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A guide to V. E. Schwab

If you follow me on any social media platform, it is no secret that V. E. Schwab is one of my favourite authors of all time. I discovered her books about six years ago and I'm 100% certain there's nothing she could write that I wouldn't read. Because of that, I decided to compile a master list of her work, to aid any of you that are interested in her books but have no idea where to start.

I have yet to read The Near Witch, her debut novel, or her Everyday Angel series (both very hard to come by on my side of the pond, same thing with her comics/graphic novels), so I won't be able to share any opinions about them. But the first thing you need to know is, she's published under different names* depending on the recommended age range of her books. So if you see a book published under Victoria Schwab, that's a middle grade or a young adult novel. If it's under V. E. Schwab, it's adult. That already gives you a good idea about what to expect from each of her titles. I'll start with her most well-known books because chances are those were the ones that piqued your interest. It's also possible that you've read one of them but haven't figured out what to choose next.

*October 2021 update: Schwab has announced that going forward, all of her books will be published under the name V. E. Schwab, regardless of age range. I've kept the original name they were published under for this post, but that will change as her older books get reprinted.

1) A Darker Shade of Magic (trilogy), V. E. Schwab

ADSOM (to make things easier) is probably her most beloved series, about a world in which there are four different versions of London. Grey London, which is our version of the city, Red London, thriving with magic, White London, that's being corrupted by magic, and Black London, destroyed by magic and out of bounds for anyone. In this series, we follow Kell, a kind of magician that can travel between the alternate versions of London and works as an emissary of the Red London king (and is a smuggler of rare objects on the side). This is very action-packed, has brilliant and witty characters, an incredible villain, pirates, and the second book even has a magical tournament (can you tell that's my favourite?). We also have two add ons to these series. The Steel Prince comics, a series of three arcs, available as individual graphic novels, or as four separate issues each. This comic series follows Maxim Maresh before becoming the king of Red London. It's a prequel to the first trilogy and it follows the prince after he's been exiled by his father to a lawless city. As I said, I've yet to be able to read this, because it's very hard to come by here in my city. We're also getting a sequel trilogy to ADSOM, called Threads of Power, that's currently being written. There's not that much information about it, other than it features every character who's survived the end of the first trilogy. It's a great point to start if you want to see her world-building at its finest, or if you're a YA fantasy reader looking to branch out into the adult side of the genre. I also feel like it's a great starting point to her work because every aspect of her writing is incredibly balanced in this one, and you get a good taste of everything she can do.

2) The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (standalone), V. E. Schwab

This is Schwab's most recent book that wasn't a sequel to any previous work, and it follows a girl named Addie who makes a deal with the darkness to live forever, but she's then doomed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Until, 500 years later, a boy remembers. I have a full review of this book, so I'll link it here, but the review's basically a love letter to this story. This is the one that's the closest to my heart because of how much I related to it, so it feels very personal to me. If this was your only V. E. Schwab book, you need to know that none of her books are anything like it. It is the least plot-heavy and the most character-focused of her works and, although her characters are my favourite thing about each one of her stories, the magic in this is more of a subplot than anything. This would be a great starting point to readers of literary fiction who want to dip into fantasy, or if you're someone who prefers books with romance, as this is the most romance-heavy of her novels. I also think it's got her most beautiful and lyrical prose.

3) Villains (soon to be trilogy), V. E. Schwab

This is my personal recommendation to anyone looking to read V. E. Schwab, because Vicious is my favourite book in the world, and I think about this series every day of my life. Vicious follows two college roommates who discover a theory that, after a near-death experience, people might develop supernatural abilities, and they decide to test the theory out on themselves. The chapters go back and forth in time, following their college days, and also ten years later, after Victor's gotten out of prison and it's seeking revenge on Eli. It's got my favourite format of any of Schwab's books, best friends turned rivals, not a single character who's not morally grey or is just a straight-up horrible person. It explores what it means to be a villain, and I love that, depending on who's perspective you're following, the hero of the story changes completely. There's a second book in this series, Vengeful, with some added characters, and there will eventually be a third and final book to the series, called Victorious. This year she also brought out the ExtraOrdinary comics, set between books one and two, I'm just waiting for the graphic novel bind up to come out in October so I can read it. It's the perfect place to start if you want a page-turner you can't put down until you're done, and if you want to marvel at Schwab's brain at every few pages. To me, it's her most ambitious and unique work and the one that blows me away the most.

