Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Once medical students with great dreams of exploring new and unknown powers, Victor and Eli's rivalry turned deadly over the years.
After their last encounter, Victor is left running and trying to make sense of something he doesn't quite understand. Eli is stuck in a situation he never imagined himself in. And still, the two are inexplicably drawn back to each other.
Date Read: December 2, 2018
I was so excited to finally read this and have a really good reason to buy it (I know I don't actually need one, but I can technically say I bought this for school because I used it in a paper).
I really didn't know much of what to expect because I knew that V.E. Schwab had scrapped the entire book and re-written it within the span of a few months, revised it several times, and had it published all in the same year. And I knew that we were supposed to like Eli more in this book because we were getting his backstory. Other than that, I went in pretty blindly.
To say that I loved this would be an understatement. This was my favorite book of 2018 and it made me want to do nothing but revel in the genius that is V.E. Schwab's writing. It was everything that I wanted it to be, and for something that was 478 pages, I flew through it like it was nothing at all.
The pacing of this book was pretty consistent, though there were a few chapters that felt a little slower. Those chapters mostly had to do with whose perspective I was reading from at that moment. But it didn't take away from my experience as I sped through the book, trying to take in everything I could and still be analytical about it because I needed specific examples from it for the paper that I was writing.
I was very happy with where the story went and with all the new characters that were introduced to the overall storyline. It was really interesting to see them and all the new powers that came into play. Not only did they add to the story, they also did well in their own standalone arc as there isn't going to be another book (at least as far as V.E. Schwab has said, this is only a duology and won't be anything more than that).
Being in the head of that many different characters should feel a little messy at times, but it was really easy to tell their voices apart. Each one was so distinct, I had no trouble telling who I was spending time with and whose life I was learning more about. It was a lot of fun to get to read from that many character perspectives and see how everything started coming together as the book progressed. Storylines that I didn't yet understand the meaning of were building toward an ending that I couldn't have seen coming at all.
Action isn't a huge part of this book, just like in the first book. It's more about building the little pieces until we get to the climax. There was definitely more going on in this book because there were two separate storylines that we were following, with only one character actively tying them together. Even then, the whole thing felt very clean and I loved how easily the two storylines started coming together as we got further and further in the book.
Once again, V.E. Schwab did a great job of making you root for characters with really questionable motives and actions. It's not that there aren't good people, but it's that you can't help understanding and agreeing with the "bad" people too, sometimes more than the "good" ones. It's the beauty of how she writes anti-heroes, because she does it so well that you like them even if you don't agree with their actions. She creates sympathy and understanding for why they're doing what they're doing and why it makes sense that it has to be done that way. Thinking back on it, I don't think any of the characters could really have done anything differently and had the same result. There were no other paths for them to take to get to what they wanted.
I loved the ending. I'm pretty sure that I was sitting up in a really strange position as I finished the book. It wasn't what I was expecting at all, and I loved that it took me by surprise. Everything made perfect sense and all of the big plot points that we started out with were covered perfectly. Of course, there were hints that another book could be written, or some kind of novella that explored more of the world, but it was a very satisfying end. At least in the sense that I felt like this arc was done. Naturally, I wanted more because I love these characters and I really want to spend many more books with them, but I was happy with where things ended.
Victor becomes even more complex in this book than in the first one. The lines get blurred more and more with him now than they did in the previous book, and it was really interesting to see how he was coming to terms with all the new things he had to deal with.
Eli became more likable in this book and I understood him better by the time it was over. That doesn't mean that I like him as much as I do Victor, but he's a very well-written character and I enjoyed spending time with him and seeing him cope with completely new situations.
Sydney also became more complex as she started growing up and experiencing life. She definitely doesn't have the same kind of life that most other girls her age do, but she gets a very unique outlook on life because of all that she's been through. Watching her powers grow over the course of the book was also really cool, because it showed the extent of what she could do as she gained more control.
Marcella was a really fun new character to read about. She was strong in all the ways that I knew V.E. Schwab would write a female character, and she was a worthy counterpart to both Victor and Eli. While she may not have been the nicest person around, I had to really respect everything that she achieved and what she was able to do.
5 stars. Favorite book of the year, for sure. Yes, you DEFINITELY need to read the first book to understand what's going on because it is directly related. It's a great duology to pick up and I highly recommend it.