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Literature / The Villains Series

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But these words people threw around—humans, monsters, heroes, villains—to Victor it was all just a matter of semantics. Someone could call themselves a hero and still walk around killing dozens. Someone else could be labeled a villain for trying to stop them. Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.
Victor Vale

The Villains series is a duology of books by V. E. Schwab which includes Vicious (2013) and Vengeful (2018).

Vicious begins the story of Victor Vale and Eliot "Eli" Cardale, two academic rivals and best friends, who are working on their senior theses when a shared research interest leads them to a working theory about the adrenaline response of near-death experiences as a possible origin of super-powered individuals note . In a fit of drunken impulsiveness, they decide to test the theory on themselves, with predictably tragic results. Ten years later, Victor escapes prison with his cellmate, a talented hacker named Mitch Turner, and embarks on a revenge-fueled quest to hunt down his former friend, now known as Eli Ever. On the outskirts of a city called Merit, their path crosses with Sydney Clarke, an almost-thirteen-year-old with a bullet wound in her arm, a personal interest in seeing Eli Ever pay for his crimes, and the ability to raise the dead, sending them all speeding down a path towards an explosive showdown.

Vengeful picks up five years later, with the surviving characters dealing with the aftermath of the first book and the choices they all made that fateful night. Meanwhile, things are once again shaking up in Merit, with the sudden rise of a powerful and ambitious new EO named Marcella Morgan. The wife of a recently deceased mob boss, Marcella has been biding her time at her husband's side and formulating her own ideas about how the city should be run... ideas that put her on the radar of a shadowy new organization known as EON.

Schwab has announced plans for a third entry in the series — tentatively titled Victorious — with an unknown release date.

A Comic Book series set in the five years between Vicious and Vengeful called ExtraOrdinary was published by Titan Comics in 2021.

This article contains unmarked spoilers for Vicious.

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  • Abuse Mistake: After learning that Victor's power is hurting people, June asks Sydney if Victor has ever hurt her, and Sydney initially says "no" before amending it to "not on purpose". Sydney is being literal: Victor's powers have caused her pain on a few occasions, but it's due to his Power Incontinence going off while she's in the room. She doesn't clarify the situation though, so June interprets it as Sydney making apologies for a man who is physically abusing her.
  • Abusive Parents: Eli suffered a violent childhood at the hands of his father, a preacher, who justified his constant beatings by claiming it was necessary to cleanse him of sin.
  • Affably Evil: Victor Vale is calm, methodical and polite to everyone around him and genuinely cares about his loved ones but he has a very devious mind and is The Unfettered when it comes to getting revenge.
  • Alliterative Name:
    • Victor Vale.
    • Eli Ever, though this is an assumed name.
    • Marcella Morgan, which is her maiden name and she reclaims it after she murders her cheating husband.
  • All for Nothing: Eli succeeds in killing Victor, but thanks to Sydney, it doesn't stick. He ends the first novel in jail, without Serena, and everything he worked for being for naught.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Eli and Victor both had romantic feelings for Angie Knight in the past, but their relationship with each other is very intense, both when they're best friends and when they're trying to kill each other.
  • Anachronic Order: The first book's narrative jumps all over the timeline, in all covering a span of about ten years. The second book is told in a similar style, but the main story-line takes place over five years, not including the flashbacks of Eli's childhood.
  • Anti-Villain: Victor is not a good person, but he's not all bad, either... and he's miles better than Eli (at least, in the first book; he loses most of whatever moral high ground existed between the two of them in the second book).
  • Badass Boast: Two very good ones, in rapid succession.
    Eli: You can't kill me, Victor. You know that.
    Victor: I know. But you'll have to indulge me. I've waited so long to try.
  • Bad Boss: Due to the number of assassination attempts on her life, Marcella grows increasingly paranoid as the story progresses, leading her to start killing underlings for slight — or even perceived — insults.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Eli tells Victor that his choice of last name, "Ever", is because he doesn't want to be forgotten. He's going to be remembered forever as a Serial Killer.
