The pinnacle of Schwab
There are a few authors whose books I pretty consistently love and will always read, and V. E. (Victoria) Schwab is one of them…with a caveat. She writes adult books and she writes for young adults, and I am passionate about most of the adult ones but not so much for the YA, which is too bad, considering YA is my “specialty” (having been a teen librarian for all those years). I can’t quite figure out how someone can be brilliant for one age group and less so for another, but there it is; although I like a few of her YA books quite a bit, there are others I found somewhat “meh.” For instance, although I enjoyed the Cassidy Blake series (meant for middle-schoolers), both the Archived and the Monsters of Verity novels left me wishing they had better world-building, less confusion, and more logic. I should say, though, that there are many teens who absolutely love her YA series, so perhaps Schwab is actually good at gauging how to write for teens, and I am just not that demographic and should quit talking!
For me, the two adult series where she really shines are Shades of Magic and this week’s re-reads, Villains, which begins with one of my all-time favorite books, Vicious.
Vicious turns everything you think you believe on its head, in terms of likeable versus unlikeable protagonists (antagonists?), because it has one who is set up as a hero but who gives you the heebie-jeebies, and another, a supposed villain, who you root for even though in some ways he is a distinctly unpleasant person. Moral ambiguity is definitely the theme.
Vicious is elegant and spare, with just the right amount of detail and not an ounce more or less. It has an array of fantastic characters who come across fully fleshed out with only a few sentences of description. I can’t believe it was Schwab’s first book for adults—it’s masterful. I have read it at least three times (maybe four?), and its sequel, Vengeful, is equally as compelling. I wrote a review of the two books here, if you’d like to know more about them (before reading them yourself!). The other thing to know is that there is a third book coming. I don’t know when—Schwab has gone off in five different directions since she wrote this, from her massive The Invisible Life of Addie Larue to her ExtraOrdinary comics series (based on the Villains universe) and also the first book of a new YA series, Gallant—but we do know it will be called Victorious, and that there are already 25,000 people on Goodreads who have put it on their “TBR” list as soon as it hits the bookstores (no pressure, Vee!). I hope she doesn’t delay too much longer…