Published by Tor (9.24.2013)
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Source: I own it
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A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.
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?
I really enjoyed The Archived, and after hearing many good things about this one, I was sure I’d love it. And for once, I was right! This story is not rainbows and unicorns. It was dark and rather twisted, and I think that’s why I liked it so much!
One of my favorite things about this book is the broken timeline. It jumps back and forth between the past and the present, sometimes sporadically. But, it was never confusing. Victoria Schwab has some serious talent to pull that off! Despite the timeline being all over the place, it still made sense. The flashbacks were timed perfectly to give you just a tidbit of the story at a time, creating intrigue and keeping the pace moving.
At first, you don’t know why Victor was in jail or what Eli did to make Victor hate him so badly. That part kept me interested, because I was thinking to myself, They were friends! What happened to make them hate each other so much?! You get answers in bits and pieces, spread out over the course of the story. Things were revealed in a way that made you go, “Ohhh, now that part makes sense!” It was brilliant!
My other favorite thing? You have no idea who the good guy is. There’s just bad and badder. Both opposing sides were messed up and twisted!
There are no good men in this game.
Victor could be considered our good guy, but he’s not technically good. He’s more like an antihero. He’s got some major issues, and his driving force was revenge. He is willing to do whatever he has to in order to see Eli bleed. But – he’s not evil. Eli, on the other hand, was. He was SO f*cked up! He was a very realistic character, and he was scary. Why? Because he truly believed what he was doing was right. He was a zealot and a fanatic; he did horrific things in the name of God, was sure that He approved even as Eli was committing murder. His sense of right and wrong was so warped that he could no longer tell the difference. The ironic thing was, he thought that EOs were unnatural, and that was why he felt they deserved to die. But he was an EO himself! It was crazy that he thought because his power only affected himself that he should live and they shouldn’t. Maybe it’s unnatural, but they’re still people. He didn’t even see that.
“ExtraOrdinaries shouldn’t exist. They haven’t just been given a second chance, they’ve been given a weapon and no manual. No rules. Their very existence is criminal. They aren’t whole.”
The changes in both Victor and Eli from the beginning to the end were astounding. Both started out as mostly good (I say mostly because Eli had a little darkness in him to begin with), but they became twisted and amoral the deeper they got into the study of EOs (ExtraOrdinaries). Victor changed the most. At first, he was skeptical, but as he started believing, he became obsessed. It was very interesting to see that change take over.
“You asked me if I ever wanted to believe in something. I do. I want to believe in this. I want to believe that there’s more. That we could be more. Hell, we could be heroes.”
“We could be dead,” said Eli.
I loved the concept of ExtraOrdinaries! Sure, it’s been done before – um, hellooo, X-Men. But the way they were created was what made this one unique. View Spoiler »I mean, you can gain supernatural abilities if you’ve legally DIED? How cool is that?! (And what kind of balls would it take to kill yourself just for the chance to acquire an ability?) Most stories about abilities are basically a mutation that you’re born with. « Hide Spoiler
The only problem I had with this one was that I didn’t get much feeling from it. I think the main issue was that our main characters were apathetic because they felt empty inside, but even in dire circumstances I never felt the desperation. Or sadness. Like many paranormal stories, it’s hard to be worried when someone dies because you know they could come back. View Spoiler »Although I must say, when I thought Mitch was going to die, I did feel a bit sad (which surprised me) because he didn’t deserve it. « Hide Spoiler
Hollywood seriously needs to pick this one up, it’d make an AMAZING movie!
Side note: I don’t usually comment on covers other than to give them a general rating. But I really don’t like the hardback cover – the dude looks weird and awkward and the colors are ugly as sin. BUT I’m absolutely in love with the paperback version:
It’s so beautiful! Probably because it’s red, and red is my favorite color. But I love the font, the dudes look badass, and I love the way they’re cut into pieces and it looks like blood is splattered off to the side. I already have the hardback, but I’m going to buy the paperback just because I love the cover!
*Notice that I labeled this as New Adult. It’s technically labeled as Adult, but it still didn’t read like an Adult novel. The characters were in college, so I really think this should be NA, since it’s at a higher level than YA (and is probably not 100% appropriate for a 13-year-old).
The moments that define lives aren’t always obvious. They don’t always scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten there’s no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no blood pact, no official letter on fancy paper. They aren’t always protracted, heavy with meaning.
“He called me unnatural,” said Sydney softly. “Said my power went against nature. Against God.”
“Charming, isn’t he?”
Writing style: 4.5/5
Overall rating: 4.5/5
I’ve read some really raving reviews for this book, and I love the point you posed about none of the opposing sides were necessarily good, it was just bad and even worse. I also think that managing time well is always a really hard task, and I’m glad that Victoria did it exceptionally well. i’m sorry you couldn’t really relate to the characters, though, because it’s always really hard to pull off apathetic characters. But I’m glad that the rest of the book seemed to make up for it.
Fantastic review, Jessi! <3
You should read it! I’d definitely be interested to see if you like it :)
(Did you read The Archived??)
I’ve heard this sounds good. I am so glad you liked it too!! I need to get my hands on this one soon. Loved your review!
Yes you do! I can’t wait to see what you think of it!