V. E. Schwab’s ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’ Review

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When Kell makes a grave mistake and brings a dangerous piece of magic into his beloved Red London, it’s up to him and cutthroat Lila Bard to dispel the magic and save all three Londons from a dark fate.

Published: February 24th, 2015

Publisher: Tor Books

Pages: 398

Series: Shades of Magic #1

Five Stars (2)

“‘But the thing about magic,’ added Kell, ‘is that it preys on the strong-minded and the weak-willed, and one of the worlds couldn’t stop itself.'”

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

“Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out.”

Okay guys so holy crap, this book was so good. I feel like I could comfortably and confidently end this review right here with these two words: read this. But I’ll break it down further in case the other five stars and rave reviews weren’t enough to help propel you to read this beautiful piece of art.

Plot: This book and the concept of multiple Londons was so imaginative and I’ve never read anything quite like this. The more I read the more I can pick out certain things in books that I see over and over again but this was something entirely different for me, in terms of both what I usually read and what I see in other books. I do enjoy fantasy books, but the ones I read usually have a strong romantic undercurrent woven throughout and while this book did have plenty of swoon-worthy characters (because Kell and Rhy are babes) there wasn’t much of any romance aside from some mild flirting, and I wasn’t even missing the romance element. I will say that this was a particularly slow-building type of book, the action comes pretty late, but the lush characters and settings and magical elements make it so that you’re anything but bored. I kept wanting to read more and more and more and just find out anything I could about this wonderful, brutal, and magical world.

Characters: I loved Kell. Absolutely loved him. He was so smart and funny and kind and brave and handsome, I really loved him as a character. Lila was tough and sarcastic and funny and she was an excellent addition to the main plot line. Although not specifically mentioned in the story itself, Lila seemed to be a gender fluid character and I appreciated it immensely. Representation is young adult books is super important! Prince Rhy was sassy, kind, funny, and the biggest flirt (considering he would ‘flirt with a nicely upholstered chair’) and I loved him so much. The books allude to the fact that he’s a person of color (talking about tan skin and dark curls) and the fan art for him is just beautiful. Again, representation is super important. Holland was mysterious and dark and the Dane twins were heartless and ruthless and compelling characters as villains. There wasn’t a single character that I disliked, even down to the almost pointless side characters, like the bar owners in both Red and Grey London, and Rhy’s personal guards. Everyone is this book, from the good to downright evil, are interesting and unique.

Writing: Guys V. E. Schwab is an incredible story-teller. The writing in this book was absolutely magical (pun intended), it was basically a work of art. Her writing reminded me a lot of Sarah J Maas in terms of how eloquent and detailed and beautiful the pages flow together. Everything was so lush and vivid, it was such a sophisticated writing style that you’d never feel like you were reading a book that was too ‘young’. I’ve heard that is a concern for some adults who read young adult novels, but have no fear, this book is for everyone and anyone. It’s a truly wonderfully written treasure.

This book had it all; magic, representation among the characters, blood-shed, shameless flirting, inter-dimensional travel, and sarcastic comments galore. Like I mentioned before, it’s a really slow-building book but it’s so deep and the roots and backstory of this book go a long way back so it’s needed to make this book all that it is.

I’m aware that there are two other books in the series, and I plan to read both in 2018 (which is so close how crazy is that?!) but I feel like this book could also be read as a standalone. There wasn’t a cliff-hanger ending, so it seems like this could just be a one and done if you wanted it to be. I don’t see how you would though because this book was bomb. If you haven’t yet, pick up this book and make it your number one must-read in 2018!

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