on the characters instead of the plot. As is often the way with sequels I didn’t enjoy the plot of this book quite as much as Vicious by it was still really fun to read. I think because I didn’t particularly enjoy Marcella as a character it meant that there were aspects of the plot which I wasn’t overly invested in, which probably took away from the reading experience for me. I think just overall Vicious was a slightly better read. Having Victor and Eli at the forefront, working out how to become EOs and then becoming enemies was fascinating, and I just didn’t become nearly as invested in Marcella’s plot to take power as I did Victor and Eli’s rivalry.
As always with V. E. Schwab’s books, the writing was absolutely fabulous! I adore her writing style, it is so effective and also stunning. I always find her writing so immersive, it really draws me in and keeps me engaged and fascinated the whole way through. I am still a huge fan of V. E. Schwab’s books even though this one didn’t quite live up to my hopes and I will of course continue to read all her new releases!
I would definitely recommend this book, it may not be quite as amazing as Vicious but it is still an absolutely amazing book and I had a thoroughly good time reading it and if you enjoyed Vicious I am sure you’ll love this too!
– Maddie Browse