A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

January 19, 2018

Opening line: ‘Kell wore a very peculiar coat.’


My reaction: “Oh really? Please, do go on.”


What a brilliant opening line! Simple, but it definitely hooks the reader. What is it about Kell’s coat that makes it so peculiar?? Inquiring minds want to know.


This book is absolutely fantastic and I highly highly recommend it. Don't let the fact that it's a bit slow moving to start deter you. This book is heavy on the character and world development, which is okay, because it’s a series but I promise you that the pace picks up in later books (reviews to come.) This one though, centers around the coming together of two characters from two different worlds. See, in this series, there are four different London’s; there’s Grey, Red, White, and Black also known as Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London. Grey London is the world that we as magic-less beings inhabit. Kell, our protagonist, is from Red London which is a land rich with magic and adventure. Then there is White London that is a world that knew magic once and is starving in the attempt to revive it. Finally, there is Black London which fell centuries ago due to being consumed by too much magic.


At the beginning of the book we’re introduced to Kell who is an Antari which is a natural born blood magician who can travel between the four London’s. He is one out of only two living Antari known to the four worlds and therefore raised by the royal family of Red London to be a messenger between the rulers of each London.


Our other protagonist is Lila, a common thief and cut throat living in Grey London. She has a knack for getting into trouble but when she robs the wrong person and ends up in possession of a magical object that could potentially destroy the worlds her and Kell’s paths collide.


As I said above, I highly highly recommend this book and the series in general. V.E. Schwab’s writing is absolutely fantastic and the world she created in this series is incredibly fascinating and intricate. If you are a lover of rich magical worlds, slow burning love connections, charming princes, handsome magicians, evil/conniving rulers, and sassy thieves, this is the book for you! Go. Read. Now.


                                          **Spoilers Ahead**


 Okay, let’s dig into this a bit more shall we? My biggest complaint about this book was the slow pacing, but honestly, that’s because I’m used to reading YA books that are much more plot heavy. If you often read adult fantasy/fiction that may not bother you so much because there is still quite a bit of action happening. I did love the overall plot, but the first hundred pages accomplished what the first chapter accomplishes in a YA book. Kell’s whole journey to the other London’s right at the beginning was, frankly, boring. I thought something so much more interesting was going to happen but it just didn’t. I saw it as a means to an end, the author needed to introduce the other London’s and so she had Kell visit each one. *Yawn* I feel like she could have done this in a much more interesting way, at the very least, have the letters that he’s carrying include something dire not just regular run of the mill correspondence. The one slow paced thing I did appreciate though was the relationship between Kell and Lila.


Okay, obviously there is going to be something happening between the two main characters but I absolutely LOVED how it was not in your face. In fact, it barely happened at all. Neither Kell, nor Lila, seem the type to fall in love easily and Schwab was true to that. By the end of the book the two of them had been through this epic adventure together and no exchange of admiration happened. They parted as friends with maybe a tiny tug of something more but just enough to make you want to run out and grab the next book. I thought that was excellent plotting and it felt RIGHT. It would have felt forced if there were confessions of love happening at the end of this book and I would have been disappointed. The author knows her characters.


Speaking of characters, WOW WOW WOW! The characters in this book are so amazing I just want to crawl into the page and hang out with all of them in Prince Rhy’s room while sipping on an alcoholic beverage. I was never hit with a moment where I questioned a character’s choices because it always felt true to character. The dialogue is so perfect you could read any line out of the book, out of context, and I would be able to tell you who was talking. This applies even with the minor characters that don’t make much of an appearance but still play pivotal roles in the story.


Overall, I feel there could have been some trimming done with certain scenes that, in my opinion, weren’t very necessary to drive the story forward. I know there are some critics that felt that there were a lot of plot holes and things left unexplained in this book but you have to remember that it’s a series and most of those things are answered in later books. You aren’t supposed to know all or be totally satisfied at the end of book one, it’s only the beginning.


Until next time, here’s a quote from the book to get you through: 


“I would rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab


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