Vengeful is the followup to V. E. Schwab’s delightful Vicious, which I quick-reviewed at the end of 2018 and gave 4.5 stars to (warning, spoilers ahead for Vicious.)
Vengeful continues the story of Victor Vale and Eli Ever, two ‘superheroes’ who veer into supervillainy. Schwab neatly gets around the whole hero/villain dichotomy by just calling all her super-powered characters ‘ExtraOrdinaries’. EO’s, as they’re abbreviated, are given their powers when they are resurrected (usually by medical means) from death, and their power relates to the circumstances that killed them or the emotions they felt while dying. Eli regenerates, while Victor has the ability to control his pain and that of those around him.
I think Vengeful is as good as the first, though even darker. For Vicious I argued that Victor was kept somewhat on the side of good by his sidekicks, Mitch (not an EO) and Sydney, who can revive the dead and who works on improving her skills throughout this book (for a really heartbreaking reason). In Vengeful, Eli is behind bars and there is nothing to keep Victor from becoming the supervillain he truly is inside. But he’s got some competition here in the person of the marvelous, destructive, and enticing Marcella Riggins, who is out for revenge and power after her cheating mob-boss husband kills her… or so he thought. Marcella’s power is sheer ruination, and she revels in it.
There are a few more EOs added into the mix, including Dominic from Vicious, who is still nominally linked to Victor’s gang. But Marcella is probably the best part of Vengeful. Her sidekick June, however, is a close second. June can shape-shift, assuming the form of any non-EO she touches until she–or rather, they–are killed and she can’t use that body anymore. She forms a bond with Sydney, and if anyone in this book can be called a hero, June strays onto the side of good more often than many.
These women are the highlight of Vengeful, which is good, because I wasn’t as enthralled by Victor and Sydney’s storyline. Sydney is still compelling, especially her desperation to become an adult (thwarted by her slow aging). Victor gives in to his cruelty and his amorality until it is difficult to want him to win, even for Sydney’s sake. In fact, I was more intrigued by Eli’s storyline as he’s forced to work with a group that wants to capture and contain EOs like him. And perhaps that is Schwab’s genius. In Vicious, Victor was forced to be a ‘hero’ because Eli was even worse. In Vengeful, the tables are turned.