- File Size: 1586 KB
- Print Length: 401 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books (February 24, 2015)
- Publication Date: February 24, 2015
- Sold by: Macmillan
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00ME0TBFE
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,595 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Entertainment Weekly's 27 Female Authors Who Rule Sci-Fi and Fantasy Right Now
“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
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"I'm not going to die," she said. "Not till I've seen . . . everything."
What do you get when you mix equal parts magic, inter-dimensional travel, strong female characters, and criminal activity, with a hint of romance? A Darker Shade of Magic, of course! I was drawn to this book because 1) it's been super popular among the Instagram reader community, and 2) there is not one, but four Londons (mega points for creativity, Schwab).
What did I like about this book? Well, the whole premise was highly original. Kell, the main character, can travel between 4 Londons—White London, Red London, Black London, and Grey London. Each London has a different relationship with magic, whether they embrace it, worship it, kill for it, or don't believe in it (not in that order). But Kell and one other character are the only ones able to travel between the Londons, which means they are messengers and ambassadors for the leaders (which leads to some interesting problems).
I also liked that the book wasn't all about romance—there was very little. Lila and Kell worked as a team. The book also dealt with brotherly relationships and caring for family, even if they are not your blood relatives. It also tackled the age-old question of "what do you do if you come into a lot of power, but it's an evil power," which naturally includes character motive investigation, willpower, and self discovery.
However, as with many hyped books, this one fell a little short of my expectations (hence, 3.5 stars). What went wrong? Let me share:
1) Dialogue – I didn't feel like it flowed naturally and was a tad cliche.
2) The Strong/Independent Female Main Character Trope – Lila Bard is a cool character, but I'm just a little tired of the whole tough girl characters who don't need a man or anyone else and don't embrace their uniquely feminine strengths. Why does a girl have to act like a man to get attention in the literary community? Why can't she be feminine and strong? *steps off soapbox*
3) Character/plot originality – Although the premise was unique, much of it felt like other YA lit fantasy that I had read before and that was better executed (e.g., Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows and the Grisha trilogy).
4) World building – I wanted more details. I can never have too much solid world building, and I think it's essential for fantasy to connect with the reader.
Overall, a fun read, but not quite a 4-star rating.
- V.E. Schwab has a really nice writing style. It flows effortlessly and you can fly through the pages. Her descriptions paint a solid picture.
- The world building is well done. I liked the different Londons and their back stories were interesting. There were plenty of scenes I enjoyed quite a bit.
- The Blood Magic/Elemental powers are cool.
- The 2 main characters Kell & Lila are both very clichè and uninteresting. Lila was actually very annoying most of the time. She was being very immature at times despite the situation being very serious. She's made out to be a strong female character, which I like, but she always needs to be saved by Kell. Kell complains a lot for no reason. He's also not always honest when he should be.
- The Pacing was a little too slow for me at times. There weren't enough epic moments or tense situations to keep me very interested. Once I got more than half way through, I wanted it to just end.
- I felt like the Author was very close to blowing me away but she never really did. I don't want to continue the series.
I read Six of Crows right before this and that impressed me in every way that this book didn't.
Top international reviews
"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."
Kell is an Antari – a rare magician with the ability to travel between worlds. He lives in Red London – a vibrant place where magic and people both thrive, where Kell is raised by the King and Queen. Grey London is the world that has forgotten all about magic. White London is a world hungry for magic, starving for it, a place leeched of colour. Once there was Black London, but there magic devoured the people, leaving the world dead...
Kell is running a typical message between worlds when he is asked to deliver a mysterious package. He accepts, despite his reservations (and the fact that this is so very against the rules), and is then ambushed upon arriving in Red London. Inadvertently, he has brought a forbidden relic to his world – a relic that could destroy them all. He flees to Grey London and is found by Lila Bard, a thief, wanted (wo)man and pirate at heart.
Together, they must return the relic to where it belongs. Together, they must save the remaining worlds from the curse of the lost one...
I honestly don't know where to start with this review. Because I just love A Darker Shade of Magic and Victoria herself so freaking much. Both are just amazing – brilliant, fantastic, wonderful, magical, vicious... Just... wow.
This review would go a hell of a lot better if I could just get over the blown-mind after effects... But since I don't see that time coming any time soon, I'll just get on with it anyway.
