Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

Release date: October 2018

Some people were matches, a bit of light and no heat. And some were furnaces, all heat but little light. And then, once in a blue moon, there was a bonfire, something so hot and bright you couldn't stand too near without burning.

Marcella Morgan is tired of being taken for granted.

She loved her husband—truly loved him. Ever since they first met at college, Marcella and Marcus were two pieces in a matching set. He, the ambitious son of a crime syndicate family; she, a cunning strategist who understands power better than anyone. They were lovers and confidants—partners, not only in marriage, but in will.

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But then Marcella learns that Marcus has been playing her for a fool. And when she threatens to tear it all down, he kills her.

Except Marcella doesn’t die. She comes back. And now, she’s an EO—an ExtraOrdinary, with incandescent rage and unfettered power at her fingertips. Marcella is tired of being seen as a pretty thing, an adornment, as nothing. So she takes it all for herself, with brute force.

Eli Ever is a ghost, sealed away in a room for five years. Ever since his EO powers were awakened—induced, really, thanks to his and former best friend Victor Vale’s experimentation at med school—Eli has realized his true purpose. Possessing an uncanny ability to regenerate and heal from nearly any injury, Eli’s mission was to murder all EOs, leading to the deaths of at least forty people before he was stopped. Now the world presumes Eli is dead, not incarcerated in an underground bunker for a top-secret agency, EON, dedicated to the study, apprehension, and neutralization of the EO threat.

Something is very wrong with Victor Vale. Presumed dead at the hands of Eli Ever five years ago, Victor and his makeshift family have bounced from city to city in search of help. Even though the youngest of the group, Sydney, was able to bring him back from death using her ability, Victor keeps dying—with increasing frequency, and for longer periods of time. For all his power and control over pain, Victor cannot control what is happening to him, and it terrifies him. So he searches for anyone who might be able to help—and then covers his tracks with murder.

Three immensely powerful EOs collide in Vengeful, the newest novel from V.E. Schwab and follow-up to 2013’s phenomenal Vicious. Two are archnemeses: to quote the Joker (in reference to another great matching of archnemeses), in Vicious and Vengerful we see what happens when one unstoppable force (Eli) meets immovable object (Victor) but with the added bonus of a megaton incendiary bomb primed to go off at any moment (Marcella). While there’s plenty to love if you’re into the whole archnemesis thing, for me, it’s all about the incendiary bomb—that is, Marcella Morgan (the ex Mrs. Riggins).

All Marcella’s life, men had looked at her with lust, desire. But this was different. This was fear. And it felt good.

Possessing the power to rot and unravel with a touch, Marcella has had enough of men taking her for granted; as a pretty face, a sweet pet, an adorably ambitious little lady. One thing I love about her particular arc, which Schwab reveals through flashes backwards and forwards in time through alternating short, episodic chapters, is that Marcella has always known what she wants, and pursues that goal single-mindedly. The fact that no one takes her seriously until she can turn them into ash? Well, that’s everyone else’s mistake. Marcella is a core of ambition and power—a villain, to be sure, but one with purpose and vision. She doesn’t just want revenge on the man who has wronged her, nor does she simply desire control of organized crime in Merit City. Marcella wants to use every bit of her power, exploit every angle, to become power itself. Marcella, in other words, dreams big.

But Marcella’s is only one third of the story in Vengeful. Frankly, I could care less for Victor and Eli’s ennui, their colossal battle as archnemeses--although, I do appreciate getting more of Eli’s backstory in this novel. Eli’s history of abuse, his parents’ deaths, and his transfer from foster home to foster home and his experimentation with appearing “normal” is brilliantly, heartachingly wrought.  Victor, in contrast, becomes much colder, harder, darker in this second novel--we see the extremes he will go to in order to protect himself and his secrets.

Schwab makes it abundantly clear that there are no “good guys” in this world—while the book’s description paints didactic archnemeses comparisons of Magneto v Professor X, or Superman v Lex Luthor, this implies that there’s a “good” side and a “bad” side. Both Eli and Victor are no heroes—there aren’t really teams to root for in Vengeful. Hell, even EON and Detective Stell’s directives are morally questionable. That’s a good thing: Schwab’s world is like our own. Things aren’t as simple as heroes versus villains.

We may not know how things will shake out for our EOs in the future… but we know it’s a long, cold, and lonely road.

In Book Smugglerish, eight piles of human ashes out of ten.