Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.
Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.
Warnings: domestic violence, murder, attempted sexual assault, implied sexual assualt, graphic descriptions of torture, gun violence, child abuse, substance abuse (drugs & alcohol). THIS IS NOT A YOUNG ADULT BOOK
Vengeful picks up the timeline of the story five years after the events of Vicious, with Victor, Mitch and Sydney being an adorable if unusual family, and Eli arrested for murdering Victor. At the end of Vicious, Sydney had revived Victor, and knowing her track record of resurrecting EOs, he comes back with wonky powers. His arc throughout this book is trying to find a cure for his increasingly frequent seizures that result in his death for a few minutes. Meanwhile, Eli has become part of a human organization that hunts and captures EOs, called EON, which is under Stell’s leadership. Aside from these main characters, two other characters emerge in this book – Marcella and June, and who make a different play in the EO-human world.
Vengeful, like Vicious, jumps around the timeline from the past to the present. The mostly linear timeline for each character arc counts down the time until the big showdown, aka, present time, but there are occasional flashbacks going 20+ years ago to explain character backstories. The jumps are a little confusing, especially when you are listening on audio, because if you forget to catch what time those events are taking place, you are a little lost. However, I must note that the plot is tight, and the jumps always serve a purpose, if only to explain character motivation. The disparate story arcs for each character occupy some chapters in tandem, before jumping to another character and continuing the storyline. As it is written in the third person, we get character POV from nearly all the major characters, including Dominic (the shadow walker from Vicious), Jonathan (a new EO who can make shields), and the Doctor (I forgot his name – that’s what happens when you listen on audio) as well as some minor characters our main characters interact with.
About the characters, firstly I want to discuss Marcella. She is a new character and being made an EO during the timeline of this story, she is the backbone of Vengeful, in a way. A mob wife who was murdered by her husband, she rises as the ‘vengeful’ EO, with the power to ruin things. Naturally, she is a big threat, and one EON wants to contain. She is a powerful personality and her character shines in whichever scene she is, dominating the direction of the story, and charming our hearts with her murderous ego. She also has many of the amazing lines in this book, a lot of it relating to being condescended to just because she looks pretty, and not being taken seriously for her cunning.
“How many men would she have to turn to dust before one took her seriously?”
That aside, though, she has ambition in scores, and wants EOs to take over the world, if only under her capable leadership. She also has a knack for spotting talent, as she collects the invincible June (a shapeshifter) and Jonathan (whose protection renders Marcella invincible).
But Marcella is only a recent threat; the EO has been hunting down another EO killer (who is revealed to be none other than Victor) with Eli’s help. Eli’s story goes way back into his childhood in this book, and all the horrors that it entailed, as well all the times his happiness was taken away from him – but it also shows his sociopathic tendencies and how he trained himself to appear ‘normal’ and the intertwining of religion in all this. His crusade against EOs continues, but the ego is dampened a bit, especially since he is made into a scientific experiment (there’s always an evil scientist!) by EON before being ‘rescued’ by Stell into being a caged consultant. He is still angling for freedom, though, and his maneuvers are to that goal. For him, Marcella is a matched opponent and one he can leverage to use for his freedom. Victor, on the other hand, just wants to survive, and he is playing the long game, which is why he has been killing all witnesses (the other EOs) and has Dom infiltrate the EO.
Sydney, meanwhile, is sort of happy with her life – she is under Mitch’s and Victor’s care and implied to be homeschooled, and though they have had to move around, searching for Victor’s cure, she and they are an awkward family. She feels infantile at times in their care, but she also appears to be younger than she is, which is why her friendship with June is her connection to the world outside of her family. I wish we had more of her interactions with Victor, aside from her calling him out on his murders, because they have this tense brother-sister dynamic, but also scars from their respective actions. The wholesomeness to round out their family comes from Mitch’s paternal care of Sydney and I was so happy for that. June is another caring figure for her, if only she doesn’t know it yet. Sydney’s arc, however, is mainly to decide what kind of family she wants, and her actions in this book don’t really affect the main plot, except in a background capacity.
The plot thus builds up all these arcs, and character stories which don’t really intersect much (or in a small capacity), slowly inching towards the present time, when they surely gravitate towards each other, crashing into an epic and dramatic showdown at the climax. It was entertaining to imagine how they would meet, how their stories would assimilate into one thread, and it certainly didn’t hold back when delivering the twists and turns, the conversion of smaller elements from the past turning into major ones by the end, and leading us to an exhilarating finish. As much as it was exciting, it also delivered some pain, worries, and catharsis. The ending was resolved, but also leaves many threads open, and with greater possibility of a sequel this time around, I definitely welcome it. Overall, an explosive sequel which stands shoulder to shoulder to the original.
“Every end is a new beginning.”
Is it diverse? Victor is canonically asexual.
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