  • Best Served Cold: Victor spends his ten years in prison dreaming of the day that he can finally look Eli in the eye and put three bullets into his chest, like Eli once did to him, and once he finally gets the opportunity to do so he's delighted to find out the experience lived up to his imagination.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sydney's a nice girl, but not one to cross. By the end of Vicious, Eli's the target of her wrath, and she plans to leak the fact that he has a Healing Factor to whatever prison or hospital he ends up in — so his fellow inmates can can have fun with him.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Serena finds that life isn't very fulfilling when everyone in the world is forced to obey/try to please her.
    • As stated under Beware the Nice Ones, Sydney's plan for Eli at the ending of the first book implies this fate awaits him in prison. Keep in mind, Eli's abilities don't prevent him from feeling pain, so while he will undoubtedly survive whatever punishment comes his way, he'll still feel all of it. In the second book, we find out the reality was even worse; a Mad Scientist got hold of him and studied him via vivisection. Without anesthesia.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass:
    • Mitch takes it upon himself to look out for his newest cellmate, a quiet and unassuming fellow named Victor Vale, only to see first-hand several days later that Victor is more than capable of taking care of himself. Victor, however, invites him to keep on watching his back so that other people don't realize what he's capable of as well.
    • After EON starts sending hit squads after Marcella, June recommends hiring an EO named Jonathan as her personal bodyguard, just in case one of the goons ever manages to get lucky. Jonathan's powers? The ability to throw a deflector shield around himself and anyone in his line of sight. Marcella hires him immediately, and he's at her side for the rest of the book.
  • Broken Pedestal: The events just before and during the novel shatter Sydney's respect and near-idolization of her older sister, Serena. Of course, your sister trying to have you killed tends to do that.
  • Cain and Abel: Serena lures Sydney out to be murdered by Eli, despite their former close bond, because she agrees with him that something is very wrong with EOs.
  • Came Back Wrong:
    • Eli believes this is true of all EOs. He thinks they aren't really people, just pale imitations, and that he, as the only EO he knows whose power can only be used on himself, has been given a mission by God to destroy them. While the latter part is a delusion, he does have a point about the former; all EOs in Vicious except Sydney show a conspicuous Lack of Empathy. Both Serena and Victor agree that coming back takes something away from them, it's just that Victor doesn't care.
    • This is an unfortunate side-effect for EO's resurrected by Sydney, who experience difficulty controlling their powers, as they discover once she resurrects Barry Lynch. This is her biggest fear regarding her resurrection of Victor; physically, he comes back fine, and his power initially appears to be intact, but a few weeks later it begins to go on the fritz. See the entry under Power Incontinence for how that turns out.
  • Canine Companion: Dol, the massive black dog that Sydney and Victor rescue after it's hit by a car in Vicious. The entire team is fond of him, but he's particularly attached to Sydney since she's the one who brought him back from the dead (three times now).
  • Cape Busters: Most police departments have officers trained to deal with EOs.
    • Additionally, ExtraOrdinary Observation and Neutralization (EON) in the second book.
  • Charm Person: Even when Serena isn't talking, mere proximity to her causes people to want her to like them.
  • Churchgoing Villain: Eli is extremely religious, and views his quest as a holy Mission from God.
  • Compelling Voice: People are forced to obey Serena's every command, even if that command is to jump off a bridge.
  • Create Your Own Villain:
    • Victor's accidental killing of Angie is what sets Eli on his path, though Eli clearly had a screw loose from the word "go."
    • On the flip-side, Eli getting Victor sent to jail sets Victor on his path.
  • Creator In-Joke: At the Halloween party Sydney tries to go to in the second book, she spots a boy in a red coat making out with a girl in a horned mask, a reference to Kell and Lila
  • Dead Person Conversation: Subverted. Eli thinks he's having these with Victor in prison, going so far as to think Victor's ghost may be haunting him. Then he finds out Victor is alive...
  • Death Glare: Victor's is assisted by his ability to generate physical discomfort in the person he's glaring at, which makes it especially effective.
  • Death Is Cheap: If Sydney is around, the first death is, anyway. Anything over one is much harder. And maybe not so cheap after all if you're already an EO when she resurrects you.
  • Death Seeker: Marcella's bodyguard, Jonathan, is suidically depressed but the nature of his powers makes him unable to kill himself. He mainly agrees to the job in the hope that someone or something will find a weakness that he hasn't and do the job for him.
