V.E. (Victoria) Schwab has become one of my favorite authors since I found her with the 2015 release of A Darker Shade of Magic. When the sequel came out, I expressed my love for the first book to the bookseller ringing me up, they asked if I had read Vicious yet, I had not. Vicious was my introduction to Schwab outside of the DSoM series. Shortly thereafter I devoured her YA “Monsters of Verity” duology, and in the past year read the first in her middle grade “City of Bones” series. I admire that she writes across age groups. My middle schooler and I both read Schwab. For Christmas she got the next “City of Bones” book and I got the sequel to Vicious, Vengeful.
Vicious was an engaging story centered on two intelligent, egotistical, self created “super” powered people, Victor Vale and Eli Ever. The duo experiment with dying and being brought back to life as a way to gain super powers. The nature of the person’s death and their final thoughts affecting what sort of power they gain. They called themselves ExtraOrdinaries or EOs. It’s a fascinating take on supers and asks the question what makes one person the hero and the other the villain? I was hooked and raced through it. Two-ish years ago at Wonder Con, Victoria announced she was working on a sequel and I became very excited. This past Christmas, I finally got Vengeful.
Time has passed since the events at the end of the first book and we are introduced to a new character, Marcella Riggins, just before her husband attempts to murder her in a fire. After being revived in an ambulance, she gains the ability to ruin things with a touch, breaking items down to their material components, glass into sand, etc. Victor Vale is broken, quite literally as electrical power builds up within him to an intolerable level until it bursts out and he dies, temporarily, coming back moments later. But the deaths, and the length of time being dead, are increasing. Eli Ever, with incredible regeneration power, is contained by an organization that has formed around the threat/potential that EOs exhibit. Charismatic and cunning he works every angle with the goal of escaping.
Victor and Eli despise, admire, and deeply understand one another in a way that others don’t comprehend. Marcella is a ticking time bomb fueled by rage at her murder and forever having been looked down on by men. These three are at the heart of the story but they are surrounded by other EOs, with their own motivations.
As much as I had been looking forward to Vengeful, I struggled through the first half. The book jumps forward and backward in time. Overall there is a set progression of several weeks ago counting down towards the current day. But interspersed are reminisces from the past five years, and further back in time, up to twenty years ago. I never had a large window of time to sit down and settle into this book properly. I kept reading it in little chunks when I could find a spare few minutes. This was not at all conducive to how this book jumps around. I don’t recall if the first book used this same mechanic, or if it did, to what extent, but I don’t remember having this level of frustration at keeping the story line straight.
While reading yet another flashback sequence, I recalled something I had been told or read, that said if you keep having to tell back story, maybe you aren’t telling the correct story, and that hit me. With constant jumping in time, was Schwab perhaps telling the wrong story? But I stuck with it because I was interested in how this was all coming together.
Unsurprisingly, it does all come together and by the time I hit the last third of the book, I was humming along and thrilled by how it all ended. Things are final but also nice and open, the way they were with Vicious, so I hope Schwab is leaving the door open to visit this world setting again. I marked the book down from 4 stars to 3 stars because the time jumping initially made following the linear story difficult, though another reader may have a different experience. 3.5 stars is probably a more accurate rating.