Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: (Shades of Magic #1)
Pub. Date: January 19th, 2016
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.
There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. 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.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, 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.
Magic. Mayhem. Chaos. In a world where magic is all but a whisper, a destroyer, a seeker, and a survivor, no one is safe and nothing is for certain, not even the help of the other Londonds. The four of them are not at war, but they are not overly friendly either, and Kell, an Antari (magical [human] being that can travel between each London) makes a grave mistake that could very well end all the peace they managed to capture. As a scavenger of trinkets from each London, Kell not only accidentally accepts a very dangerous and dark trinket, he also finds himself at a loss when he manages to bring through a girl, an aspiring pirate and intelligent kick-ass one who quickly becomes a companion Kell doesn’t want to lose. Together for the adventure, they face dangers like nothing they’ve ever even dreamed of let alone experienced and the fight for their lives brings them impossibly close. Ultimately, a choice will have to be made.
A Darker Shade of Magic is like no other novel I have ever read. It feels unique in its rich foundation for the world and the incredible growth and development of each and every character! The magic itself in this story feels like it’s own character, alive and swelling with power, on the verge of bursting or bubbling over the cauldron to flood the world and infect everyone and everything with it’s mindset. Shadows expanding and dividing think like any other person, only darker and more malevolent. You think one evil, powerful person is a terrifying threat to the hero? Well, our little heroes face far more threats and dangers, leaving you feeling a whole spectrum of emotions ranging from glee to dread to amazement that the author twisted things so perfectly that for one minute, all of your predictions and hopes turn to dust and float away in the flow of blood that was shed within the words on the pages.
With such promise of brilliant, rich writing, you may be surprised (as I was) by how slow and (forgive me) somewhat dull the beginning of the story is. We are introduced to the characters through their own chapters in their views, learning about the dynamics between them and their friends, the guards, Kell’s secret little habit, and Lila’s aspiration as well as what she is willing to do in order to be what she wants. It is all very important to the novel, as the author is giving us this information so we can learn about the characters and get to know them enough to care about them. However, I yearned for action and adventure from the beginning, so the wait left me slightly bored. Once we got that action however, the writing picked up and it was glorious!
As for characters, Kell was bursting at the seams with mysteries. Why does he enjoy items from the other Londons so much? How did he come to be in the family he is, and end up with the job that he has? Is magic his only true friend? Kell sees magic as an equal, someone he can talk to and suggest things to, but never to control. So when everything goes wrong and evil strikes the Londons like they are mere pests, Kell struggles to keep hold of all his beliefs and strengths. He is a very strong and compassionate character, so he won’t turn his back on anyone or anything, but that is what gets him in the mess in the first place, so what is he to do?
As much as I love Kell though, Lila is the one who made this book for me. She kept Kell on his feet, accepted truths before Kell even knew they were there. Lila knows a cunning, intelligent mind when she sees one, and that makes her the perfect companion for Kell. She can deceive others, trick her way into situations in order to help Kell. She wants adventure and that’s what she gets with Kell, so no way in hell is she about to let him abandon her, whether he chooses to leave or not. Brilliant and bossy, mischievous and full of secrets, Lila is a force too be reckoned with, whether she has magic or not.
Overall, this is a rich tale full of much darker intentions than you can perceive at a first glance. With a brilliant world and amazing characters, V.E. Schwab gives us a tale that leaves us yearning for more.