Author: V.E. Schwab
Length: 364 pages
Source: Purchased Book
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?
Characters: Normally this is the part of the review where I take a good look at the protagonist, or protagonists of the story, talk about if I liked them as characters, if they felt realistic and just my overall feelings about the central character. However, even though there is a central character, one that I'd even go so far as to say is the protagonist, there is a whole cast of characters in this book and they don't all fit into "hero" and "villain" roles. There is one character who I feel like wholly encompasses a hero or "good guy/girl" role, but the rest are sort of anti-heroes and anti-villains. They look from the outside like the opposite of what they are, but knowing these characters, their true personalities come to light. I loved the complexities of these characters. It wasn't because they were multi-layered and realistic, which they were, but more that as I said before they don't fall into typical character stereotypes, everyone in this book is flawed in some way and some more than others and it's just fascinating to read.
World-Building: This book is full of flashbacks and time jumps that while I was fine reading it, it could, especially if you speed read, get a bit confusing. With that out of the way, let's talk superpowers. The main feature of this book is the idea that some people, through a certain series of events, can be granted ExtraOrdinary powers. What I really enjoyed about this world is that the whole idea of powers and the like springs forth out of science. There's a perfectly rational explanation for the distribution of these powers and why and how certain powers are given to certain people. Then there were the bits of exposition that tie this story together. For the first part of this story there is very little emphasis put on the present day chapters, they're short and while they can still be entertaining, they sometimes felt more like something to string the backstory chapters together and act as a bit of a drum roll for the second half of the book. The second half of the book mostly takes place over one day, with chapters here and there explaining the backstory of certain characters and filling in holes in the story in a smooth and entertaining way.
Predictability: I don't normally read adult books, and because of that I'm not at all attuned to the different formulas and styles of writing adult fiction. With this book, there weren't really any big twists or "gotcha" moments where something intense or chocking is revealed. Instead this story just sort of chugs along, the various climactic moments just sort of happening without the big reveals I'm used to. Even when things were revealed in this book, it was done without ceremony and just sort of felt dampened and like there was no need for excitement or shock over that last revelation.
Ending: Going into this book I had expected it to be a standalone. However, as I was getting ever closer to that final climax I went to the GoodReads page and noticed that there is a sequel planned for sometime in the future, now that sort of changed perspective on how I viewed the ending. First off, the final climax, which for all intents and purposes felt like the climax of a standalone, had an air of something unfinished added to it. Then there's the actual ending. Now, the ending to this book sort of has a dual purpose feel to it. On the one hand this book wraps up very well and there's no real need to dive into this world again if you don't feel inclined to, but depending on how you look at it, the ending is also a cliffhanger that, if you let it, can grind agonizingly on you until the release of the sequel, so tread lightly.
Okay, so this book was very hard to rate. Not only is it an Adult book, which I don't read all that often, but it has got its own unique intricacies that made it very hard to rate. In the end I went with five stars because I really loved this book, its world, and its characters and I won't waste any time picking up the sequel as soon as it's released!