Before I start, I want to emphasise that this review will be SPOILER FREE. I mean, all my reviews usually are unless clearly marked otherwise, but it seems extra relevant when this is a highly-anticipated book that released literally YESTERDAY. So if you didn’t race through it on release day, or get an advance copy, you don’t have to worry about me spoiling any of the big plot points.
That said! I know some people don’t like reading reviews until after they’ve read the book itself, so feel free to bookmark this page and come back later…
I should also emphasise that this review might not be very coherent because I literally JUST finished reading Vengeful, like, twenty minutes ago, having spent all evening with it, and I usually attempt to let books stew for a while before trying to put my thoughts in order. But I wanted to get a review up quickly, so here we are. You’ve been warned.
Vicious was the first book by V.E. Schwab that I read, in 2015, but since then I’ve devoured almost all of her other books (those that I could reasonably get my hands on, anyway — her debut’s difficult to find in the UK). And she’s never once disappointed me. Almost all authors have one or more books that I thought wasn’t as good as the others, but not Victoria Schwab. So I was pretty damn hyped for Vengeful, and obviously I had to pre-order it.
(By the time the Amazon guy came, at nearly 5pm, I was sitting on the stairs with the front door open, just waiting. Watching.)
I’m going to assume you have at least a passing familiarity with the premise of this duology — it’s about EOs, people with ExtraOrdinary abilities they acquire through near-death experiences. We see some familiar characters: Victor,* Sydney and Mitch all return, as does Eli, but we also encounter a few new faces, like June and Marcella. I felt there was a good balance of new and old, because it felt fresh without feeling like we’d been cheated out of seeing the characters we liked.
*Sidenote: there’s a line that makes me strongly suspect Victor might be asexual so that’s my headcanon now, and no one can take that away from me.
The book’s told in a non-linear format, jumping back and forth across the five years that have passed since Vicious. Now, as someone who tends to skim over chapter titles without actually reading them, I occasionally lost track of what was happening when, and I don’t think I ever entirely got to grips with that, but honestly? It didn’t matter. Maybe I’d have felt I had a slightly better understanding of the timeline if it had happened in a linear order, but I could still follow the plot and figure out what was happening.
Plus, you know, it’s always ominous when books constantly refer to dates before (“two weeks earlier”; “five years earlier”) without ever saying now. It makes you wonder what they’re counting down to.
My favourite bit of this book, though? Eli. Specifically, Eli’s backstory, both distant (childhood and teenage years) and recent (the years between the books). I sound like a masochist for saying this, but the reason I loved those chapters were because they RIPPED OUT MY HEART. I wish there’d been someone to take a picture of the look on my face because it was shocked and appalled and delighted and horrified and gleeful. V.E. Schwab takes ‘dark’ to a whole new level at those moments and it’s TERRIBLE but I LOVE IT.
(It’s hard to feel sorry for Eli when he’s literally a mass murderer but YIKES.)
(Seriously, yikes. I have a character who is immortal and I thought I was good at writing angst and pain for characters who can’t die but I’m gonna have to take tips from this one because DUDE.)
My dad came home from work while I was reading those particular chapters (p.168 to… oh, around p.175 I’d guess? for those who have the UK edition) and said hello and all I could say was, “DON’T TALK TO ME, I’M BUSY.” It’s been a while since I had THAT reaction to a book.
I mean, on a craft level, there was a lot that I admired about the book — the way all the characters seemed to WANT things, and how their need for those things drove them to make the choices they made; the way the different strands of narrative wove together; the subtle worldbuilding and use of tech and exploration of EO abilities in the background… but mostly, I was in it for the characters. And the feelings.
Also, this book is STABBY AS HELL. Like, look away now if you’re squeamish, because this is not one for you, although you probably got that vibe from Vicious and have already left for a less violent series. In that case, good call. But there is just so much murder here, and of so many inventive varieties that I’m actually WORRIED about Victoria Schwab now. Because I’m pretty sure she could kill me. I don’t think she would but I’m honestly not putting it past her.
The one thing I didn’t always like was that the writing style was sometimes a bit choppy, and while it worked for dramatic effect, there were a couple of places (mostly near the beginning, before I was fully invested) where it didn’t always fit. You know, when you have sentences like this. Like this. Like fragments are necessary, always to be used. Like everything is very urgent, and broken.
BUT that effect mostly faded, so either I got more into the story or the style settled down or both, and maybe I was just being picky because I’m Like That, I don’t know.
Overall, though? I haven’t raced through a book like this, or enjoyed myself quite so much in the process, for quite a while. I think I’m probably going to want to reread it (but it’s fine, I’ll give it a couple of months and then I’ll have forgotten everything anyway, thanks brain) to pick up on the finer details and maybe make sense of the non-linear narrative structure, because I did read this super fast. But I was having FEELINGS. I needed to know what happened.
I’m… pretty satisfied by what did happen, even if a few things were left ambiguous. And I’m in love with how clever the final chapter is, though I wonder how well it’ll work on audio, because blackout poetry. But I said no spoilers, so that’s all you’re getting on that.
ANYWAY. I LIKED THIS BOOK A LOT. I HOPE YOU CAN TELL FROM THE LIBERAL USE OF CAPS LOCK IN THIS REVIEW. YOU SHOULD GO BUY IT OR IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY READ VICIOUS YOU SHOULD BUY THAT FIRST INSTEAD.
The above photos are from my Instagram page, where I post new book photos every day. Come and follow me — I’m co-hosting a bookstagram challenge this October with Cait @ PaperFury! 🙂
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