Posted on April 2, 2022

What makes someone a villain? Is it the death of a loved one? Years of pent-up remorse and regret? A drive to be the best of everything?

Victor Vale would answer yes to all of those questions because he is one. Is he the worst person in the author’s book?

You tell me.

In Victor’s senior year of college as pre-med, he and his friend Eli are set to see if it’s possible to achieve superpowers after assigning the topic of their latest research paper. With their research on near-death experiences, adrenaline, and actual death, they have achieved the impossible.

Of course, Victor ends up in prison for ten years while Eli is ‘saving’ people. With the help of a twelve-year-old girl, Sydney, and a muscular hacker, Mitch, Eli’s reign of what should be heroic acts may be put to an end after Victor escapes imprisonment.

I think Schwab did a spectacular job setting up Victor and Eli’s backstory while introducing the actual conflict in the story. Throughout the first half of the book, we get to see how VIctor’s resentment for Eli grows in their last year at Lockland University, Eli who is friendly, charismatic, and seemingly more successful in terms of academics and relationships compared to cold Victor.

Which I thought gave the book a bit of a slow start at first. Unless you like a rich backstory for all of the characters, you will face a slow start in the book. You find quotes

“Eli rubbed his thumb over the fresh skin of his palm, but Victor was the first to speak, and when he did, it was with an eloquence and composure perfectly befitting the situation.

‘Holy shit.’”, (Page 87).

I couldn’t help but chuckle and write ‘perfect’ next to the quote, but along the next page, I thought brought Victor’s true fears when he and Eli tried to become ExtraOrdinary.

“[Victor] would be relegated to sidekick, note-taker, the brick wall to bounce ideas off of.

No.”, (Page 88).

If you haven’t read Vicious or any of Schwab’s books, I would think that this exact quote would almost explain the entire bond between Victor and Eli without spoiling the first half of the book.

Victoria Schwab also devotes chapters to each character’s background such as Mitch and Sydney so that they would have a reason to know why anyone would stay as Eli and Victor plot to kill each other.

Now for all of the character background and development in the story, I found there was a lack of world-building in the novel.

Before Victor is arrested, he is interrogated by Detective Stell, an investigator specializing in people with powers, and while you do get to see his character later in the book, the ExtraOrdinary department seems to go out of business by the time Victor gets out of prison.

I mean the way to become an ExtraOrdinary is difficult but not impossible, so why don’t we hear more about how people react to having powers? I know that this book was meant to be standalone, but you don’t have a criminal investigator straight out of X-files and not have any room to explore why EOs get a bad rap.

It seems like the city Merit Mecca for people who have powers and an agenda. I’m glad the story was mostly in one city but it reveals no thought to how other places in the world react to EOs.

Overall, I liked the anti-hero book with a twist. Even though Victor and Eli have been through a lot, their beliefs and morals are consistent. I thought the build-up, though slow, was worth it in the end. I noticed on Goodreads that there are three books in the series and I read other books by her such as ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’, but I never started any of her series. I don’t doubt that the rest of the books are worth it.