The year was 2014. I was new to the BookTube community and JessetheReader was talking about The Archived, a series that he just discovered and loved. That was the first time I heard her name.
Later that year, PeruseProject started talking about a book called Vicious, which had anti-heroes with superpowers. It caught my attention. I loved superpowers. I loved anti-heroes. Why wouldn't I love a book about both?
Both these books were written by the same person - Victoria Schwab. It took a few more years for me to pick up Vicious, but once I did, it solidified her as my favorite author. And here's why I think you should pick up one of her books.
A MASTER ACROSS AGE GROUPS
Writing across the age groups isn't an easy thing. I've tried and barely succeeded, if only because my characters are in the blurry in-between stage of late teens to early twenties. But the distinction isn't so much in the age of the characters, it's in the subject matter and the delivery.
Somehow, Schwab balances this perfectly in her Middle Grade trilogy, three YA series, and six adult books. No matter how dark the theme/idea is that started the story, she finds a way to deliver it appropriately to her audience. There's so much thought and skill in her writing that many of her older readers can read her younger books and still get something out of it, whether that's a deeper theme or a more difficult discussion that might pass over the heads of younger readers.
Death is one of the recurring topics in her stories, whether that's permanent or not. The idea of how that impacts someone and the people around them is a challenging topic to navigate, no matter the age group. The fact that she can discusses it with three different age groups is a feat easily worthy of admiration.
However, none of this means that she "dumbs down" her content for younger readers. If anything, her ability to discuss difficult topics like identity, being different, and humanity in her younger books shows how talented she is. She doesn't shy away from something just because her intended audience is young - she simply writes enough layers that lets her readers infer the things they can understand no matter how old they are.
By publishing under Victoria Schwab for her YA and Middle Grade books, she sets them apart from her adult books, which are published under V.E. Schwab. It's a simple change, but you'd be surprised at how many readers don't realize they're the same person. It's almost like her version of Clark Kent's glasses.
BOOKS ON BOOKS ON BOOKS
17 books in nine years. Yes, that's right. Schwab has released 17 books since 2011. Since 2013, most of her books have hit the Bestseller list. Including the 12 graphic novels she's written, that's 29 books. No matter how you look at it, that's impressive.
Not many authors can claim to release that many books in such a short period of time. Sure, James Patterson might have book releases coming out of his ears, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't actually write all of them. And his writing certainly isn't of this caliber.
Still, the fact that she has consistently released multiple books each year, often in different age groups, shows how hard she works and how talented she is. I'm always amazed when an author has more than one release a year. In a lot of cases, one every year can already be a difficult achievement. I can barely write one sloppy draft each year, so I would know.
Personally, I only consider 14 of those books to be part of the literary genre that Schwab is known for. She was contracted for a light-hearted Middle Grade trilogy back in 2014 that most people don't realize is hers because it's not as dark as her current work. And because she was contracted for this, I think of these books as separate from the work I know her for.
POETIC, DESCRIPTIVE PROSE
She's a wordsmith, that's the simplest way to put it. Schwab has a talent for crafting sentences that encapsulate worlds in only a few words. Her writing effortlessly blends all areas of writing craft in a way I haven't seen with many other authors. No matter how many of her books I read, I'm consistently blown away by how amazing her writing is.
Descriptive writing is one of the most important elements of fantasy writing, which Schwab primarily writes. It can be a tricky balance, running the risk of being over-done or not enough. But no matter what, Schwab strikes a perfect balance.
In her more action-based books like the Vicious and Shades of Magic trilogies, that poetic writing turns to the inner thoughts and actions of her characters. It's so easy to understand them because Schwab's writing captures their being so cleverly. The descriptions are still stunning, but the writing changes so that the characters' actions are more center-stage. Even with her "villains," you'll find it hard not to like them because they're so real and understandable.
With the release of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, many reviews have praised it's beautiful prose. I'm currently in the middle of it and I couldn't agree more. It's some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read, which I can only describe as poetically lilting. Though I haven't read all of her books, I think it's fair for me to stay that this is perhaps the most eloquent of all her writing.
Oh, and did I mention that she also wrote a movie script? Yeah, she did that too.
