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A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel Hardcover – February 24, 2015

4.4 out of 5 stars 318 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Shades of Magic Series

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Editorial Reviews


A Darker Shade of Magic has all the hallmarks of a classic work of fantasy. Its plot is gripping. Its characters are memorable. Its setting in four parallel, powerful Londons is otherworldly yet believable. Schwab has given us a gem of a tale that is original in its premise and compelling in its execution. This is a book to treasure.” ―Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of The All Souls Trilogy

“Compulsively readable...her characters make the book. Just as Kell has layers, Lila is a satisfyingly rich invention...With so many worlds on the map, there's plenty left to discover.” ―NPR

A Darker Shade of Magic feels like a priceless object, brought from another, better world of fantasy books.” ―io9

“Schwab (Vicious) creates an ingenious set of nesting alternate Londons in this imaginative, well-crafted fantasy. Confident prose and marvelous touches-a chameleon coat, a scarlet river of magic, a piratical antiheroine-bring exuberant life to an exhilarating adventure among the worlds.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

A Darker Shade of Magic is smart, funny and sexy ... Schwab keeps the excitement coming with roller-coaster plot twists that establish her as, perhaps, the natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones's contemporary fantasy crown.” ―The Independent

“Fantasy fans will love this fast-paced adventure, with its complex magic system, thoughtful hero and bold heroine.” ―Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

V. E. Schwab's first adult novel, Vicious, debuted to critical praise and reader accolades. Schwab is the author of YA novels The Near Witch, The Archived, and The Unbound. She is also currently writing a fantasy middle grade series with Scholastic.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (February 24, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765376458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765376459
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (318 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I've heard a lot of great things about V.E. Schwab's writing, in fact I had several of her books on my wish list, so when I was offered a review copy of the first book in her new series, A Darker Shade of Magic, I jumped at the chance to read it. I'm so glad I did because I can certainly see what all the fuss was about and I'm definitely going to be working my way through her previous titles while I wait for the release of the next book in this series.

A Darker Shade of Magic is a wonderful mix of historical fantasy, swashbuckling adventure and magical mayhem. Here there are three very different versions of London, three distinctive parallel universes that only a rare few people known as the Antari are able to travel between. Grey London is closest to a historical version of our world, there is no magic and most people are completely unaware of the other universes. Red London is a lavish kingdom where magic is plentiful and people on the whole are happy and healthy, most people are aware of the other worlds but have no desire to leave their own home. White London has magic but it is a different, darker, kind and people are constantly battling for power over each other, this London is a place where the weak are preyed upon and only the strong survive. There used to be a fourth world but there the magic was twisted and decayed, Black London was being destroyed from the inside out so the other versions of London banded together to permanently close the gateways and cut them off and it is believed that the world has since destroyed itself.

Kell is one of only two known Antari, he was born in Red London and he is tasked with the role of delivering messages between the royal families from each remaining version of London.
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Format: Hardcover
I found a preview of A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC at the end of my copy of VICIOUS, and I was instantly captivated. Luckily, I had a copy already, so I was able to dive straight into it.

Kell is an Antari, one of the last humans with the ability to travel between parallel Londons. A long time ago, traffic between the four Londons flowed freely, but that was before Black London was overcome by magic, and the other three sealed themselves off, with nothing permitted to cross their borders. Kell doesn’t really take these restrictions seriously, though, and has a healthy trade smuggling items between the worlds. But when someone gives him a letter to take across, he finds himself in a whole bunch of unanticipated trouble.. and stuck with Lila, an incorrigible thief who seems to expect him to take her on an adventure.

First, the worldbuilding. I liked the idea of the four parallel Londons, each with varying levels of magic, and they were well executed – there’s our “Grey” London, with hardly any magic, Kell’s native Red London, where people and magic are balanced, and White London, where magic is seen as something to be conquered. And Black London, which was devoured by its magic, and no one talks about anymore. The universes are all very different, aside from having a city named London at the same spot, and it was interesting to see how that worked. I also enjoyed the near-sentience of the magic itself.

Just like VICIOUS, the book was pretty fast-paced, and the bulk of the action took place over a short period of time. While I enjoyed that things moved quickly, I really wanted to spend more time getting to know the world and characters.
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Format: Hardcover
I fell in love with Victoria Schwab's Archived series, but after reading this and Vicious, I'm starting to think that maybe her books just generally aren't my thing. I found this book jumbled, the characters flat and unlikeable, and the conclusion bland. I did finish reading it, but I seriously considered just putting it down several times. Lila annoyed the hell out of me from start to finish--I didn't find her complex or interesting or swashbuckling, just grating and bizarre. Kell is alright, but I found him a little fumbling and predictable. The interactions between the two didn't work for me, the plot seemed cluttery (all sorts of bizarre stands woven in that contribute little or nothing to the story, like Beloc, the collector in Grey London, Booth, etc.) and overall I was just... unimpressed. I wanted to like this book. And if Victoria Schwab ever finishes the Archived series, I'll finish those, but otherwise I think I'm done.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kell is one of only two special magicians who can travel through London in all its forms: Grey London, in our own mundane world; Red London, steeped in magic and Kell's home; White London, its magic draining away and its inhabitants desperate; and Black London which is part-myth, part-horror story.

Kell's function is to carry letters between the monarchs in each of the London's but he can't resist smuggling items between the Londons - a tendency which leaves him open to accusations of high treason. He has also been raised as a member of the royal family of Red London.

I loved this book. I've read a few disappointing books lately, and this book restored my faith in story-telling. I enjoyed the two main characters - Kell and Lila (of Grey London). They're both flawed and damaged in their own way and yet both maintain an inherent decency, strained as it is at times.

The plot unfolds in an interesting way and as it goes, we learn more about both our main characters and this alternative world. The settings are fun, in their multiple versions of London which all feel a bit London-ish. Overall, the writing is just plain good and I very much enjoyed this book.

I'm so glad I found it - which was due to a favourable review in Urban Fantasy Magazine.
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