In May 1999, Jonathan burst onto the children’s book scene with his first novel, Buried Fire. This powerful and compelling read combines elements of fantasy and mythology in a contemporary setting. It is a pacey story that shows how the dark past lives on and can still have a vice-like hold on the present.He means "vise-like." A vice is a bad habit (such as comparing one's writing to that of a master). A vise is a holding device.
(Yes, we know that in British English, vice can be used as the spelling for both. We further know a marketing person, and not Jonathan Stroud, crafted this sentence. Please let us find our comfort where we can.)