Series: Shades of Magic #1
Published by Tor on February 24th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, High Fantasy
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.
As big a fan as I am of Victoria Schwab, it’s taken me ages to get around to reading A Darker Shade of Magic for the simple fact that the hype surrounding this book was freaking insane. And yeah, I don’t cope that well with hype. But I should know by now that when V Schwab’s books get hyped, it’s for a good reason. A Darker Shade of Magic is OUTSTANDING.
Whenever I get into an adult fantasy book there’s always a few expectations I need to manage. World building is gonna be intense, so I can set my standards for them to be pretty high. But you can also reasonably expect that as a result of that world building focus, the story won’t be fully action packed right from the start. The thing about V Schwab though is that she tackles all the challenges of every genre with finesse. She creates not one, but three distinct worlds in A Darker Shade of Magic and weaves them together in such a fluid way that you’re sucked straight into the story even though the action takes a bit to get going. I could just bathe in the beauty of her words forever and always.
But you know that for me it’s usually all about characters. And outside of YA, it’s not always guaranteed that they’ll be fleshed out enough for me. But with V Schwab, again, not an issue. Kell, Lila, and Rhy – arguably the three main characters – are amazing. Even though the book is written in third person, she loads these characters with so much voice, it’s like they’re real people you wish you could hang out with and call your friends. Seriously. That sounds so corny, but seriously. Kell is so grumpy, but smooth and powerful. Lila is reckless, but so charming and kick-ass awesome. And Rhy is the embodiment of charisma that you can’t help but love. And the relationships between them are even better than that.
Real talk: there’s not much romance here to speak of – arguably, there’s pretty much none at all. But it is oh so shippable. Seriously, Lila and Kell have a chemistry that I just can’t even get into right now – but I love the fact that though nothing very serious happens between the two romantically, you see them slowly gaining fondness, respect, and caring for each other. They become a dream fighting team that I would gladly let rule my world. Seriously, if they’re not endgame my heart may break forever.
And the story… wow. Well I’ve said before that V Schwab is a master storyteller, and she’s just proven that reputation once again. Honestly, she builds up the world perfectly, intriguing you with her magic, enchanting you with the elements, and then unfurls a plot line that is both classic and new. The characters really seal the deal though – you get invested in them and their perfectly characteristic ways of interacting with each other and the drama that occurs. You’re swept through highs and lows and when the climax arrives (with stakes that are unbelievably high – SRSLY THE PAIN), you try your absolute best to tear through the pages at a speed that is not even human. And honestly, what more could you possibly want from a book?