Kell... Kell was a brilliant hero. Brave, good, strong and also so very flawed, he managed to be both incredibly powerful and yet vulnerable all at once. He didn't always make the smart decisions, he focused a little on the whole woe me at times and he was occasionally a little daft – and it all just made him even more loveable.
And Lila was just amazing! Vicious and blood thirsty and obsessed with knives! I mean, this is really just my kind of girl. She was just so cool and funny and sharp and I loved her to pieces. I have my favourite crush in the series – and it's the swashbuckling, badass Delilah Bard.
I loved watching Kell and Lila together – they were funny and brilliant together. There was next to no romance in this book – maybe there will be in the next book, because ships were definitely hinted at, just not fully realised. I'm intrigued to see where this goes next because I just love these two together!
I also really loved seeing Kell with Rhy, his brother. Rhy was just the sweetest – silly and flirtatious and funny, he was so much more than the rich playboy he first appeared to be and I just loved him for that. Plus his relationship with Kell was just so sweet – they really did love one another, despite the brotherly conflicts.
The Danes were bloody terrifying! They literally sent tingles of fear up my spine whenever they were around – they were so damn scary!
As much as I adored the characters, the world just blew them all out of the water. Bloody hell, it's amazing. Just the very idea of these four unique Londons, all so different and so wonderful... Mind-blowing. My mind is officially and irreparably blown. I am just in awe of Victoria. It's hard enough to contrast a single fantasy world – she made three! Three utterly unique, beautiful and horrible Londons – four, if we're counting the lost Black London. Each London was so unique and detailed and amazing. Red London was definitely my favourite – it was the thriving, alive London. Grey London was a magic less, more historically accurate, place ruled by a mad King. And White London...well. Let's just say I'd avoid White London at all costs. I just can't believe how much work and detail Victoria put into these worlds and I just can't wait to explore them more. Amazing – just incredibly, wonderfully, perfectly amazing.
Unsurprisingly, the Slytherin queen of magic was a true wizard when it came to her writing. Gorgeous, witty and beautiful, she sucked me in from the very first sentence and had me utterly hooked from that same line. I adored how we switched between Kell and Lila and then a few...added extra POVs. I loved exploring all the Londons, seeing them through Kell's well travelled eyes and Lila's almost-as-new-as-our eyes.
And god, I just adored the storyline. The idea of a quest across worlds, an evil stone, crazy rulers and brilliant characters – I mean, what's not to love? I loved the race, the battles, the quest. I loved the excitement, the adventure, the adrenaline-pounding pace and suspense... I just loved all of it and cannot wait to get my hands on A Gathering of Shadows to find out what happens next!
So, if you haven't gathered, I loved A Darker Shade Of Magic just a little bit. Ok a lot bit. A bloody ginormous bit. Victoria is my Slytherin queen and she has crafted a truly magical and amazing book here, one I love to absolute pieces. It has magic, pirates, adventures, backstabbing, blood, drama, excitement and just so much more. I am seriously struggling to find the words to do A Darker Shade of Magic justice – I just can't find the words to explain how much I bloody adored it.
Here's another attempt:
A Darker Shade Of Magic had me falling in love from the very first page. I fell for the worlds, for Kell and Rhy and Lila, for Victoria's writing, for just about every damn thing. I have read a lot of fantasy and I can say with certainty that this series is in the top five of my favourites – I just love it so damn much. I honestly can't recommend it enough. Just read it. Read it, get your own mind blown, and then shove it into another person's hands. Let's spread A Darker Shade of Magic like the black fever (you'll get the reference after you read the book)!
Now I'm off to read A Gathering Of Shadows because I gots to know what happens next! Happy reading, Grey Londoners!
"As Travars," he said. Travel.
* * * * *
5 / 5
This book is simply stunning. It epitomises what fantasy fiction should be about: wonder, intrigue, deception, and most of all, magic. Every time I have read this I am enthralled by Schwab's characters, writing, and the delightful universe that she has crafted.
"As Travars," he said. The wall gave way and the traveler and the thief stepped forward and through"
I had the fortune to first read A Darker Shade of Magic back when it was first published (I bought in on March 28th, 2015 to be exact) and before V. E. Schwab become popular. In fact I'm reasonably sure I happened upon the book by chance on Amazon, whilst searching for something else to buy to get my basket total high enough to qualify for free shipping. I mention this because I had the luck to read this book before it was surrounded by hype, so I was free to read it without expectations. Because it is a marvellous, wonderful, original, magical book and hype is a dangerous and wicked thing. I am, however, absolutely thrilled that Schwab's writing is getting the recognition it deserves.
I write this review having read it again in preparation for the release of A Conjuring of Light, and having now read some of Schwab's other work (specifically Vicious and This Savage Song). The Shades of Magic books are, in my opinion, definitely her best - the most original, the best writing, the most tantalising characters and setting. The premise is simple, in four overlapping universes there exists a London, differing yet the same. Black London was devoured, consumed by magic and the people that used it, but the other three still stand and can be traversed between. Each has its own character and levels of magic.
"Grey for the magic-less city
Red, for the healthy empire
White, for the starving world"
Enter Kell, an Antari - one who can walk between the worlds, in one of the most delightful entrances since the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. He's a risk-taker, a charmer, and a powerful mage, but he's terrible in combat, privileged and has an angry streak. He's also got a coat with many sides. Kell is officially an ambassador, bringing correspondence between the rulers of the Londons. Unofficially, since his privileged and thrilling life clearly isn't exciting enough for him, Kell is a smuggler of goods, breaker of the ancient law that no magical (or mundane) items may pass between the worlds. It is this deliciously naughty habit that launches Kell into the path of Delilah Bard, thief and cutpurse.
"Lila Bard lived by a simple rule: if a thing was worth having, it was worth taking"
The first of numerous things that I love about Delilah is her name, most likely because I'm exceedingly fond of the song Delilah by Florence + the Machine, and I play a bard/minstrel type character in lots of MMO's. The second thing I love about Lila is her wanderlust. Nineteen years old and yearning for the seas, for the winds that will bear her to freedom, and the song of the sea that calls her to adventure. She's exactly the kind of woman I'd have liked to be if I'd have learned that there existed a Red London: stubborn, daring, and determined to live to see it. She sets ships ablaze, steals knives, and has good taste in men's clothes.
"They disrespect me," said Rhy with a dry smile. "The earth beneath your feet does not care you will be king."
Rhy Maresh is the Crown Prince of Arnes, Kell's adoptive brother, and the royal flirt. He likes his fair share of debauchery but is also a kind, just man, if a little dense. Astrid and Athos Dane rule White London, an ash-coloured world forcibly drained of magic. They are vicious, totalitarian rulers, born and bred and raised in a city that struggles for power. Holland is the Antari of White London, bound against his will to the service of the Danes. The cast of A Darker Shade of Magic is varied and vibrant in character.
Schwab has the wonderful talent of writing gorgeous, understated prose. Her writing is elegant but not overly metaphorical, dramatic, or flowery, or any of those things that have a tendency to wear upon readers. For example:
Despite the city's soot and dire, its clutter and its poor, it had something Red London lacked: a resistance to change. An appreciation for the enduring, and the effort it took to make something so.
This is absolutely the kind of writing that I love and if you thought that was a few well written sentences then you'll adore Schwab's style. It complements the plot perfectly: magical, enticing, and full of wonder. We follow Kell and Lila through the worlds, through conspiracies and forbidden magical artifacts in a book that is wondrous and captivating until the very last page.
That being said, I still really enjoyed the book. I liked Kell and the whole Antari magic as a whole and I liked the character of Lila Bard and how the dynamic between her and Kell worked. The writing itself was strong and enjoyable to read and the imagery flitted between very visual and vivid and falling slightly short of that vividness I had come to expect from the book.
The idea of there being multiple worlds, each one having a London and each one having various degrees of magic in their world, was very appealing to me. One thing that stood out as an excellent part of the book were the more simple things. Whether it was the power points that existed in each world and shared the same location as it does in other worlds, or whether it was something as simple as Kell’s coat of unlimited sides.
Just from the opening few chapters you can tell the author has put a lot of thought into her world/s and the ways in which each are so vastly different, yet at the same time feeling closer than I just made it sound, are a wonderful touch to the book as a whole.
