A Darker Shade of Magic Review

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary: “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.” (Summary found on Goodreads).

A Darker Shade of Magic was e v e r y t h i n g. It was so much more than I expected, even given that one of my friends screams her praise of it to the rooftops. Honestly, when it comes down to it, there’s no words to describe how amazing this book is, which is probably why I couldn’t have expected this. It was beautiful, strong and aching and epic. From the instant we met Lila Bard, I fell in love with her. She’s so strong and kick-butt and fearless. I aspire to be her and it’d also be pretty dang cool to get to know her.

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”
Her smile widened. “Everything.”

The world, with four Londons, and coats made of coats, and naive princes, was remarkable. I fell in love with it almost instantaneously. Its description was so flawless and perfect, fully entrapping me into the story with the mysteriousness of it all. I cannot wait to see more of this world in the following two books.

The characters were everything I’ve ever wanted. Lila, whom I already spoke of, was spectacular. Kell, was brave and crude and I love him beyond words. Rhy was precious and the scenes with him made my heart ache. I am so excited to read more about him and get to know his character better.

“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” he asked Lila now.
She looked at him as if it were a strange question. And then she shook her head. “Death comes for everyone,” she said simply. “I’m not afraid of dying. But I am afraid of dying here.” She swept her hand over the room, the tavern, the city. “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

The plot was the least developed portion of the book, but maybe because it was so much more character driven and world driven. It was more like Schwab decided to put us into the world she saw inside her head, and the plot came second to everything else. The magic system was fully-fledged and made complete sense–it was one of the first times I’ve well understood one in a novel. The plot, however, was on the weaker side, but I can see where it is headed and it has the bones to become so much stronger with A Gathering of Shadows. I couldn’t drop a star for this because despite it all, I couldn’t stop reading it and don’t exactly find the plot to be a problem. Sure, it was weak, but it didn’t feel underdeveloped. It felt as though Schwab had fully intended for A Darker Shade of Magic to be more of a character study, an introduction of sorts, and to further develop everything with the novel that follows.

I highly recommend this book. And as a note, don’t be turned off if you see it shelved as an adult book. It could easily be young adult, but the characters are older and the writing has more depth to it, which is probably why it’s not.

“You know so little of war. Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out.” 

-Book Hugger

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