Book Review: Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Series: Book 2 of Villains
Publisher: Tor Books (September 25, 2018)
Length: 480 pages
Vengeful was probably the best book I’ve read by Victoria/V.E. Schwab since…well, its predecessor Vicious. I really wish she would write more adult novels like this. I think letting loose gives her the opportunity to go beyond a lot of the usual story clichés that seem to plague the YA fantasy genre, allowing her to develop a more nuanced and mature approach to the personal voices in her stories.
If you’re like me, and you read Vicious back when it first came out, you’re probably going to need a quick refresher course. Vengeful is a direct sequel that expands upon the world of ExtraOrdinary humans, or EOs—individuals who are possessed of superpowers. Unfortunately, time has not been kind to our characters since we saw them last; Victor Vale died at the end of Vicious, before he was brought back to life by Sydney Clarke and her resurrection powers. His former friend and college roommate Eli Cardale was imprisoned. Now Victor is struggling with the aftereffects of being reanimated, because something went terribly wrong with the process.
Meanwhile, a new EO has emerged and is raising hell in the town of Merit. The wife of dangerous mob boss, Marcella Riggins, has survived an attempted murder by her husband—and she is seriously pissed. A mean piece of work even before she got her powers, Marcella is not only out for revenge, but she wants to destroy everything and build her own empire from the ashes. Inevitably, both Victor and Eli become caught up in the destructive wake of her power grab, although for different reasons. Victor has had a chance to re-evaluate many of his viewpoints since the events at the end of the first book. Eli, for his part, has also had to live with the consequences of his choices. Forced to work with an organization dedicated to the capture and containment of EOs, Eli is cooperating for now, but secretly he is biding his time, waiting for the perfect moment when he can confront Victor again.
Vengeful had the benefit of starting out very strong with a hefty amount of history already behind its premise and characters. I find it interesting that Vicious was my first book by the author, but it has been entrenched in my mind like no other book I’ve read from her since. Victor, Eli, Sydney, etc. are some of the best characters she has ever created, and what this sequel manages to do is raise the stakes by developing them even further.
The book kicks off in high gear with an introduction to Marcella, who is easily the best of the new character additions. Yes, her personality was a little extreme and over-the-top, but in not holding back, Schwab may have done her villainess the biggest favor. Admittedly, I’ve not always been a fan of her female characters; more often than not, I’ve found them to be obnoxious, disingenuous, badass-for-the-sake-of-being-badass, and on the whole weak on substance. Maybe the author is simply trying to channel the exaggerated tone of a superhero movie or comic book here, I have no idea, but what I do know is that it worked. Marcella perfectly embodies the phrase, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” She was ruthless, she was scary, she was awesome.
But rest assured, Schwab can do subtle too. Vengeful is a continued exploration of an idea fans have always known—that Victor and Eli are two sides of the same coin. However, both have also changed in ways you can only pick up if you’ve been paying attention. Speaking of which, one of my favorite things about this book is how it not looks forward into the future, but back into the past as well. The heart-wrenching details of Eli’s backstory are laid bare for us to scrutinize, and it’s up to the reader to decide whether he is deserving of sympathy. It’s important to note that there are no true heroes in the Villians universe; with only a couple exceptions, most of the characters fall into shades of grey. This aspect of the series has always been my favorite thing about it, setting it apart from the more pedestrian tales of good vs. evil.
In terms of criticisms, I was not a fan of the sporadic time jumps—though I could also understand why they would be required. Schwab needed to do a lot with this sequel, and had her work cut out for her when it comes to balancing all these moving parts. Given all of her goals for this novel, she did as well as could be expected—which is saying a lot.
As we built towards the climax, Vengeful delivered excitement and then some. In the end, this is a sequel worth reading, especially if you were as taken with Vicious as I was. Once more, V.E. Schwab has woven a compelling tale about the emotional costs of great power, exploring the themes of dubious morality, vengeance, and fate.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Vicious (Book 1)