I wasn’t overly fond of the villain (I won’t mention the antagonist’s name as I don’t want to spoil anything if I can help it) and every scene said villain was in just felt kind of like watching a pantomime villain. Admittedly, there were some incredibly dark and bloody moments, but parts often felt overly theatrical when it came to Kell combatting the various bad guys and gals. I think it is this that made me think it didn’t really know what age group it was aiming itself at. Not that either age group would be a problem where this particular novel is concerned, I just kind of wish it had settled on YA or not YA.
That slight negative aside, the book is an enjoyable read and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy and wants something a little different. Especially if they are tired of the same old magic systems and wants one that is very different.
I liked Kell he's was easy going and just seemed like a nice guy but lila annoyed me at the start of the book. There was one scene where Kell had a stone from black London (a place where dark magic took over) but lila robbed it and when he tracked her down she wouldn't give it back becuse she wanted to see what it done, it just bothered me because the stone is so dangerous and she didn't even know magic existed 3 minutes before hand so just give him back the stone ! 😂
I enjoyed the world building I thought the concepts of the different London's were very interesting. Grey London was the London in our world mundane and without magic, Red London had magic and magic was treated as an equal, White London had magic too but magic was dominated by the people and as a result the magic has started to retreat and finally Black London who let magic run free and the magic took over which caused the doors into Black London to be shut. That's another part of the world building I liked the world's were over lapping each other and you need doors to get from each world but only the antari can create and use a door (kells an antari)
I found the book slow to start with I was around 150 pages into the book and I still didn't really feel involved in the story. Another part of the novel that I didn't love was how often the point of view of charecters changed, I liked when It was in the POV of Kell but when it was lila or random guards or side charecters it annoyed my becuse I wanted to know what Kell was doing. Towards the end of the book I started to like lila she was more entertaining and not as irritating I also liked where the story was going it began to pick up and I enjoyed how things played out.
Overall i liked this book but i didn't love it, i really only liked kell in terms of the charecters and it wasn't until the second half of the book that I got interested in the story, I wasn't a major fan of the constantly changing point of views but I'm sure some people would have enjoyed it but I did really enjoy the world building. I'm not sure if I will continue the series becuse I didn't really love this book but I'm might pick it up in a few months.
The characters are so very real, and flawed, that I couldn't help but love them. Kell, one of the two main characters, isn't particularly forthcoming and I've read some reviews who found him hard to warm to because of his reserve, but there's so much bubbling underneath, and he's got such a vein of sadness and anger running through him, and by the end of the book he was so tortured... As far as I'm concerned, he's simply the most precious darling ever to cross a page. Except possibly his brother, Prince Rhy, although he doesn't get a lot of page time in this first instalment. And then there's Lila Bard, who's simply incredible. Badass as hell, sharp and sassy and guarded and brilliant.
The book builds pace gradually, but I didn't find it slow at any point because the world was so mesmerising that I was simply dragged along for the ride. And as events take turn after turn for the worse, the pace and the tension and the action continue to ratchet up to the showdown - and just when you think it's over, no, there's more agony to come. The character and relationship development through the book was so understated yet undeniable, and what I loved most was the very real sense of consequences. The plot doesn't happen to the characters so much as because of them, driven by their - often very bad - choices, and their actions come back to haunt them and dog their steps at every turn.
If I had to criticise anything it would be that (on the first read) I was a little confused at the outset by the rules and reasons of the worlds, which were unfolded gradually, but they were explained soon enough. Some of the villains got a bit grandstand-y and cliched on occasion, although others were intriguing and dangerous enough to more than compensate and avoided the black & white distinctions of good and bad guy.
In summary: a new favourite fantasy series, possibly of ever.
Let's start with the world-building, my favourite part of the book. Amazing. The premise of lots of different variations that can be travelled between but are distinguished by their relationship with magic is very clever. Grey London, or OUR London, has forgotten and 'lost' magic, Red London works in partnership with it and views it as an equal, White London seeks to dominate and control it, and all this as a result of Black London bowing down before it and subsequently being destroyed. There was a great amount of thought put into how the worlds interact, their historical context and political relationships. The characters were fantastic too: Kell and Lila were wonderful MCs and I adored them both, especially their friendship! I liked the villains too, very interesting and with their own backstory.