  • Destructive Romance: Well, "romance" is the wrong word for it, but Eli and Serena are sleeping together, and it just adds another layer of screwed-up to their already thoroughly screwed-up relationship. Nothing like having to order your partner not to kill you to spice things up in the bedroom.
  • Differently Powered Individual: Referred to as EOs, short for Extra Ordinary.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Serena is Eli's right hand only because she knows that if she doesn't help him with his crusade, and isn't always around so she can continually order him to not kill her, she's going to find herself on the wrong end of his gun. (Multiple characters note that, although it seems like Eli is using the police, in actuality she is using them, just for him.) Needless to say, the second she finds a way she can get rid of him, she turns on him.
  • Driven to Suicide: Eli's mother killed herself when he was young.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Victor genuinely cares about Mitch and Sydney, especially the latter. And, at one point, he and Eli were best friends.
    • Just about Serena's only saving grace is that she truly loves Sydney. Not that it stops her from letting Eli try to kill her.
    • Eli genuinely loved his mother, as well as his aunt and uncle. If they hadn't all died, he might have gone down a better path.
    • Marcella did love her husband... which is why she's so, so utterly pissed when she finds out he's cheating, as she's always been faithful to him. And then he tries to kill her, which pretty much ends the romance for good.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Stell isn't a good guy, but he finds Dr. Haverty's actions in imprisoning and experimenting on Eli to be morally reprehensible, and pulls strings to get Eli assigned to work for him, instead. Eli's still a prisoner, but at least he's not being tortured anymore.
  • Exact Words: Near the end of Vicious, Serena orders Sydney to go somewhere "safe", meaning out of the way of whatever blowup Victor and Eli are heading for. Unbeknownst to Serena, the only place Sydney feels safe anymore is with Victor...
  • Expy: Victor and Eli for Dr. Doom and Reed Richards — two brilliant former best friends who clash over science theories and a girl. Except for the fact that they're both bad guys, with Victor actually being slightly better.
  • Family of Choice: Mitch, Victor, and Sydney are this by the second book, with Dominic as their extended family. (Good luck getting Victor to admit it, of course.) Mitch and Dominic have no living family, and Victor and Sydney aren't really on good terms with theirs, but they all stick together and act like an odd combination of two dads and their daughter, and two older siblings raising their younger sister (with Dominic as the long-distance uncle). Sydney even calls the guys her family multiple times.
    • June is also a firm believer in this trope, saying families that are chosen are more valuable than ones forced on you by blood, and she wants Sydney to choose to be part of her family.
  • Face of a Thug: Mitch looks like he's up to no good, which makes everyone assume that that's actually in the case, when in reality, he's a nice guy with an unfortunate habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Feel No Pain: Victor's powers give him the ability to modulate or fully shut down his level of pain. He can extend this to either increase or reduce pain levels in other people as well.
  • Freudian Excuse: Eli's father was physically and emotionally abusive, which might explain a lot of his issues.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In Vicious one of Victor's blackout poems results in the phrase "We...ruin...all...we touch." In Vengeful, he meets Marcella, a woman with the power to literally bring ruin to anything she touches.
    • June tells Marcella she should really try to figure out the limits of her powers, and Marcella speculates that she might not actually have any. In the end, she really seems not to, but that actually gets her killed because she doesn't realize she needs to rein herself in.
    • At the end of Vicious, Sydney decides to leak information about Eli's Healing Factor to whatever prison he ends up in, figuring that that'll turn him into a human pincushion. In Vengeful, Eli ends up as the sole guinea pig of a Mad Scientist, who continually operates on and even vivisects him... which is more or less exactly what Sydney hoped for. Though what Dr. Haverty does to Eli is so horrible, it's unlikely that Sydney would've wished it on anyone.
  • Gambit Pileup: Marcella's gala at the Old Courthouse serves as the climax of Vengeful, with all the major characters and their various motivations colliding all at once. Marcella plans to unveil her vision for the future of Merit at the event, while a team from EON is there to finally put a stop to her growing body count — with Eli in tow to land the killing blow, since he's the only person alive who has a chance to withstand her powers. Eli, however, is planning to use the chaos of the event to make his escape instead. Meanwhile, Victor gate-crashes the party with the single-minded goal of killing Eli, but is first intercepted by June who blackmails him into helping her take Marcella down to keep Sydney safe. The whole situation results in a Mêlée à Trois, with Eli and Marcella locked in a battle to the death, Victor and Stell briefly teaming up to take down her EO bodyguard, all while Victor is also simultaneously ducking various EON goons and keeping an eye open for a chance to take his shot at Eli.
  • Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand: Mitch and Victor, respectively, when it comes to Sydney. Mitch is in general extremely kind to her, focusing on her education and trying to be understanding when she's being rebellious. Victor, though he does genuinely care for Sydney, is quite harsh and doesn't hesitate to lay down the law, or spell out unpleasant realities.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: The entire plot. No one's fully good or fully bad, and everyone is in it for their own selfish reasons (except maybe Sydney, since she got dragged into this mess by circumstance).
  • Green-Eyed Monster: One of Victor's flaws. He was irritated by and envious of Eli and Angie's romantic relationship, because they made him feel left out. This also bleeds into his jealousy over Eli discovering how to create superpowers, and drove him to even more reckless risks in an attempt to get some for himself.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Sydney is blonde and kindhearted, in stark contrast to her sister and Victor.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Marcella responds to evidence of her husband's infidelity by immediately grabbing the nearest steak knife and trying to kill him. After waking up in the hospital with superpowers that are fueled by her rage, her temper grows progressively shorter as a lifetime of being underestimated and overlooked finally catches up to her, and she proceeds to carve a path of death and destruction through the city of Merit.
  • Happily Adopted: Eli's various foster families are all an improvement over his abusive birth family, but he's at his happiest during his time with his aunt and uncle.
  • Healing Factor: Eli's power. He is able to heal from injuries almost instantaneously, unless the object causing the injury isn't removed or it's too large for his body to heal around.
  • High on Homicide: Eli experiences a feeling of peace after dispatching other EOs, a feeling he believes is a sign of God's blessing.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • After Eli's fight with Victor at the Falcon Price, the police refuse to believe that Eli acted in self defense, because he's completely uninjured.
    • Also, when Marcella goes up against Eli, she cuts loose and ends up destroying everything around them, including the floor, which allows Eli to break it and send them both falling a fatal distance...for her.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind:
    • Eli's an EO on a killing spree against all other EOs.
    • Stell's second, Rios turns out to be an EO working for EON.
  • Hypocrite: Eli is thoroughly convinced EOs are an affront against God and need to be put down... except him. He's fine, and in fact, has been chosen to carry out His bloody crusade.
  • Iconic Outfit: You will be hard-pressed to find fan art of Victor Vale in which he is not dressed in head-to-toe black and wearing a Badass Longcoat.
  • I Have Your Wife: A variant, as June doesn't need to kidnap someone to hurt them—all she needs to do is be able to assume their form, and then hurt herself, as injuries are always transferred to the original. She forces Victor to help her take down Marcella by turning into Mitch and holding a gun to her own head.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: In a way. Why doesn't June just force Sydney away from Victor, as she clearly thinks would be best for her, and she later demonstrates she is capable of doing? Because June wants her to choose to come with her, of her own free will, not be forced into it.
  • I Warned You: In Vengeful, Eli is unsympathetic when EON has difficulty capturing Victor — as he continually points out, he told them to burn his body five years ago.
  • Karmic Death: Marcella's husband tries to kill her. She winds up coming back as an EO, and kills him instead. Very, very painfully.
  • Kill It with Fire: With Sydney around, burning a corpse is the only way to ensure that a person will actually stay dead. Victor and Mitch dispose of Serena's body in this fashion specifically to prevent Sydney from resurrecting her, and Eli begs his arresting officers to burn Victor's body for this same reason (luckily for Victor, they don't listen).
  • Killed Off for Real: So far, Eli, Marcella, Stell, Dominic, and Serena are all dead-for-real. Eli, Stell, and Dominic still have bodies intact as of the end of Vengeful, meaning they conceivably could come back in any future installments, but Serena and Marcella aren't so lucky.
  • Knight Templar: Eli sees other EOs as evil by definition. He sees his killings as not just good, but holy.
