A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Shades of Magic #1) / ★★★★☆
One sentence summary: Kell is a magician and a traveler, able to travel between different Londons in four different worlds, and must return a dark object to one of them.
“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
This book was so much fun, oh my. It’s about Kell, one of a rare kind that can travel between four different Londons, and each London exists in a different world. There’s Grey London, which has mostly forgotten magic, Red London, where magic thrives, White London, which starves for magic, and Black London, which has been sealed off after being overtaken by magic. I loved the world(s) of this book – Grey London being our own – and I thought they blended well. No world was too different from the others, none were too similar, and they all had their own personality, atmosphere, and types of people. A magical system that connects these worlds, and I must admit it did take me some time to understand it, but as the story moved along I got used to the nuances of this world and its magic, and I always looked forward to picking this book up every time I put it down.
The plot is one of adventure, of mystery and scheming, magic and murder. I loved that the plot was not kind to its characters. No one felt safe- just when I came to care for someone, no matter how minor, they’d be pulled out from under me. This book fantastically balanced action and information. Info was always wonderfully woven into conversation and never forced. This book book wasn’t a kind book, but I loved the worlds, the adventure, the twists and the turns of the plot. I loved the places this book pulled me into.
A final point about this book- it’s the beginning of a series, but I also think it works as a standalone. It has a fully fleshed out, well rounded plot, and it definitely leads into a sequel, but it felt very complete. I didn’t feel the need to immediately rush on to the next book, but enjoyed my basking in this one. Perhaps that’s another reason I felt so satisfied with it. I will, of course, be reading the next book in the series.
Our main characters, Kell and Lila, are fun and likable, reckless and impulsive, and a fun pairing to go on this adventure with. Kell is loyal and likes to engage in illegal smuggling in between worlds. Lila is fierce, gutsy, and longing for a life of adventure. They’re a reluctant pairing, and they’re a huge part of what made this book so entertaining for me. I loved how their characters and their relationship with each other progressed throughout the book. I do, however, feel that they still have room to grow on me. They’re fun, but I feel as if I could care more, perhaps in the following books.
The villains of this book were an interesting bunch. Holland, the only other traveler besides Kell, I found to be an thought-provoking. He was ruthless and cruel, but it was his relationship with the brutish Dane twins – the rulers of starved white London – that defined so much of him, and I was extremely intrigued by it. The Dane twins themselves were callous and diabolical without any shade of humanity, and it was this subtle contrast to Holland that I liked son much. As for the Danes themselves, I do feel as if I could have done with villains that had a bit more complexity, but I liked their ruthlessness.
Bonus: I really liked Kell’s brother, Rye, the prince of Red London, and I loved their relationship. One of the things I’m most excited for in the sequels is getting to know Rye better, so I hope we see more of him.
The writing itself was good, quality writing, if nothing to really rave about. The story was told very well- I loved the structure, the cliffhangers, the back and forth between points of views of characters. Overall, writing was not particularly mind blowing, but nothing to complain about, either.
Was I satisfied?
For the most part, yes. A Darker Shade of Magic was a very entertaining adventure and left enough for me to be intrigued about what will happen in the next book. I really liked this book, and I do feel that there is room for this series to grow on me even more, so I hope I enjoy the next book even better. On to the next!