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?
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I knew I would like this one once I actually got around to reading it, but I have to say, I was really impressed by this. It’s got the feel of a Neil Gaiman setting, with a hint of Maggie Stiefvater in the prose, but a general fantasticness that I’m attributing wholly to Schwab.
Let me get my only negative point out of the way right here at the beginning. I kind of hated that we only ever stayed in one place for 5 pages before jumping ten years into the future in the next five pages, and then jumping straight back into the past again after only another handful of pages. That said, there was no time to get bored as it certainly kept things moving along at a nice, brisk, pace.
That out of the way, I’ve go nothing but great things to say about this book. For one, Eli and Victor are two ridiculously well developed characters. Like, you might think you know some fleshed out characters who have means and motive… but these guys have means and motive. And you’re rooting for them to succeed in the flashbacks but you know something’s got to go horribly wrong to get to where they are in ten years’ time, but you think if they could just get it right then everything would work out. It doesn’t, of course, but it’s a fun ride getting there. Well written, ruthless, snarky characters are hard to come by, so watching Victor and Eli sparring – verbally, bringing each other back from the dead, through stick drawings, bringing other people back from the dead to deliver a message to the other – was great.
And the characters seemed perfectly at home in the beautifully drawn settings. The polished high achieving university contrasting wonderfully with the cold, dank graveyard. Throughout the novel there is a vague feeling of unease and I feel like everything should have been forever cloaked in fog or something. I liked it. I also liked the thought that went into the acquisition of super powers and how differently the two main characters reacted to this. Long story short, the writing is great, the characters are great, and the world building is bloody brilliant.