Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy > Paranormal
Synopsis: Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
Final Rating: ★★★★☆
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Actual rating: 4.5
I had very high expectations of this book. Firstly, if I go on the Goodreads page and see my friends/the people I’m following’s review for this book- they’re all five star ratings. I kid you not, ALL of them. Secondly, the two protagonists are anti-heroes, and come on, who doesn’t love a good anti-hero? I, for one, am obsessed with anti-heroes, because they’re such complicated characters, and it takes an incredible amount of skill to craft them without coming off as pretentious/overbearing.
For the most part, I was not disappointed with this book. I thought Victoria Schwab is a fantastic writer. She kept me engrossed with the plot, invested in the characters no matter how twisted or dark, and she kept me on the edge of my seat because it was very, very hard to predict what was going to happen next. There are some things that Schwab could’ve expanded upon that would have really carried the novel above and beyond the ones I’ve recently read. But more on that later.
Overall, this is a book that is well worth the read. If you’re into dark, gritty comic-style novels, check it out because it is perfect. If you like paranormal, check it out. And if you love yourself some pretty twisted characters that you can’t help but love, but also kind of make you questions yourself for loving them so much, this book is definitely the one for you.
Victoria Schwab has constructed a very complex, intricate plot that twists and turns with every page. I was impressed by her use of science in the paranormal aspect of the story, and I especially enjoyed that this book dealt with the concept of “superheroes” but with a twist: the superheroes aren’t really heroes. She explores themes like curiosity for the unknown, envy for one’s peers, ambition to be someone better than everybody else, and finally corruption and the downward spiral into something mad and evil.
The back and forth motion between different times and different settings really managed to keep me on the edge of my seat. Whenever something dramatic was going to happen, Victoria Schwab would flick a switch and move on (or back) to a different time, a different place. And you like the book enough to not skip forward to read on about what was happening in the previous section. To me, that takes trust. And immediately, I trusted Schwab to reveal things just as they are meant to be revealed. This feeling is usually felt when I’m reading George R.R. Martin, and I feel like this trust between the reader and author takes the reading experience beyond the normal.
My only complaint would be that even though there’s a lot of darkness and grit to the novel, I thought the book was tied up a little too nicely at the end. Yes, there was some action and some very clever strategizing, but it was slightly predictable, and I wish some more deaths would have taken place to make this battle between Eli and Victor seem more realistic. The tone of the novel is very dark, but sometimes the plot falls short of this darkness.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it until the day I die: I love reading and watching anti-heroes do their thing. Anti-heroes are very hard to construct, mainly because they are villains in a way, but are the heroes of their own story. I mean, yeah sure, you could say that for every single villain, but when it comes to anti-heroes, you kind of understand what they are doing. And because you understand their reasoning, sometimes you even root for them even though their morals and ethics are, at best, questionable. So how does an author manage to do that?
For one, characterization to this level of mind-freaking-blowing takes years and years of practice, and a novel the size of your face. Now, I don’t know how long Schwab practiced, but she didn’t need a huge novel to get her point across. She didn’t need a one-thousand page tome to give her characters such life and depth, and that’s something I always appreciate.
The characters are twisted, more so than I expected them to be. Their experimentations on themselves and each other were, sometimes, very discomforting to read. Their indifference, and callousness, their ambition and corruption was fascinating, but it was also very disorienting. Schwab made me say out loud, SEVERAL times, “Man, this is messed up.” And I love that.
I just wish the characters’ lives before their experimentation began was expanded upon, because I felt like it would’ve given a lot of insight into their characters as people. We are thrust into their development into anti-heroes almost immediately, so sometimes, the characterization felt static. If I had been given a bit more information about what they were like BEFORE, I would have probably given this book 5 stars. We’re told almost nothing about the two’s families, about their backgrounds, about their hobbies (besides science.)
If you haven’t yet realized by my raving, I absolutely love Victoria Schwab’s writing style. I feel like she has such control over her language. She is economical with her use of words, but every single word she uses is precise, vivid and gets the point across. I don’t enjoy flowery, embellishing language too much (just an opinion), and I think it takes a lot of skill to master the art of getting your point across in as few words as possible. And I think that Schwab, for the most part, is able to do just this.
I’m very excited for her new book, and I’ll be picking it up as soon as it hits the stores. If this book is any indication for all of Schwab’s other works, I’m sure she’ll soon be one of my favorite authors.
Would I recommend? To fans of ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt and ‘A Separate Peace’ by John Knowles, this is the perfect blend of the writing and ambience with a twist of fantasy.