I really enjoyed Victoria Schwab’s other works, or I should say work as I’ve only read The Archived. However, I fell so in love with The Archived that I knew I would love anything else by her. I’ve had Vicious since even before I read The Archived, yet I kept putting it off. Why, I could not tell you because the concept drew me in. Months and months passed, each time I would tell myself that I would read Vicious, but I never did. Then I hit the point where I said enough. I’d nearly owned the book for a year and I hadn’t picked it up even though I knew I would love it. Surprise, surprise, I loved it.
Let’s get this straight, Schwab created a world that could have been built up more. It did feel a bit empty. I never really was sure what era the story took place in largely because Schwab’s writing had an air of an older era. Yet, there weren’t quite enough clues for me to full visualize the world. Where that really worked for The Archived, it was a bit of a detriment to Vicious. I wish there was more world to sink my teeth into. A world that I could imagine other EOs living in. Unfortunately I can’t. Luckily, the novel’s focus was not on the atmosphere and the world these people inhabit.
The focus was on the characters. People that were broken and were looking for purpose in a world that didn’t seem willing to assign one. There were a few things that were really clear about every last one of the characters that drew focus in this novel and that is the fact that they were all lost. Each one of them was looking for a place or a meaning in their life. It was a theme that really worked for me as time went on and we saw the different motivations these characters had.
Another major theme that really arose was parenting. Not a single character in this book didn’t suffer the effects of poor parenting. It was really interesting to see how each of the characters reacted to their upbringing. It brought about various quirks from the characters. Victor’s systematic desire to black out the words his parents wrote in books. The way Sydney very much tried her best to blend into the background and take care of herself. Or even Eli’s turn to god as a reason to pay off from the suffering he survived from his father. Even Mitch was scared from his severe bad luck. It was an interesting theme to explore to see these broken people and how they move through life. It also made them extremely relatable because these little things are experiences more people than not go through.
As for the actual characters, their quirks made them enjoyable, but in general they were entrancing to experience. They felt so fleshed out with back stories we explored and motivations that made sense. I was instantly captivated and entranced by Victor who was as sweet and caring as he could be horrible. Seeing that duality was fascinating. While Eli morphed in front of my eyes initially like a force of nature that draws you in. Slowly we chipped away at all that made him so alluring until he came off more repulsive than anything. Yet, even that exploration of his motivation and beliefs made him interesting to know more about.
The plot was executed in such a way that I was constantly yearning for more. The back and forth between the present and the past was well utilized. We were fed information as we needed it. All the while it fleshed out their lives before and also after as the plot moved closer to it’s climax. It also made the goal at hand more relatable and urgent as it went. What started out as simple revenge ended up being more than just revenge, but also stopping a villain.
The dichotomy between who was a villain and who was a hero was interesting. It wasn’t so overtly clear. As time went on we saw Eli and Victor’s roles twist and turn. At at times they opposed each other while other times they seemed equally villainous or equally heroic (though this was more rare). We were forced to question if really there was a true villain in this. The more we saw of it the more I was intrigued and loved those characters. The fact that there was no one truly good is really the definition of what morally gray characters are. Schwab did it so well.
I’ve gone on about this book quite a bit at this point. I really loved it. It’s one of the few books where passages still swirl in my head, scenes play out and I’m left thinking about these characters. It did what it needed to do well. It got me invested. I’m so glad to know that there will be more in this series, but as a standalone book, it was so satisfying.