Vicious, by V. E. Schwab

Review copy provided by Tor.

Rarely have I read a book with such an apposite epigraph. It’s Joseph Brodsky: “Life–the way it really is–is a battle not between Bad and Good, but between Bad and Worse.” And if you read that and think, gosh, that’s a darkish view of human nature, well, possibly this is not the book for you, because the book does follow through on the epigraph. And also if you run into people claiming that women don’t write gritty dark fantasy, you may pelt them with copies of this book and run away laughing. (Try to hit with the corners rather than the spine or the pages. They’re pointier.)

Other than dark: this is a mad science story. This is a mad science superhero story, and also it’s one of the sorts of stories that often ends up at the center of superhero tales: the brother-against-brother story. (In this case, college roommates rather than literal brothers.) There was also an important sister pair whose relationship was more complicated than the word “against” would really sum up, although I wanted a bit more of that than I got.

For me, the science was not mad enough and also not functional enough to really suspend my disbelief. But given the flaw in the premise in that regard, Schwab came about as close to distracting me from it with characters and violence as you could expect, so people who are less science nerd-ish may find it to be an entirely surmountable problem.

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