I guess my only minor niggle was the ending. Everything pointed towards an exploration of Grey and Red London adventures in this book and a cliffhanger that would lead into White London and beyond for book two. But suddenly, in the last 10% of the book, Schwab squeezed in a quick White London showdown and was home in time for tea. That would be fine, but it made those final few chapters feel a little rushed. I would have liked to spend more time in further worlds, and hopefully will get to do so in the sequel! If you haven't read this story already (like me up until now) then I thoroughly recommend it, it's one of the best YA Fantasies I've read in a while.
V E Schwab is renowned for her unique and magical writing style, and this book certainly does not disappoint. This is a book you find yourself immersed in, with a setting not too unfamiliar, and the basics of what we understand to be magic. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender, the bare elements as magic, but instead of each person being limited to one element each, some can wield 2 or 3 at a push, where as those with complete control are referred to as Antari.
Kell is the Antari of Red London, where magic lives and thrives. He is part of the royal family, transporting messages from London to London, when he is suddenly thrust into an adventure he never expected. Black London is thought to be forgotten, no one goes there, no one lives there, and nothing could. It was abandoned by the other London's years ago, left to rot for the rest of time, but when Kell finds an artifact of Black London he starts to wonder whether the forbidden city is as dead as everyone believes it to be.
What follows is an adventure with a black-eyed prince, a (would be) pirate thief, and a whole lot of trouble.
This book really was a delight, it read so fluently it felt like you were actually there, the world so bright and enticing you could almost smell the floral scent of Red London, the smoke of Grey London and the blood of White London. It was so fast paced it was a quick read and it never lost my attention, in fact, I never wanted to put it down.
I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a sense of adventure, anyone with a fancy for magic and danger. If you've read any of V E Schwab's works before, you will not be disappointed by this. That woman could write anything and it would be poetic and meaningful and an absolute pleasure to read.
So pick it up. What are you waiting for?
For the first 25-30% of the book, I didn’t really understand the hype. While I could agree the premise was interesting, the characters solid and atmosphere intriguing, I was simply not excited! I actually reached out on FB to talk about the excitement bit and how important it is when reading a bok… ADSOM, at the start, was just not that magical to me… I had of course seen the hallelujas for Kell’s coat… everywhere… but I’m the kind of girl that if everyone likes something and wants it, I don’t. It’s the general mass consensus about something that makes my excitement grind to a halt and run in the opposite direction for something different.
Anyway, you’ve all heard of Murphy’s Law. So, the minute I hesitated about X, Y happened. Or some such 😀 At the 30% mark, ADSOM with all its glory started sucking me in. I mean, if there is ever a story that made me imagine a small ball of snow growing bigger and bigger as it rolled down the slope, ADSOM is it. I found the groove and I was in it for one sitting read, long into the early hours of the morning.
I can’t deny that I liked Kell from the start. He knows how to appreciate the small things. I was waiting with anticipation for the moment his path crossed with Lila. What a splendid clash of characters from different walks of life.
Kell is one of two with a blood full of magic across the various Londons. You could say, he knows and sees a whole lot more than any of the other residents from any of London. He has a grasp of life and people from various viewpoints, giving him the characteristics of a thinker. In a way, I think Kell is the type of universal character with an open, intelligent mind deeming him selfless and considerate.
Lila, on the other hand, is bold! I like Lila, and I like that she likes boys toys! As a survivor of lifelong hardship one needs a certain mentality to present obstacles the middle finger and come out on top in spite of. And when she didn’t give two hoots about the fancy dresses, instead choosing to go for the practical attire meant for men- I laughed and nodded my head. Nice one, Lila! I approve! Drop the glitz and glitter, opt for the need-to-have. The fact that she has plenty of unwaivering personality won me over in no time. Her very being has been hardened due to her circumstances but not once did she complain, not once did she wallow like a damsel in distress and she always approached situations with a ‘let’s just get this over and done with’ attitude.
So, yes, when Kell and Lila met- I repeat- it was a splendid clash to revel in! Just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about chemistry sparkling and crackling in a romantic sense. Which brings me to the point about the, thankfully, missing insta-love scenario. There was no swooning, the was no drooling, there was no hormone-induced ‘I wish I got laid by that specimen’ kind of gibberish. For this alone, the book deserves kudos.. for not going down the beaten path!
