Villains, Book 1
By V.E. Schwab
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?
Honestly, I’m torn between wanting to shout my love for this book, THIS BOOK! and pull out my hair over the frustrations I have with the same book. It’s really quite infuriating that not only did it put me in a reading funk (my first of the year I might add) but I also couldn’t wait to pick up the sequel. Okay, let me attempt to explain my still confused feelings.
I LOVE Victor, Mitch, Sydney, and Dol. ♡ They’re my precious deviant family and I would die for them. Dramatic? Yes, but this book is a bit overdramatic so I can’t help myself. Victor is a wonderful portrayal of a loveable psychopath (of which he’d vehemently deny). Mitch is a giant misunderstood cuddly bear. Sydney is the little shining light at the end of the tunnel full of miscreants. Also, let’s all agree that poor Dol, the adorable scruff of a pup, doesn’t need to die anymore. Okay, cool. They’re all better off having found each other, even if the initial motivation of Victor to collect strays was to use them for his sinister plot against Eli.
I love to hate Eli. Who doesn’t? His sanctimonious attitude makes him the perfect villain. Or is he? I grew fairly tired of constantly hearing the zealot justifications for every one of his actions at each turn. I enjoyed the “Who’s the Hero? Who’s the Villain?” conversation, but honestly it was a tad overdone. The constant pious explanations were the driving descriptions to frame the morally gray complexity of Eli’s characterization but actually had the opposite effect and made him more two-dimensional to me.
I absolutely despise …dangit what’s her name? Oh yes! Wait nope, I can’t remember because I’ve erased her from memory. Woopwoop. She-who-cannot-be-named wasn’t exactly needed to drive the plot forward. Maybe my main qualm with her is that I just don’t like mind-fuckery. Her EO ability felt too convenient and appeared to be a cop-out rather than actually developing the cat-and-mouse game between not only Victor and Eli, but also between the EOs and the coppers. I did like that there was a sister relationship included. Unfortunately for Sydney, she had no idea her older sister wasn’t someone to aspire to become nor was she even remotely nice to her.
For at least the first half of the book, I was disconnected from the characters and the story. I didn’t care who was supposed to be good or bad, the backstories, or the epic showdown that was eminent. They were all morally gray heroic villains, which kept me coming back. It was not the writing, or the characters, or the story (EOs are a take on X-Men, but I was okay with that). I thought something was wrong with me until I figured out it was the pacing of the entire book.
Each chapter was a different, seemingly random time (flash back to 10 years ago at X location, flash forward to 2 weeks ago at Y location, flash back to 1 day before at Z location, etc). To add to it, each chapter followed a different character even though the whole book was thankfully written in the third person. This led me to the conclusion that the pacing is why it was so easy to put the book down and get into a book slump. By the time I was invested in the story of the current chapter, I didn’t feel like jumping into the next. It was extremely disjointed and too discombobulated for me to sit and read at length.
Overall I still can’t get the characters out of my head and I’m dying to finish the duology! I was a bit disappointed in the epic duel between Victor and Eli because of the flashing from time and place between chapters. However, the ending made me super happy I didn’t have to suffer years waiting for the sequel! I will surely be prepared for the next book to have similar pacing, so that should help in staying out of another book slump?