V.E. Schwab released the sequel to her supervillain-filled novel “Vicious” this past September, and I know I wasn’t the only one who immediately ran out to the nearest store on its release. Schwab’s work dances between worlds, one foot in real time and another in the macabre and the magical, giving her a signature style that draws in readers.
Although all her characters are wickedly wonderful, she excels at creating kickass women, both villainous and heroic. If you’re not already on the bandwagon, here are four female characters from her that deserve your unrequited attention immediately.
1. Mackenzie Bishop
From Schwab’s “The Archived” and “The Unbound” comes Mackenzie Bishop. She’s a Keeper of the Archives, where the dead, called Histories, are kept. Sometimes the Histories wake and wander off, and it’s Bishop’s job to return them to their slumber. Unfortunately, oftentimes these Histories are dangerous, making Bishop’s teenage life difficult.
Bishop is kickass because of her resolute nature. She’s lost her grandfather and mentor Da, the only other person who knows about their world. She has also now lost her younger brother, Ben, and she can’t even tell her parents about her job that often takes her away at unexpected times. Yet she persists, and her resilience combined with her mildly terrifying job earn her a place among the greats.
2. Delilah “Lila” Bard
Lila Bard is from Schwab’s “Shades of Magic” series. In this world, there are four Londons: Gray London, or the London that resembles the real one; Red London, the London of prosperity and magic; White London, the dying London; and Black London, the London already lost, completely consumed by magic. These different worlds can only be traversed by the Antari, and there are only a couple of them left.
Originally from Gray London, Bard gets a taste of Red London from Kell, one of the last Antari, as she robs and then saves him. Lila may be from Gray London, but she proves herself completely dangerous from the get-go as well.
In all tenses of the word, Bard is a pirate. She’s ruthless and intelligent, and she wants her own ship for commanding and is willing to do whatever to get what she wants, including be a cutpurse in the meantime. But in a sense, Bard is also heroic, though it is doubtful that she would ever describe herself as such. She shows immense loyalty toward Kell and puts herself in harm’s way to save him. She is kickass because she upholds her own convictions no matter what, and she will do anything to save her only friend.
3. Sydney Clarke
Although she is from Schwab’s “The Villains” series, Sydney Clark is the opposite of the characters in the series. The world she inhabits has EOs, extraordinary persons who died and then came back with powers. Clark befriends another EO, Victor, by accident, as she too has a remarkable power that draws them together.
Well, sort of. If it wasn’t for her powers, then the person wouldn’t have tried to kill her, and she wouldn’t have run off. These powers don’t come without a cost. The characters pay for them by dying, but certain characters feel that EOs are unnatural and should be destroyed. This, and a variety of other reasons, sends Sydney on the run. Her home life wasn’t great anyway, but when she experiences betrayal from her one companion, it hurts in more ways than one.
In the first novel, “Vicious,” Clark is about 13 years old, the youngest on this list. She experiences neglect and death, and her life is constantly threatened. Not to mention she’s lost her sister and her only companions are ones that she’s resurrected. Maybe it’s because of her age, but Sydney might be the most kickass female on this list not because that’s who she is, but because that is who she must be.
And, you know, she’s got the spirit of a fighter, not afraid of taking on bad guys. She doesn’t even use her powers to do so.
4. Marcella Riggins
In Schwab’s newest book, “Vengeful,” the reader meets Marcella Riggins who, from the first chapter, exudes ambition in every line. After her brush with death, her powers are still only matched by her independent nature and tenacity, though notably her mission isn’t without cause.
Riggins is dangerous, probably even more so than Bard. Something about Riggins is colder and more calculating, whereas Bard is all heat and fire in a storm. Riggins strolls through, her heels clicking and head high. She knows what’s going to happen because she’s planned it all.
That isn’t to say that she’s completely devoid of feelings, however. Riggins experiences all range of emotions, but she’s especially familiar with rage — wouldn’t you be, too, if your cheating husband left you to die in a house fire and constantly threatens the life you’ve built together?
Schwab knows how to write a story that drags you under, but her mastery over her characters is what really shines through. The genius is that these people maintain realistic personas, and they are able to command your interest until suddenly you’re left with the last pages of the book, slowly emerging from the depths of intelligently designed art and reality.