4) Monsters of Verity (duology), Victoria Schwab

This was actually where I started with her books, but not for any particular reason. I'd just started making YouTube videos (yup, I used to have a BookTube channel waaay back in the day) and, because the second book was about to come out, everyone was talking about it, so it got me excited to read it too. This duology is set in a world where acts of violence breed actual monsters. In it we follow Kate, a human so monstrous she's following in the footsteps of her father, making a profit off of people's fears, and August, a monster whose only wish is to become human. Like Vicious, it explores what it means to be good or bad, and the fact that the world is inherently grey. This one is very special to my heart because it's what made me fall in love with Schwab's writing, her worlds, and her characters. It's incredibly dark with a haunting quality to it, and I just remember being heartbroken at the end. I believe it'd be a great place to start if you're into dystopian, as it's set in an alternate, worse version of our world, or if you're into coming of age stories and are looking for a fantastical one. It also has no romance, great for when you just want to see two people creating a purely platonic bond.

5) The Archived (duology/trilogy), Victoria Schwab

This series was supposed to be a trilogy but, because of some contractual issues, the third book has yet to see the light of day. I'll leave a Twitter thread linked right here, in which Schwab talks a bit more about what happened to this trilogy, in case you're curious. In this series, we follow Mackenzie, a young girl working in a Library of the dead. Her job is to find spirits that roam in our world before they turn bad, and send them safely into this place called The Archive, where they rest for all eternity. It's a beautiful exploration of death and grief, another quick read that'll leave a lasting impact on you. It has a lot of action, mystery, friendship, high stakes, and it's incredibly unique. You should start with this if you like reading about different takes on the afterlife, a fantasy that's partly set in the real world, and coming of age stories.

6) Cassidy Blake series (trilogy), Victoria Schwab

These were the books I read most recently, as I binged books one and two in one sitting last Halloween (book three wasn't out yet). Because it's middle grade, I feel like it's her most fun series. This is about Cassidy, a young girl who, after a near-death experience, starts seeing ghosts and becomes best friends with the ghost that saved her life, Jacob. The problem is, her parents are famous ghosthunters and start doing a TV series around the most haunted cities in the world, bringing Cassidy along with them. That leads to a very fun story, with Cass' abilities being taken to the extreme. And although the series starts off very light, the second book takes things to a much darker path, and the third book does this even better. She might expand on this series in the future but, so far, it'll only be three books long. I think this is a good place for younger readers to start, but also great if you want something full of action, whimsical, quick, and with immaculate Halloween vibes. Highly recommend doing an impromptu Halloween readathon and bingeing all of them in one go as I did.

7) The Near Witch (standalone), Victoria Schwab

As I said, I haven't read The Near Witch, so I can't share any opinions about it. Schwab's debut is about Lexi, who grew up with stories about the Near Witch, and the winds that call at night. But one day the children of the town start disappearing, and a strange unknown boy insists on helping Lexi search for them. It's said to be part fairytale, part love story, and I'm really looking forward to reading it soon. I think it'd be great if you want an introduction to her works but perhaps are not willing to commit to a series just yet, or if you like exploring an author's works in publication order.

8) Everyday Angel series (trilogy), Victoria Schwab

In this series, we follow Aria, a 12-year-old girl who's secretly a guardian angel. She has the task to find and guide three different girls and, if she succeeds, she'll earn her wings. A bind-up of the whole trilogy was recently released, and I believe we follow one of the girls in each of the books. I honestly don't know much about this story, but I definitely plan on reading it (it's my mission to read everything Schwab publishes). From what I know, I think it'd be great for younger readers, or fans of her writing that want to explore some of her earlier works.

9) Short stories and future works

If you've read all of the books I just mentioned and, like me, still can't get enough of Schwab's writing, this section is for you. Firstly, we have her newest novel, set to come out in March 2022. Gallant is about Olivia, a girl with no information about her past besides her mother's old journal and an invitation to her home, Gallant. We also have First Kill, a short story featured in the anthology Vampires Never Get Old, about a vampire who needs to kill someone in order to be accepted into a powerful clan, but ends up choosing to kill a vampire hunter. It's the first of her works to have its own screen adaptation (series currently being developed by Netflix). And lastly, we have an anthology called Because You Love to Hate Me, a partnership between thirteen booktubers and thirteen authors. Each story is a reimagining of one fairytale villain, and Schwab's story follows Hades. I personally feel like you should only start with one of her short stories if you're still uncertain about committing to a full novel. It's a great way to get a sample of her writing but not nearly enough time to experience it (at the end of each book, I always want more).

At the end of the day, I believe you could start anywhere that sounds the most like something you'd enjoy. But I hope this blog post gave you enough information about each book/series to choose where to begin or helped you figure out what to read next if you only know a few of her works. And, no matter where you start, you'll find unique relatable characters that feel like real people, twists and turns that'll blow you away, worlds that you wish to live in, and prose that'll make you want to read even V. E. Schwab's grocery list.




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