Publication Date: September 24, 2013
College friends and roommates, Victor and Eli, are working on an experiment together. With the right tests and results, they could unlock a power greater than either of them ever imagined. Then something goes wrong.
Ten years later, Victor wants revenge on Eli for what happened. In the middle of his quest to find his old friend, Victor stumbles across a young girl who needs him, maybe as much as he needs her. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission of his own, to write a narrative that only he can control.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Date Read: November 24, 2018
I read this for the first time back in summer of 2017 and loved it, knowing that there would be a sequel coming out fairly soon. When an assignment in one of my classes coincided perfectly with the excuse to re-read this, I jumped at the chance.
I breezed through this as easily the second time around as I did the first time. I love the way this is set up and the way we get to move through the story. Not only do we have different points in time that we see the story unfold from, we also get to see it from multiple perspectives. Something this complicated, that changes with each chapter, is rarely well done, but V.E. Schwab does an amazing job with it.
The chance I got to read this closely and analyze the story this time around for my paper was great. I loved looking through the book to see how it fit into my paper and how I was gaining a better understanding of why I love this book because of the paper I was writing. It made the experience so much more special, and it made this book even more special in my heart as one of my all-time favorite books.
Schwab's characters are so realistic, it's really hard not to like them for something or another. The way that she explores the minds and lives of her characters are so incredibly insightful and thought-provoking. I haven't read many of her books (I've really only read 2), but this is one of the reasons why she is easily my favorite author. Reading the way that she creates the characters in this novel and how she gives them motivations makes it so easily for me to relate to them and want to spend more time with them.
I really enjoy not only the plot of the story, but the way that the conflict builds so gradually and intensely. It cumulates to a really exciting point that has really rewarded me both times that I've read this book. Waiting with each chapter to see how the story moves and continues into something that I can't possibly come up with myself, it keeps me constantly engaged. I love that I'm constantly engaged with her story and always wanting to get to the next page, even though this is the second time I've read the book.
Anti-hero stories are not something I read a lot of, mostly because I don't see many books focusing on anti-heros in a way that doesn't leave them eventually defeated by the hero at the end. This is purely an anti-hero story where no one is really wrong or right. Both characters have valid reasons for why they're doing what they're doing, even if it's only valid to them and the people close to them. Still, we grow to understand them better and we get the chance to follow along in their journey as they make decisions and have to face the consequences.
It's also hard to read about characters with superpowers that doesn't somehow feel like it was somehow inspired by Marvel or DC Comics. Because those two companies have done so much for the literary world in terms of superheroes, it's hard to see fiction with superheroes as not ripping off some aspect of their content. But even though I'm sure that there are probably heroes or villains from either Marvel or DC that have the exact same superpowers as the characters in this book, it doesn't feel like a repeated cheesy choice of power. The powers here are written in place for a reason, and it's done so in a manner that doesn't feel anything like the superhero comic industry has gotten us to be so familiar with.
When I got to the end, it was even better the second time around because I knew what to expect. Still, it was incredibly to read it and know what would happen because I was able to understand the chapters and the character intents better this time around. Pieces had already fallen into place, and the things that I didn't remember were welcomed surprises. The way this book ended left me feeling better this time around because I had the sequel on hand (I read the whole duology for my paper) for me to continue with immediately.
I still love Victor just as much this time around as I did the last time. He's a really strong character, and even though he doesn't make great decisions, I understand why he does what he does. It can get a little intense to be in his head, but it's really refreshing to read about a character who doesn't care that he has dark thoughts and doesn't care that he isn't going to be a hero. All he wants is to set things right in his mind, and he'll do anything to make that happen.
Eli has always been a harder character for me to relate to, especially because of what we see from his perspective in this book. However, knowing now that V.E. Schwab intentionally wrote him to be unlikable in this book, I have a better appreciation for him. He's weird and kind of creepy at times and can be really off-putting when you spend time in his head, but he's also a really fascinating character because he's so twisted and there are clearly things that are wrong with the way he thinks about his powers and the people around him.
Sydney is just as sweet as I remember her being the first time around. She really grows on you throughout the book and grows to be a really valuable part of Victor's little trio. Not only is it refreshing to see a young girl play such an important role in the rivalry between two grown men, it shows how easily she holds her own in the world as well. I also love the compassion she has that led Dol to become one of the other instrumental characters in the story.
Mitch is still such a lovable character, even if he's seen by other people as a hulking brute. He's secretly so soft and he deserves all the good things in the world.
5 stars. This will always be one of my favorite books and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good rivalry, superpowers, anti-heroes, or something that really makes you think. It's 100% worth it.