57 pages 1 hour read

V. E. Schwab


Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2013

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Summary and Study Guide


Vicious by V.E. Schwab (Tor Books, 2013) follows a group of ExtraOrdinary individuals (EOs) through their quests as they grapple with what it means to be alive. The Fantasy novel nods to superhero fiction and comic books while subverting the Good vs. Evil trope common to the genre. Vicious was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2013 in Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, and the ALA’s Reference and User Services Association awarded Vicious as their top fantasy book in 2014. Rights to a film adaptation were purchased in 2013, and a sequel, Vengeful, was published in 2018. ExtraOrdinary, a comic book series taking place in the five years between the two novels, debuted in 2021. V.E. Schwab is the NYT, USA, and Indie bestselling author of over a dozen books for adults and children, including the Shades of Magic series (2015) and This Savage Song (2016). This guide follows the Tor Books 2013 edition of Vicious.

Plot Summary

The opening chapters of Vicious alternate between story present and events from 10 years ago. In the present, Vale and Sydney Clark dig up a grave. In the past, friends Victor and Eli become ExtraOrdinary individuals (EOs). Eli’s senior thesis is on the theoretical creation of EOs. Jealous and insecure about his own thesis, Victor influences Eli to bring his thesis from theory to practice. Their research suggests EOs are created by a traumatic death experience from which the individual comes back to life, coupled with a strong will to live. Victor attempts a traumatic death but does not become an EO. Later, Eli makes an attempt and returns to life with the ability to heal himself.

When Eli refuses to help Victor try again, Victor enlists Eli’s girlfriend to strap him to a table and deliver electric shocks. This time, Victor succeeds, gaining the power to manipulate pain in both himself and others. Victor accidentally kills Eli’s girlfriend with his new power. Shaken by his girlfriend’s death, Eli reports Victor as a dangerous EO and Victor is imprisoned. Eli spends the next 10 years coming to terms with his abilities. He believes God saved him and bestowed powers upon him so he could rid the world of all other EOs, and he travels from place to place removing EOs from existence.

In the present, Victor is released from prison after 10 years with the single goal to get back at Eli for ruining his life. A newspaper article includes Eli’s picture and labels him a hero for stopping a bank robbery. On his way to the city named in the article, Victor passes Sydney, wounded and trudging along the highway. Eli tried to kill her as part of his crusade against EOs. Victor and Sydney team up to get revenge on Eli.

Meanwhile, Eli works with Sydney’s sister, Serena, whose EO ability is charming people to do what she says. With Serena’s help, Eli manipulates the police so he can continue his work unchallenged. Victor and Sydney dig up one of Eli’s past kills (the body from the opening chapters), and Sydney uses her EO ability to bring the man back to life and deliver a message to Eli that Victor will be waiting for him at midnight that night.

At midnight, Victor and Eli fight until Victor is severely wounded and Eli is covered in blood but healed. When Eli hears the police approaching, he murders Victor. Serena is also killed, so her charm no longer works and the police arrest Eli. Eli’s pleas of self-defense go unheard because he is uninjured. A few days later, Sydney goes to the cemetery and resurrects Victor.