Monday, July 6, 2015

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic - V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1
Genre: Adult, alternate reality, fantasy
Published on February 24, 2015
Published by Tor Books
Pages: 400
Read From: 6.21.15 - 6.27.15

Kell is one of the last Travelers - rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now. 

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they'll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell funs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her "proper adventure." 

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive - trickier than they hoped.


Dear Darker Shade of Magic,

V. E. (Victoria) Schwab is one of my all-time favorite authors. With every new book, her writing and characters and stories and world building just keeps getting better and better. You've received quite a bit of buzz, especially among the Booktubers I follow, and I was a little late in getting around to reading you, even though I've been anticipating your release ever since you were announced. So I went into you with very high expectations.

You explore four different alternate Londons: Grey London, our London during the reign of George III, where there is no magic; White London, where magic is a slave; Black London, where magic destroyed everything; and Red London, where magic is in perfect balance. Because of what happened to Black London, the portals between all of the alternate worlds has been closed off - except to Antari, Travelers who act as messengers between the different monarchs. But Kell isn't just a royal messenger; he also does some smuggling on the side. And then Kell accidentally smuggles something dangerous, and he's forced to flee Red London, into Grey London, where he meets pickpocket Lilah Bard. Together, they must destroy the artifact Kell smuggled before it destroys all of the alternate Londons.

Several people complained about you being slow, Darker Shade of Magic, but I was so completely and totally enthralled by your world building that I didn't care. I wanted to know more about the Londons and the Antari and the magic and what happened to Black London. Your world building is complex and fascinating and original and everything that I could have wished for. There's no question that V. E. Schwab's writing gets better with each book, and you are most certainly her masterpiece. For once, you were told in a third person, past tense narration, which threw me - I'm used to her books being in present tense. But the writing was so vivid and atmospheric and lyrical - just like her present tense narrations - that it didn't take me long to fall in love with it.

Aside from your thoroughly engaging world and complex plot, you also presented Readers with amazing and utterly likable characters. Poor Kell lives with the knowledge that he is only one of two remaining Antari. As one of the last, he's feared, valued, and also hunted. The monarchs of White London would gladly enslave him, drain him of his magic to fuel their own. He was raised as a prince by the royal family of Red London, but he isn't actually one of them. As a Traveler, it's his duty to keep the portals of all the Londons safe. And no one can understand the burden he carries. Kell is a quiet, reserved, intelligent, and strong protagonist whom I admired and pitied. Lilah, meanwhile, was a firecracker - full of London streets snark and wit, ready for any adventure, able to hold her own in a fight, not easily trusting of other people. She has to be one of my favorite female characters in literature; she was so awesome. I absolutely loved Rhy and Kell's brotherly relationship. While merely foster brothers, they treated each other like actual brothers. Even though I wanted him dead, I also felt really sorry for Holland - the other Antari enslaved to the will of the White London monarchs, Athos and Astrid. And Astrid and Athos were two of the creepiest, coldest, most intimidating, and deliciously cruel villains in my reading history. There were some parts where I cringed.

I'm extremely curious to see where your sequel is going to go, as your climax was pretty final. I have my suspicions, but I was admittedly surprised at how resolved everything was in the end. It was. . . .rather refreshing, actually.

I expected a grand adventure full of mystery and magic, A Darker Shade of Magic, and you gave me that with every single page.

Feeling totally satisfied,
~ Mara A. ~


  1. Yay! I'm glad you liked this one, too! I have some thoughts about where the next book will go, but we'll see...

    1. Do any of those theories involve Holland not being as what he was in the end as we're led to believe? ;)


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