& Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Tor Books

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Publisher: Tor Books

The Book Itself: AWESOME cover. Black, white and red, keeping the colors simple. And two portals with a caped crusader mid-jump. It fits the plot of the book AND looks amazing.

My Review: 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.

Yes, there are a few worlds to juggle in your mind to get this story straight. Four Londons: White, Grey, Red and Black. But keeping this in mind from the feisty Delilah character makes it much easier: “‘There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London…'”

Okay, that doesn’t much help you unless you read a little of the book. But trust me, you get the hang of it.

Kell is our quirky hero. He’s got a trifecta: he’s Misunderstood, he has a Magical Object or two, and he’s got a gnarly Enemy (or seven). Paired with a spunky Sidekick, and you’ve got the makings of a whirlwind adventure.

The action and pacing is spot on. And there are a tense few chapters where it seems like Kell and Lila can’t possibly get out of the mess they’re in. The villains are dastardly, yes, but they are also creepy. They go a step beyond evil into irretrievably dark.

Our secondary characters are awesome, too. Lila, our Sidekick character, shines as a main character alongside our time-travelling protagonist, Kell. She wants to be a pirate. She cross-dresses in order to slip into places she couldn’t as a young girl, and she unflinchingly hurtles herself into danger should Kell need her to. As the novel closes, it’s her I want to see more of in the sequel. Rhy is a sassy prince, and Kell’s adoptive brother. The bond between them is well portrayed, and it will be interesting to see where both of them will go in the sequel (there is a sequel, right??)

For some reason, at times I felt myself dragging through it. It’s very well done. The writing is solid, the characters for the most part complex and intriguing. Maybe its just my rabid consumption of sci-fi/fantasy, but a lot of pieces in this puzzle felt a little familiar. The tavern as a main hub of the story, a stone of power being the main magical object, the spunky female sidekick character, a protagonist that Just Doesn’t Belong (because he’s Special).

It’s a good story, and I will read the sequel because I do care about what these characters do next. Hopefully the next installment treads some new territory.

My Grade: C+

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3 thoughts on “& Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

  1. I really love that you review the covers as well. I try to say something about them in my own reviews but I need to be more consistent about it. Great review!

    • Thanks! I judge books by their covers constantly….I’ve picked up and put down books because of covers before, so it’s just fun for me to talk about it before a review. There was a great blog detailing book covers and the journey an author/designer takes to get to the perfect image. talkingcovers.com stopped writing in 2013, but it’s really fun to see what the cover of a book could have been, versus what it ends up as!

      • sounds super cool! I try to touch on them as well because they can either turn me off or make me really excited (after all, who wants a collection of books with horrible covers). I’m going to try to be more consistent in talking about them in my own reviews.

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