THE DEFINITION OF "WORK ETHIC"
I first started following her Twitter somewhere between 2014 and 2015, back when she finishing her Master's degree in history. She was also writing two or three books at the same time and planning for future projects. No other author I know of has the work ethic to pull all that off.
As a writer, I aspire to channel the discipline and work ethic Schwab has.
One of the reasons I followed her on Twitter and Instagram was because she does a great job of keeping her followers up-to-date with all the projects she's juggling. She's constantly working on something new and I am in awe of how she manages to balance her time between everything.
When she was unsatisfied with her initial drafts of Vengeful (2018), she scrapped and re-wrote the entire book in the same year it was published. A release date had already been set and I followed her journey of re-writing the book in time for it to come out as planned. I have no idea how she pulled it off while also writing another book that came out that same year.
A recent Instagram story gave us a sneak peek at how she organizes her projects with sticky notes and her bullet journal. They're simple, but highly effective for the author who has four more books planned for the near future. On top of that, she's has ideas for screenplays, short stories, other books, and even a TV show. None of these things are easy on their own. Put them together and it's a little easier to understand how she released 29 books in nine years.
WORLDS UNLIKE ANY OTHER
Monsters disguised as humans. A girl who makes a deal with the Devil. Anti-heroes with superpowers. A young girl who sees ghosts. Multiple Londons with pirates.
Originality is hard to come by in the writing world, which isn't a surprise. When one book, trope, or genre does well, others tend to follow in quick succession. Yet, I haven't seen Schwab follow in the steps of other writers or have anyone else try to ride her coattails. The worlds she creates for her books are unlike anything else I've come across in fantasy, allowing her to set herself apart from other authors in the genre.
Of all her books, only the Vicious trilogy uses a popular trope in publishing - superpowers. However, she creates her own spin so effectively that her version of superpowers could possibly work in the real world. Adding anti-heroes to the mix only makes the story better and more unique.
Whenever she's been asked about her world-building and the ideas behind her novels, Schwab has explained that her ideas often come from different pieces of inspiration that she tucks away until she has enough to pull together a full story. I don't know exactly how she does it, but those little ideas grow into some of the most unique stories I've ever come across.
THE MEANING OF HUMANITY
Lastly, I have to talk about how all her books explore some aspect of what it means to be human. Her characters find themselves in situations that test them to see what comes out when people are pushed. I have learned so much about myself from reading her books and seeing how her writing breaks people down to their core to rediscover who they are and what they're made of.
Of all the things about her writing, I find this to be one of the most compelling. In each story she writes and publishes, she finds a new way to interpret humanity, life, and death. I've never found her to repeat an idea in the same way, which can sometimes happen when authors like a particular topic. It always feels new and fresh and different, making her books fun and interesting to read.
This applies to her work across the age groups. Schwab isn't afraid to bring up new ideas for her readers and push them to consider things from new angles. The characters she writes are so fleshed out, so real, you get to see why they do or believe something without it feeling forced or unrealistic. You might not agree with her or her characters, but you can understand where they come from. They're people to the fullest capacity, even if they're not always alive.
It's easy for me to say that I think everyone should pick up one of her books. She's my favorite author, so of course I'm going to recommend her books to everyone. But I think the beauty of a writer like Victoria Schwab is how diverse and readable she is. No matter what you like, there's something in her work that's for you. Even non-readers can find themselves enjoying her work because it's just that good.
As acclaimed as she already is, I know she's going to climb higher on the literary tier and make an even bigger name for herself. The talent she has, the stories she tells, and the hard work she puts in are all markers of an author who will undoubtedly become a household name and a modern classic among the generations.
So to close, I'm going to leave you with a list of her books and how she describes them so you can hopefully find one you're interested in to pick up. Really though, you can't go wrong with any of her books.
- Harry Potter + The Last Airbender = A Darker Shade of Magic
- Buffy + Sixth Sense = The Archived
- Marvel + Dexter = Vicious & Vengeful
- Alias + Tokyo Ghoul = This Savage Song
- Stranger Things + Ghosthunters = City of Ghosts
- Grimm's + Elemental Witches = The Near Witch
- Guardian Angels + Doctor Who = Everyday Angel
- Interview with a Vampire + Faust = The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue