Vicious by V.E. Schwab
If Magneto and Charles Xavier were crueler characters with more ambitious hubris, the X Men would look more like Vicious.
Eli and Victor are both top-of-their-class smart, with successful futures guaranteed. Lurking beneath the surface for both of them, however, is an insatiable hunger of darkness, of something cruel and vicious.
Eli’s graduate thesis is about finding EOs – ExtraOrdinary’s – and figuring out if they exist, and why. When Victor suggests taking the thesis a step further and experimenting on themselves to test their creation theory, jealousy and hubris get in the way, ripping the friends apart.
The story is told through multiple perspectives over the course of ten years. While it is mostly Victor’s POV, it sometimes shifts to the other supporting characters, but vary rarely does it transfer to Eli. The flashbacks are mostly set to ten years prior, when the events of creation existed, and the lead up to the final showdown between Eli and Victor.
Neither character is good, and neither is solely bad. In the public’s eye, Eli is the hero, saving the world from the EOs (read: Magneto), and Victor, the one trying to stop Eli (Professor X), is the villain. But it’s so much more than that, because while Eli believes in what he is doing, that EOs are wrong, that it’s God’s will to exterminate them, he is also playing God (though he won’t admit to it). Victor, a quiet, lurking guy, a wolf with pain at his fingertips, isn’t all bad, but he’s not so good either. Vicious plays with what it means to be good and what it means to be evil, much like Gregory Maguire did with Wicked.
The characters are so complex, and the relationships fractured and layered. The people the characters choose to surround themselves with speaks volumes to their characters as well. Both Eli and Victor come in contact with a young EO, Sydney, but their separate reactions to her, though both selfish, show more of who they are as a character than most of their other actions.
Much like the world of Heroes, where heroes and villains intertwine seamlessly, quietly shifting in the gray middle area, Vicious tackles the concept of normal people with abilities, and how those abilities change who you are as a person, how some slowly define you, and how others make you feel invincible.
Wonderful, gripping, and an interesting take on the concept of superheroes.