A Darker Shade Of Magic – V.E. Schwab
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 runs 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.
Review: It took me a long time to write this review because I’m slightly conflicted. The logical part of my brain is saying, “I have some issues with this book.” The other part of my brain is completely fangirling over wonderful adventures and Kell’s fabulous coat. Seriously, I want that coat.
A Darker Shade of Magic is about a magician, Kell, who has the ability to travel between parallel Londons. When he comes in to possession of a dangerous magical stone from Black London, he teams up with a thief named Lila to destroy it.
The characters have so much personality, and it’s easy to fall in love with them. The dialogue is sharp, smart, and funny. The humor feels very organic and true to the characters. It’s not just forced into the story in a lame attempt to lighten the mood.
I was happy for the mood-lightening dialogue because a few of the Londons are depressing places. The world-building is impressive. The Londons are so vivid. They each have their own unique culture, language, history, and architecture. It’s fascinating to read about. I think White London is my favorite because it’s so creepy and different from the other Londons.
The plot is slow in the beginning, but the characters and world were more than enough to keep me interested in the story. The action picks up a lot toward the end. I read the majority of this book in one day.
I was too busy enjoying the story to come up with too many criticisms, but I do have a few. First, this book doesn’t feel very original. It’s just the latest blend of thieves, rare magicians, royalty, and evil magic that I’ve seen dozens of times before. Parts of it strongly reminded me of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and His Dark Materials.
Next, I wish that the magic system had been explained better and earlier in the story. It took me a long time to figure out how the magic system works, and I’m still not sure if I totally get it.
So, is A Darker Shade of Magic a timeless work of literary genius? No. Is it thoroughly entertaining? YES! I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.