Another relationship I would like to address in my review is the one in between Kell and Rhy. Brothers, in a sense. But, yes, brothers. There weren’t many or long scenes where these two were presented to the reader. And YET, somehow, without any kind of droning on about it, Schwab managed to show me exactly how much love and loyalty lies in between the two. Their distinctive personalities, quite opposite to each other, were not used in this case to create a conflict as such, but rather demonstrate even more how much caring exists in between the two.
There are other characters in ADSOM, of course, but those will be left for new readers to discover for themselves.
As far as the plot goes, I found it to be quite imaginative and despite my initial lack of conviction and faith about the excitement element in this book, I am happy to have been proven wrong. ADSOM is charming and charismatic, it’s essence purely magical and unrushed, the ebb and flow of conflict and respite nicely balanced.
*holds up hands in surrender* – it’s worth the hype!
I loved this, it is not exactly what I expected and even better doesn't follow so much of the standard formula of YA. There's no romance (I'm not sure two brief kisses for luck count), only intrigue and adventure. And this is SO much better for it, it was so nice to not want to yell at characters for instalove or something! It took me a little while to pick up all aspects of the world building, but it works well cause when you do, they really take shape as separate places. White london in particular comes across as vicious and scary, and is so well done.
Kell is intriguing, and I want his coat! I love that we see his love for Rhy but his complicated feelings for his parents. And Lila. I have my suspicions about her but as I'm leaving this review without spoilers I shall keep them until I read the next books! But she's a great character too - spunky and slightly violent, my favourite sort.
I shall be going to get book 2 right away! 😂
Take all of that, add a tonne of intrigue, suspense, action and humour, and you’re about there for picturing the scope of this book! The ending was perfectly done, I wanted to dive into book two instantly! I will be reading it as soon as I possibly can between booked reviews, because I NEED to know where this is going next. I was completely surprised by the ending!
If you enjoy Fantasy Fiction with astounding world building, and an astonishing flair for new magical ideas, you NEED to get your hands on a copy of this!
It is always difficult starting a series as hyped as Shades of Magic. You have such expectations but like with all books, it is down to the individual view on the writing, the plot and story. As an author, Schwab's tagline is 'for those who dream of stranger worlds' and stranger worlds is exactly what she delivers as the London's we are met with are not quite the London's we know. There is a magic in the world but it does not come equally. There is a world with lots of users, and one with none. There is a world no longer travelled - this is Black London and will have a bearing on the plot.
Red London sits in the middle where Kell lives with the royal family traversing between Grey and White London delivering messages. Kell has an idealistic nature but isn't at all naive to how easy life is, however he isn't hardened by the world around him as is his White London counterpart - Holland. Holland is stoic, hardened and forthright. His life isn't easy and the little snippets which are revealed of his life leave the reader intrigued as to why he is the way he is and why his London (White) is so volatile.
Delilah comes from Grey London - unsurprisingly it is devoid of magic - and she is a thief who meets Kell after picking his pocket and he hunts her down to collect. Delilah as a character is difficult to like initially, she is nasty and dirty and will do whatever she has to survive. They eventually travel together to Red London - where Kell and Delilah's personalities balance each other well, her grittiness merges well with his more straightforward approach and they are able to bounce off each other well.
All the characters introduced by Schwab have a purpose, they are not merely included as cannon-fodder but instead used to build the main protagonists stories. There is no needless romance just because the author/editor/publisher wants to tick that box, the best friend - Rhys acts as a centre to Kell and keeps him grounded. The plot progress's at a pleasant snappy pace although some of the plot points come across as somewhat predictable I couldn't help but think I was reading something that would actually have a much larger bearing later in the series.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and series as a whole. The writing is engaging and witty, the story isn't overly confusing and the multiple point-of-views allow for an easy progression and a time for getting to know the characters before they come together. This is later books can lead to a bit of confusion as the amount of characters that are followed increases but ultimately it is the ideal writing technique for this story. Besides, we all would love Kell's multi-sided coat.
