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Guest Post: A Book That Scares Victoria Schwab

(Design & illustration by Robert Roxby)

By Victoria Schwab, author of THE NEAR WITCH

“You mean they killed her?” asked David.

“They ate her,” said Brother Number One. “With porridge. That’s what ‘ran away and was never seen again’ means in these parts. It means ‘eaten.'”

“Um and what about ‘happily ever after’?” asked David, a little uncertainly. “What does that mean?”

“Eaten quickly,” said Brother Number One.

―John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things

From Goodreads:

“High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own—populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things. Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.”

The Book of Lost Things combines fairy tales, history, humor, and terror—both the childhood something-under-the-bed kind, and a much-harder-to-define unease. It remains one of my favorite books of all time. And as such, I always have a hard time describing why. Perhaps it’s my personal love of fairy tales, and my penchant for anything that takes something precious and twists it into something morbid. I grew up on Grimm, and this is a book that doesn’t shy from fairy tales’ dark origins. It is sick, and twisted, and spectacular.

Connolly pays homage to the classics, refers to everyone from Snow White (who closer resembles Jabba the Hut) to Goldilocks, but also twists the archetypal cast into his own demented arsenal. The Huntress, who kills various animals and children and stitches them back together to make new sport, is one such creation. The villainous Crooked Man comes straight out of a British children’s poem (There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile/ He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile/ He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse/ And they all lived together in a little crooked house) but in Connolly’s hands he is far, far more terrifying than his humble poetic origins.

The Book of Lost Things is like one of those pictures that changes when you turn it. Tilt it one way and it’s a children’s book. Tip it another and it’s a grisly work for adults. It is ambiguous and daring, gruesome and lovely. Whether you love fairy tales, or gore, things that go bump or whisper in your ear or give you nightmares, this book has all of that and more. Somehow, in the midst of everything else, it has heart. Do not miss this book.

Victoria Schwab is the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, she has been known to say “tom-ah-toes,” “like,” and “y’all.” She loves fairy tales, and folklore, and books that make her wonder if the world is really as it seems. Her first novel, The Near Witch, is in stores everywhere.

Visit Victoria at

Follow @veschwab on Twitter.

Comment on this guest blog and you’ll gain an extra entry for the big Halloween giveaway on October 31, containing prize packs of signed books plus books and ARCs donated by my publisher Penguin Teen!  


Here’s a sneak peek of some books I’m giving away:

You can keep track of all the “What Scares You?” guest blogs with this tag.

17 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Book That Scares Victoria Schwab

  1. I bought this book for my husband after Victoria mentioned it on her blog. I started reading it myself, but it mysteriously went missing. (I hid it.)

  2. I love fairy tales. We have a book of Russian fairy tales that are my favorite ever because they can be really dark, darker then some of the original Grimm tales. So this is certainly something I’ll have to check out now. Thanks for the post. :]

  3. Ooh adding this to my to-read list right away! I love dark fairy tales and this sounds amazing! And the cooked man poem brought a smile to my face – I’ve always loved that.

  4. Oh my gosh this book sounds amazing, how have I not heard of it before?? I can tell Victoria Schwab has ties and background in fairytales and stories like this as it comes through wonderfully in The Near Witch – which reads like an oral story that’s been passed down through generations in the same way fairy tales have. So cool to be able to tie that tone to a book that sounds incredible!

  5. I remember you stating it your FTF interview that this book creeped you out! I’m actually planning to read it this month before going to meet John Connolly at Books of Wonder (Five days before YOU’RE there and I can’t get back…so unfair!!!!)

    You have me looking forward to this even more now!

  6. I’m so glad you liked that book! Every time I go into a bookstore, it catches my eye but I’ve never worked up the nerve to get it, but next time I definitely will.

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