Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Published: February 24th, 2015 by Tor Books
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.
The Review (spoiler-free):
A Darker Shade of Magic was one of those books that I saw hyped up everywhere, and like any normal person, I ignored the hype. Because based on past experience, hype equals a not-so-good book for me. So I took a chill pill, kept calm and carried on. Now that the hype’s died down, I finally reached for it and I have a lot of thoughts.
First of all, I thought the opening line was brilliant. A coat with multiple sides? Awesome, right? It gave me the impression that this book would give me something different, something exciting, and I was sure I would love it. And don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading this book, but I didn’t love it as much as other people do. It’s starting to be a thing with me, isn’t it?
Most of the first half felt like an introduction, laying the groundwork, getting to know the world and the characters. It took a while to get into the actual plot of the story, it felt like I was nearly halfway through the book and I was still trying to figure out what the characters were trying to accomplish. While I didn’t mind the slower pace, it did make the book less gripping/exciting and made it easy for me to put it down. Another book that’s similar is The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, which I actually really liked.
I thought the worldbuilding was great, the author really set up an intricate magic system and the world within the book was complex yet believable. Each London was easily distinguishable and unique, or as Lila put it ‘there’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London’. But I felt that this incredible set up made the main plot of the story underwhelming. With the rich descriptions of the places, the people and the language, I really thought the objective would be just as incredible to match, but in my opinion, it felt lackluster. The journey was great, but the end goal… not so much.
I felt very detached from the characters in this book. Despite the information scattered throughout the text, I didn’t feel like I know them enough to care. Out of all the characters, the one I found most interesting would probably be Holland. I felt that there’s definitely something more to him and I wished he had a bigger role in the story. As for the two main characters, I couldn’t really connect with either Lila or Kell. Maybe it might be better if the story was told in the first person narrative, then I could get more insight into Kell’s character, his thoughts, and feelings and it would make me connect with him more.
Maybe the one thing that disappointed me the most was that A Darker Shade of Magic failed to make me feel anything. I cared enough to finish the book, but other than that, I just felt ‘okay’. I didn’t feel distressed when the characters were in danger, I didn’t really feel sad when bad things happen, and I didn’t feel the desperate need to know what happens next. I actually put down the book and didn’t pick it up again until days later even though I was almost at the end. I love books that make me feel. It doesn’t matter if its negative or positive emotions, but at least I got something from it. This book, in my opinion, did not do that.
Despite being mostly negative, I actually liked this book. Maybe not as much as other people, but definitely enough to want to read the next one. I thought the ending was great, it concluded nicely and at the same time open enough for new adventures. V.E. Schwab is definitely a talented author and I can see why so many people love her. The idea of multiple dimensions is fascinating to me and I enjoyed reading about it. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel 🙂
“…I want to see the world, even if it’s not mine.”
-Victoria Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic