Coming into Vengeful having not read the first book, it is easy to purely be attracted by the interesting description and a wonderful cover – I know, you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but this one is absolutely gorgeous. Normally I’ve found that jumping in half way through a story can be disastrous, especially when the writer assumes that you’ll have already read the first book, but V.E. Schwab seems to have kept this in mind and has written a book designed to draw you in straight away.
Telling the story of Victor Vale, an EO (Extra Ordinary) with the ability to manipulate both his nerves and pain receptors, and those in others, and his small group as they attempt to find a way of stopping his brief bouts of death. Victor is joined by an ex-con, a former soldier, and a young woman with the ability to revive the dead. This group, and the situation that Victor is facing, are a huge part of the carryover from the first book in the series, Vicious, but are explained in such a way that it’s easily accessible for new readers.
Schwab spends a good portion of the start of the book exploring these characters, their motivations, their histories. It makes it so that you can come into this story with no knowledge of the past events but still feel engaged and invested in what happens. I even had to go online and check which characters were actually part of the first book and which were new because everyone was given the same time and effort in their introductions and execution.
Also returning is Eli Ever, the ying to Victor’s yang. A character that would be easy to make absolutely evil, Eli is made much more sympathetic, especially when he’s being dissected whilst still alive over and over again.
The new characters added to the mix are very interesting too. There’s June, a young woman with the ability to copy people’s appearances. What makes her interesting, however, over other shape-shifting characters is that not only does she gain some of their knowledge and memories when she becomes them, but any injury that she receives when in another form happen to the original person rather than her.
Marcella is the other big addition to the universe, a woman whose mob husband beats her and leaves her to die in a burning building, but survives and develops her own EO powers. I really like her ability, able to cause things to rapidly break down, and her motivations are more than just simple vengeance.
Vengeful is a book about people with varying motivations and desires that occupy the area of grey between good and evil. The book doesn’t have any real heroes, and most of the bad guys are understandable in some way. The characters are complex and layered, rather than being two dimensional archetypes.
Schwab writes in short chapters, ranging from a handful of pages in length to a dozen at most, and they don’t follow a standard narrative structure, jumping between time and location. Instead of being off-putting or disruptive to the story it allows for deeper insights into characters, and means that Schwab is able to manipulate the way the story unfolds or how a reader will feel by messing with the standard narrative structure.
Vengeful is my first dip into the world of The Villains universe, and V.E. Schwab as a writer, and both have been much better than I was expecting. I not only enjoyed the book, but would highly recommend it to others. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to track down the first book because I’m excited to read more of this universe.
Vengeful by V. E. Schwab is now available from Titan Books.