  • Lack of Empathy: It's what EOs give up for power, along with compassion and a general ability to care about others. Victor and Eli are the most glaring examples and both have routines or rules they follow to emulate empathy. However, it is not complete as the Even Evil Has Loved Ones examples above show.
  • Lady Macbeth: Marcella was a classic example to her mobster husband, pushing him to get further into the business so they (or rather, she) could gain more power. After becoming an EO, she kills him and seizes control herself.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Victor's parents are bestselling authors and quite wealthy, but they were distant and rarely around while he was growing up, resulting in a strained relationship — at best — with their son. He's also naturally a loner, which means he has very few friends. He doesn't dwell on it much.
  • Lost Lenore: Angie, for both Victor and Eli.
  • Mad Scientist: Victor and Eli, technically. Their process for discovering EOs is very scientific, as well as very dangerous and quite insane. Dr Haverty is a more straight example.
  • Mafia Princess: Subverted by Marcella. She's not content with letting her husband run the mob while she enjoys the benefits — she wants the power and prestige that comes with being the boss.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Victor Vale is an expert at getting under people's skins and then manipulating them like puppets in his grand schemes. See the Thanatos Gambit listed below for his ultimate example.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Victor shares his first name with Doctor Doom, of whom he is an Expy.
    • Dominic Rusher has powers that make him appear as though he's teleporting.
    • "Serena" is very close to "Sirena," a Greek name that references the sirens — beautiful women who used their Compelling Voices to lure people to their doom. Just like Serena Clarke.
    • "Angie," as in "Angelica," which, of course, means "Angel." Angie Knight dies.
    • "Marcella" ultimately derives from "Mars", the Roman god of war. You do not want to mess with her.
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • Eli changed his last name from Cardale to Ever, partially to shed his connection to his abusive family and partially because he thinks all the best superheroes have alliterative names.
    • Marcella goes back to using her maiden name of Morgan after her husband's attempt to murder her.
  • Mission from God: Eli thinks he's on one, but he's hopelessly deluded.
  • Mistaken for Suicidal: Victor's first attempt at a near death experience in order to gain superpowers ends up landing him in therapy, under the belief that he's become suicidal.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: June turns on Marcella when the latter threatens Sydney's life, which ultimately gets Marcella killed.
  • Morality Pet:
    • Sydney is pretty much the heart of the series because of this trope.
      • She brings out whatever good is left in Victor. He even admits to her that he won't tell her exactly what he's up to, because he's afraid it'd make her lose respect in him.
      • Serena also truly loves her... though it's subverted in that she agrees to let Eli kill her. She does have some reservations about it, though, and does try to protect her in the climax. Ultimately, she loves Sydney, but not enough for it to make any real difference in the end.
      • In the second book, she also wins June's affection and protection.
    • It's less obvious, but Victor does genuinely care quite a bit about Mitch, and he realizes too late that he should have appreciated Dominic more.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate:
    • Victor would be this, except the prison sentence prevented him from getting his doctorate. He's a touch bitter about this.
    • Dr. Haverty, who experiments on and vivisects Eli, among others, in the second book.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Serena gets hit with this about a half-second before Eli tries to kill Sydney.
  • Nice Guy: Mitch is a genuinely friendly, nice person who just so happens to have phenomenally bad luck. It's very telling that even when he decided Then Let Me Be Evil, he chose a crime in which no one would be hurt.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • Angie gets a text from Victor asking for help, and without a second thought, drops everything to help her friend. This sets off a chain of events that gets her killed.
    • Dominic blows his cover at EON to save Victor's life and suffers a fatal gunshot wound during their ensuing escape.
  • Not Growing Up Sucks: Well, Sydney does age, but very, very slowly. By the second book, she's pretty sick of being treated like a child by everyone who looks at her, even though she's now eighteen years old.
  • Older Than They Look: Eli hasn't physically aged since the night he gained his powers, meaning that he still looks like a 22 year old college student fifteen years later.
    • As noted above Sydney does age, but at a much slower rate than normal, meaning she still appears to be in her early teens and probably will for quite a while.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Eli and Victor are both very insistent that they take the other out. In a twist, Sydney is the one who ultimately pulls the trigger on Eli in Vengeful, putting him down (at least for now). Fitting, considering that he tried to execute her when she was only twelve and she's been haunted by nightmares about it ever since.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Eli, as demonstrated in Vengeful, had to be this way in order to make his way in life, because he started with basically nothing. While he's willing to callously dump his girlfriend in exchange for a bribe from her father and has other displays of Lack of Empathy, it's somewhat understandable, at least up to a point.
