A Darker Shade of Magic
by V. E. Schwab
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.
I should start this review by stating this, I have heard so much about V. E. Schwab before I read the book that I was slightly intimidated to read it. Whenever anything too much hype comes my way, my immediate reaction to be wary of it, to try to find faults with it. My mind doesn’t want to admit that it might just be that good. In a way, it’s a good thing but in other ways, it’s a hindrance more than a good thing.
When I read the synopsis, I was really intrigued because it offered something different and I wasn’t disappointed at all. To those rare people who are unfamiliar with the series, it has parallel worlds with almost no places being common. For some reason, every world has London and there are four of them. There’s Gray London (almost like our world), Red London (where magic and peace coexist), Red London (where magic is overly used and almost on the verge of extinction and violence rules) and then there’s Black London (a place where magic won and infected everything).
I have had reservations about this book and some of them were proven right. I will get into them now so that I can then rave about the good things of which there are many. The thing is, I am not too sure if there was a proper plot for the first maybe 200-250 pages? I mean, sure, we get introduced to many characters and we get to see Kell being magical, Lila being badass but I didn’t really see an actual plot point till things started to really move plot-wise around near the halfway mark. It didn’t feel right, there was no goal in sight for a long while because there was no actual problem for the characters. It’s one of the things that bothered me which is why this is not a five star read.
Yes, I realise I only talked about one flaw but that one is a major one, ok?
Now onto good things! The pace of the book is seriously good, the short chapters, the snappy dialogue and just the descriptive language makes my cold heart warm. Seriously. The magic system was cool, too! I absolutely love Kell’s cloak and please, can someone gimme one of those, pretty please? The details of each London are so different and the worldbuilding for each was so wonderfully done.
Some people steal to stay alive and some steal to feel alive.
The characters! Since I haven’t yet managed to read the next two books, I can only say what I think about them right now. Kell as one of the main characters worked really well, he’s grumpy, he’s spoiled in his own way without realising it, and most importantly, the way the relationship between the two brothers is shown is so good! Rhy plays a minor but important role in the book and I can’t wait to read more of him because I think he has the potential to be an amazing character later on and I just want more Rhy, ok? Lila Bard is just so good, I mean, she’s not the best person but she’s had hardships and she’s learned from them. I sort of see Vin from the Mistborn trilogy in Lila, tell me what you think of that! She felt irritating at first but as the story progressed, I really started to like her. She also feels like she’s genderfluid? From what I have read so far, her internal dialogue was interesting to say the least.
I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.
Holland is such an interesting character too! At first, I wondered if Rhy and Holland had had a thing but then, that thought was sort of wiped out of my mind as the story went on. I felt sort of bad for Holland then I was so angry and disappointed with him then I felt bad for him again. It was a wild ride for me, ok? I was clearly emotionally invested in that man. Ugh!
One of the best/ worst thing V. E. Schwab did was to make me feel like secondary (or maybe they were tertiary?)characters were out of danger but damn if I didn’t feel bad when those guards died. Ugh. Thanks for that.
Overall, a fast-paced, interesting read and I can’t wait to read more of it. If you are a fan of fantasy (urban fantasy) and like to not count on the author on character deaths then this is the book for you. Yeah, I am still bitter about them deaths. Thanks.