Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
Published: September 24th 2013
Self-Harm, Suicide, Torture, Mutilation, Murder, Death, Grief
“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”
This is the kind of superhero stories I want. The ones where no one is the hero, yet you don’t really know who the villain is. The one’s that make you really look into the characters and see all their flaws and faults, yet gets you to root if not sympathize with them. When I ask for a superhero book, this is what I’m asking for.
We follow two ambitious narcissist who become friends in college, have an experiment go wrong and after ten years of one in jail and the other committing murders in the name of God, become enemies— one fueled by revenge, the other fueled by a twisted sense of purpose.
“If Eli really was a hero, and Victor meant to stop him, did that make him a villain?
He took a long sip of his drink, tipped his head back against the couch, and decided he could live with that.”
There are quite a few POV’s giving us all the perspectives on the scheming and plans while going through a past/present alternating format so we can see how things got to the way they were with all of the characters. Yet the twist still got me. No amount of reveals prepared me for the conspiring and twist that ending gave me.
But this book truly overturn tropes and take a deeper look at what makes a person a villain, what makes them a hero and is a person truly one or the other? None of these characters are inherently good or bad and Schwab does an amazing job fleshing even the side characters who make a short appearance.
“All Eli had to do was smile. All Victor had to do was lie. Both proved frighteningly effective.”
I found it kind of funny how Victor’s decent was kind of his fault. Jealousy leading to self destruction leading to him in jail— I understood why his was hellbent on revenge, but it’s kind of ironic… this was kind of your fault. Yet again, I couldn’t not get behind his need for revenge. He is the definition of a morally gray/ambitious character. He does what he needs to do to get the job done, but he had this found family vibe with Mitch, Sydney and Dol that gave a heartwarming flash in this here. Yes, they’re doing a job and going towards a s
emi similar goal, but the camaraderie, trust and reluctant care between them gave some light in between the heartracing moments.
“He lifted his glass. “To never dying.” Eli lifted his. “To being remembered.” Their glasses clinked as Eli added, “Forever.”
While I rooted for Victor to succeed, Eli fascinated me. His hypocritical outlook on his belief of God while playing God himself, all while adding the science vs. religion aspect and having Eli follow both; sociopaths have always interested me in their way of thinking and reasoning, so it was no shock that I’d be drawn to Eli. But Schwab fleshed him out so well. I understood how he came to this mind frame and while I didn’t root for him, I wanted to see how far he’ll go and what he would do.
“You can’t kill me today,” she called back. “I’m late for class.”
Yet as far as villains go, Serena was just as much in the spotlight as Eli. Can’t even sugarcoat it— she was a bad ass. Her ability and her interesting relationship with Eli was so engrossing. She did what she needed to do to survive and her ending was quick, but it hit some heartstrings with the moment she had with her sister before. Their conflict as sisters was heartbreaking, how things changed; the way things unfolded and getting to slowly see why Serena did the things she did and watching Sydney grow and shift away from idolizing her sister— truly a captivating thing to read.
This is truly a character driven read, making this a slow read, but I was taking in every word and every interaction just to draw it out and not miss anything. I knew I was going to love this; we’re we even surprised?