  • Parental Neglect: Sydney's parents were absent for most of her childhood, to the point that Serena used to comfort Sydney by making up stories about them being adopted. She tells Victor in the present day that they left her alone at the hospital after she drowned because they had to work, and that they won't notice or care that she's missing. It's one of the first things she and Victor are able to bond over.
    • Parental Substitute: Sydney cuts ties with her parents and remains with Mitch and Victor after the events of the first book, with them both filling the parent role. Mitch looks after her the closest, even taking it upon himself to home-school her, while Victor is parental towards her in his own way, but is a significantly less... nurturing presence.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Poor Angie. Her death is what begins this entire shitshow.
  • Power Incontinence: While Victor is able to keep a very tight reign on his powers while he's awake, he isn't able to maintain that same level of control while he's asleep, and this sometimes results in uncontrolled surges of pain that affect anyone close-by, as Sydney discovers when she accidentally wakes him while he's in the middle of a traumatic nightmare/flashback about the night Angie died. He doesn't sleep much as a result.
    • In Vengeful, Victor's powers are on the fritz after his resurrection, causing episodes where they will suddenly overload and explode in violent bursts of energy that temporarily stop his heart and can cause serious damage to anyone in his immediate vicinity. His health suffers severely because of this.
  • Professional Killer: June. Her ability to shapeshift into anyone she's ever touched, plus the fact that she cannot be hurt while shapeshifted (the person whose face she's wearing sustains all damage she takes), makes her especially effective.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Serena attempts this on Mitch, but he knew that she would and had already triple checked to make sure his gun wasn't loaded before she arrived.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Happens to Victor when he first tries out his powers. Of course, having just gotten them can't have helped.
  • Questionable Consent: Part of the reason Serena dislikes her powers so much is that she knows her passive "you want to please me" aura interferes with a person's agency even if she avoids imperatives — so she can never be certain a sex partner is 100% willing. Since Eli will murder her if she goes too long without ordering him not to, however, she’s fine ignoring this issue when it comes to him.
  • Rape as Backstory: The details are left deliberately vague, but June is introduced near the end of her personal quest to hunt down the group of men who assaulted her and left her for dead.
  • Scars Are Forever: Although Eli's healing factor prevents him from acquiring any new scars, it can't do anything about the web of scars that cover his back as a result of his father's beatings when he was a child.
    • Sydney's resurrection of Victor at the end of Vicious erases all of the damage he sustained at Eli's hands during their battle at the Falcon Price, but he still has three bullet wound scars on his chest, courtesy of Eli's first attempt at killing him in their dorm room.
  • Self-Made Orphan: His mother was already dead, but Eli finishes the job by shoving his father down a flight of stairs and waiting until his breathing stopped before calling for help. It's hard to feel at all bad about this.
  • Self-Mutilation Demonstration: Eli tests out his newfound healing abilities by repeatedly slitting his wrists.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Eli murders other people with powers as he views them as an affront to God, believing this to be his divinely ordained duty.
    • After learning that Stell is running an organization dedicated to hunting down EOs, Victor immediately retraces his steps and eliminates everyone he sought assistance from during his quest to find a cure for his illness. He's not happy about it, but his justification for it to Sydney is that it's necessary to keep them safe.
    • Marcella goes on a rampage through Merit in the second book, leaving piles of bodies in her wake.
  • Shout-Out: Victor borrows Spike Spiegel's iconic finger gun in Vengeful. It's not even required for his super-power to work, he's clearly just showing off.
    • Another key scene in Vengeful takes place at a hotel called "The Continental", which the author has confirmed is a deliberate nod.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Sydney looks exactly like her older sister Serena, just seven years younger.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Knowing he has little chance of winning a head-on confrontation against Eli due to the latter's Healing Factor, Victor instead devises a complex scheme that uses that fact to his advantage. He first kills Serena to break her and Eli's hold over the Merit Police Department, and then lures Eli to the Falcon Price for a confrontation. During the ensuing fight, Eli instantly recovers from every injury Victor inflicts, while Victor is slowly beaten and stabbed to death, and the police arrive on the scene shortly after it's over to find Eli completely unharmed and drenched in Victor's blood. He is arrested on the spot, and the subsequent investigation uncovers evidence of his double-digit body count, sending him to jail for a very long time. Meanwhile, Victor is resurrected by Sydney only days later, with the full satisfaction of watching as his rival's entire life and public image is destroyed.
