Marcella Riggins needs no one. Flush from her brush with death, she’s finally gained the control she’s always sought – and will use her new-found power to bring the city of Merit to its knees. She’ll do whatever it takes, collecting her own sidekicks, and leveraging the two most infamous EOs, Victor Vale and Eli Ever, against each other. With Marcella’s rise, new enmities create opportunity – and the stage of Merit City will once again be set for a final, terrible reckoning.

I was delighted when I found out that V.E. Schwab was writing a sequel to her 2013 novel Vicious, in which college roommates Victor and Eli discover that near-death experiences can imbue people with ExtraOrdinary (EO) abilities. In Vengeful, Schwab continues their stories as well as introducing a host of new characters, each with powers more terrible than the last.

Vengeful is a bloody, slick and suspenseful supervillain novel from a master of the fantasy genre. Schwab has expert control over her large cast of characters and the fragmented timeline, in which we jump back and forth from Eli’s childhood to the present day. She resembles J.K. Rowling in that every tiny detail has meaning and everything comes together so neatly, whilst also managing to surprise the reader.

The book was not without its flaws. Marcella’s storyline revolves around the fact that she wants to take over the city of Merit from its current mob controllers, but we never really get a sense of what this means or how the current system works. As such, the stakes don’t feel entirely real and so I found myself caring less about Marcella than I would have liked to. The character of June was a great addition to the story with a fascinating power, and clearly Schwab intends to focus more on her in the last book in the trilogy, but this meant that several elements were left unexplained when I would have liked to know a little more.

Marcella is a fascinating character, a woman who doesn’t care who she has to burn to get what she wants. It is deeply enjoyable watching her take revenge on the men who have belittled and dismissed her because of her beauty, but the constant references to how stunning she is (not to mention roughly 1,000 descriptions of her high heels) seemed unnecessary.

We also are reintroduced to main characters Victor and Eli, who were once close friends but whose differing views on EOs have made them into arch enemies. These two characters have their own twisted morality, but it is the way they see themselves – Eli as an agent of a higher power, Victor as a freak science experiment – that causes the greatest conflict in the book.

As with Vicious, Schwab once again examines themes of hero vs villain and the murky grey area between the two, as well as the corrupting influence of absolute power. She also explores morality, family and feminism in new and interesting ways.

This is a hefty book at over 500 pages but Schwab never allows the pace to drag. The frequent hopping around between characters and storylines is usually something that would get on my nerves, but from the very beginning the excitement is in watching all the pieces come together for an inevitable violent confrontation. And when that final showdown arrives, it is spectacular.