A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Published by Tor on February 24, 2015
Series: Shades of Magic, #1
Genre(s): fiction, fantasy, young adult
Format & Length: e-book, 400
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From V.E. Schwab, the critically acclaimed author of Vicious, comes a new universe of daring adventure, thrilling power, and parallel Londons, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic.
Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands. There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—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, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, 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—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a 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—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.
“Kell wore a very peculiar coat.
It had neither one side, which would be conventional, not two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.”
What an entertaining and fascinating book! Despite a bit of a slow start, the pacing picked up within a few chapters and I found myself slowly drawn into Kell’s story as he travels through multiple Londons in parallel universes.
The world system that Schwab created here was incredibly intriguing. The concept of four Londons in parallel worlds with varying degrees of magic was not only unique, but she executed it in such a way that it was also easy to grasp. There was enough detail to understand it completely, and yet I still wanted to know so much more! Like, how did she even come up with this idea in the first place?? Seriously, I’d like to know.
But it doesn’t stop there. Amid all this wonderful world building, Schwab also created characters that were well developed. All of the major players were complex, multidimensional, and interesting. Not one was pure or perfect. And I love that the main relationships explored are friendships instead of romance, at a time where the young adult genre seems to be teeming with instalove and unnecessary love triangles.
My favorite part of this book, though, is the writing itself. Snappy and to the point, and descriptive enough without being overly flowery, I felt like Schwab was speaking my language. Every
sentence word feels absolutely intentional to this story that was not only well planned and executed, but was obviously also tightly edited.
Instead of the typical cliffhanger we normally see at the end of the first book of a trilogy, A Darker Shade of Magic wraps up everything in a nice, neat package, albeit with various hints at how possible future installments might play out. I really appreciate how this story stands on its own as well as beginning a series. I can’t wait to see what happens next to these characters in A Gathering of Shadows!