  • The Team Normal: Mitch is abnormally unlucky, but this doesn't appear to have a supernatural cause.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil:
    • After years of everyone assuming he was up to no good, despite him being a nice, upstanding sort of guy, Mitch decided to rob a bank. This lands him in jail... where he meets Victor.
    • When Victor learns that the public considers Eli to be a hero and that opposing him would make Victor a villain, his response is basically, "Sure, why not?"
  • Time Stands Still: Dominic's power appears to be a form of teleportation, but it actually consists of him stopping time and walking somewhere else.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Victor was by no means a saint in the first book, but he was at least focusing his worst impulses on his rivalry with Eli and was still doing what he could to avoid harming civilians or innocent bystanders. In Vengeful, the combined anxiety over his escalating health problems and the constant threat of being hunted down by EON sends him into darker territory, leading to his decision to kill everyone he'd previously sought out for help in order to eliminate potential witnesses. Worse, when Sydney objects to his becoming a serial killer, he forces her to choose between their safety or the lives of the people who could identify them.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: A near death experience is required for someone to become an EO, with their resulting superpower being linked to the final thought or desire that helped them to pull through.
    • Eli and Victor invoke this by, respectively, drowning in an ice-bath (Eli), and being tortured with electricity until his body gave out (Victor).
    • Sydney and Serena's powers are the result of falling through a frozen lake and drowning/freezing to death.
    • Dominic spent weeks in a coma after surviving an IED blast that left him with severe chronic pain.
    • Marcella's husband attempted to burn their house down with her inside after she discovered his infidelity and attacked him in a fit of rage.
    • June's backstory is vague, but her powers are the result swearing that she would never be hurt again after surviving a violent assault.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Sydney's near-death experience left her with the ability to bring people back from the dead, which leads to her doing things like testing her new powers on hospital cadavers (which she then has to make dead again) and attempting to resurrect small animals from long-dead and incomplete skeletons. Even without all of that, Mitch notes gloomily in the first book that she's starting to sound like Victor after spending only three days in his company.
    "I hope Victor hurts him," she said cheerfully. "A lot."
  • Villain Protagonist: The Series! Mitch summed it up perfectly when he told Sydney "there are no good men in this game."
    • Victor's a self-centered douche who has no qualms about manipulating people to get what he wants, and Eli's a Serial Killer with delusions of grandeur. Our protagonists, ladies and gentlemen!
    • The second book introduces Marcella, who is a highly ambitious mob wife-turned-Serial Killer.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Eli has this in the first book, thanks to Serena's influence over the Merit Police Department. Subverted once she's dispatched by Victor, nullifying her influence, and Eli's subsequently caught red-handed at a murder scene.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • Victor and Eli were once best friends. To say they're no longer on good terms is a massive understatement.
    • Perhaps worse is Sydney and Serena. The two sisters were once thick as thieves. Now they're on opposing sides, and Serena attempts to have Eli kill Sydney.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Eli genuinely believes he's doing the right thing by killing EOs, seeing them as being against God.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Eli doesn't see EOs as human, but as unholy abominations wearing human skin, and thus feels no guilt for killing them.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Victor's favorite pastime is using his parent's self-help books for blackout poetry, with some of the results landing in this territory for maximum insult.
  • Worthy Opponent: Victor and Eli's relationship is a little too personally fraught to really count — they're so laser-focused on each other that nothing else was ever an option — but Victor definitely sees Serena as this. Dominic expresses surprise after getting a good look at her the first time after helping Victor kill her, commenting that she's "just a girl", but Victor sharply contradicts him, telling him that far from being just anything, Serena is the most powerful woman in Merit.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The way Eli sees it, if you're an EO, you have to die. Even if you're a defenseless twelve-year-old girl.

"To never dying."
"To being remembered."

Alternative Title(s): Vicious