I’ve rarely been so grateful I didn’t have to wait for a sequel. The last time concerned A Conjuring of Light, also by V. E. Schwab. I guess it’s lucky I joined her fanbase recently. Too bad I’m catching up now… *tears hair out*
So Vengeful begins five years after Vicious (therefore beware: minor spoilers for the first book here). Eli Ever is locked away, but Victor Vale—along with partners in crime Sydney, Mitch, and Dominic—is free. However, circumstances have changed for Victor, and his time might be running out. He and his allies race to find other ExtraOrdinaries, hoping they can help him—and growing increasingly desperate when they cannot. Meanwhile, Eli is trapped but privy to how matters stand in Merit, thanks to an unexpected deal he strikes. And as Victor and Eli’s paths start to reconverge, a new EO named Marcella makes her move to take over Merit.
I loved seeing our main characters again. Witnessing how they, along with Sydney and Mitch, have evolved in the past five years was great. I also liked getting to know Dominic and Stell better. All of them have subtle character development, executed deftly by Schwab. It’s an excellent core cast she’s created, so realistic in their moral grayness but also so engaging in their interactions with one another.
Our new additions, Marcella and June, are not quite as captivating as our main squad, but still interesting in the ways they shake things up. Marcella’s power is incredible to witness, as is her intense ambition. She is unapologetically daring, and not someone I’d ever cross. And June proves to be intriguing as well—one never knows whether to trust her, or what her angle is.
On the other hand, I did not quite buy June’s affection for Sydney. The foundation didn’t seem as solid as I would have liked; I didn’t understand fully why she cared so much for Syd. I wish that relationship had more time “on-screen” so I could be more convinced. And regarding Marcella, I wish her endgame was clearer. Either I missed something, or her overall goal was lost somewhere in the overall story. This isn’t major to me, but still relevant. My other minor grievance is that I wish we had more scenes with Eli and Victor together; they play off each other in such fantastic ways and I found myself missing their interplay.
Also, the alternating timeline was more confusing than in Vicious. I had more trouble keeping the chronology straight, but not to an unmanageable extent. I suspect it’s because this time, we follow not only Victor and Eli’s activities, but also Marcella’s and June’s. However, the groups converge slightly sooner than in Vicious, so about the last hundred pages or so took place at the same time and place, which helped.
And man those last hundred pages! Once all our characters return to Merit, the tension and action crank up, culminating in an explosive climactic battle. I blew through those final chapters. And then was left wanting more. I don’t know why I thought this was a duology, but apparently not! (Argh.) I hope I don’t have to wait too long for the next book!
In the end, while Vengeful is not as good as Vicious, it’s still an excellent novel, building upon the world Schwab created in the first installment by adding new characters, developing existing relationships and establishing new ones, and evolving the EOs’ society. The characters continue to be awesome, the worldbuilding spectacular, and the plot harrowing. The concluding chapters were satisfying enough that this book could almost be the series’ resolution, but leaves enough loose ends and questions that it cannot possibly be. Schwab remains a powerhouse of storytelling.
Overall rating: 8/10
P. S. My predictions for the third book’s title: either Vindictive, Victorious (ha, get it?), Villainous, or… maybe Visceral?