The plot follows two characters: Kell and Lila. Kell is Antari, a rare type of magician who can travel between worlds and control all elements of magic, even blood. He lives with the royal family as an Ambassador in Arnes, Red London, and travels between White London and Grey London, delivering letters between the rulers. But Kell is also a smuggler, trading trinkets from different Londons to collectors and enthusiasts. When an exchange goes wrong, Kell finds himself with a stone, an artefact from Black London. Wounded and bleeding after being attacked, Kell flees to Grey London. Upon arrival, he runs into Lila Bard, who picks his pockets and ends up taking the stone. After Kell hunts her down, Lila learns about magic and the four Londons and decides to join Kell on a dangerous mission to take the stone back to where it belongs.
Kell is kind-hearted and a very likeable hero, but Lila stole the show for me. She is ruthless, strong, funny and just an overall badass and holds her own despite being a human from a magic-less world.
I LOVED the villains from this book, especially the Dane twins, who rule over White London and are utterly ruthless and bloodthirsty. Then there is Holland, who like Kell, is also Antari and is a servant to the Dane twins. He is portrayed as cold and cruel but I can't help feeling like there is more to his story.
If you’re looking for a dark fantasy with travellers and a fresh take on magic, then I definitely recommend this book to you!
I had added the book to my TBR in February last year, so it’s taken a while to get to. Ever since joining Twitter in September, people I follow were retweeting Victoria Schwab so regularly that I didn’t even need to follow her. I do now, of course. My point is this – so many people are talking about her and her books. I just had to try A Darker Shade of Magic for myself.
Naturally, I went into reading this book with high expectations. Everyone seems to be raving about the series. I suppose the question you are here to find the answer to, is if I think it lived up to expectation. Well yes, but also no. Allow me to elaborate. I really enjoyed the book. The premise of four versions of London, each with its own degree of magic was what drew me in. I love magic and fantasy is my favourite genre, so this is a perfect read for me. My only wish was that each “London” had more resemblance to London as we know it. I appreciate that each “London” in A Darker Shade of Magic is in a different world. Yet, other than the presence of the Thames in Red London and the English language, there were no other significantly obvious landmarks – or any similarities were too subtle to notice. I have only been to London once (as a child), so my knowledge isn’t that great. I may have missed something, but I just didn’t get as much of a magic/realism vibe as I was hoping for.
The characters were great. Each has their own back-story and it is easy to invest in them all. Kell is adorable in that his compassion for others is admirable. As a reader, you cannot help but feel for Holland and his situation. The standout character though, in my opinion, was Lila. Whilst I would say that both Lila and Kell are fairly equally developed characters, I just adored Lila’s fierceness. She has always had to make her own way in Grey London and the combination of her naivety and sheer will is cute. A Darker Shade of Magic lives up to the name. The plot was interesting and well thought out – and there were parts of it that were darker than I expected! Magic can be idealised to be a wonderful power... but really it all depends on who wields it. This really comes into play throughout and gave the book an exciting edge.
I did enjoy the book enough to rate it four stars on Goodreads – but not five. I expected to leave this book and be diving into the next one straight away... but I’m not. I think book publicity is a double-edged sword. Obviously, people need to hear about books in order to become interested and buy them. Equally, if you see/hear so much about a book, series or author, you can build up an expectation that realistically cannot be fulfilled. I think this is what happened with A Darker Shade of Magic. I am going to read the remainder of the series because I did enjoy it... just not as much as I had expected I would.
The characters definitely had personality, none were flat. Kell, I feel is a neutral enough character that none will really dislike him. The relationship with his "brother" was a really nice addition as well. Lila irritated me a little though. For a strong female lead, I feel you have to get the right balance of characteristics or they will become slightly grating. I found Lila to be a bit too aggressive and "in your face". Of course, due to her past, it's only natural for her to be this way. She was definitely resourceful and independent. Maybe the author could've focused on that more, instead of her introverted and angry temperament. She got better towards the end but I never really warmed to her.
For a book that was based in four Londons, it didn't feel very British. Due to the made up geographies of this book. It doesn't necessarily mean that the Londons were meant to be in England, or anywhere in "our" world for that matter. Still, as someone from England, it would have been nice if it hadn't been so Americanised. Unfortunately, that's just the case for a lot of books.
There was strong world building, which is typical for a good Fantasy story. Unfortunately, it's only limited to the four Londons, which is quite a small area for Fantasy. More traveling past the Londons would have been great but maybe that's to appear in the sequels. The magic system is certainly unique, though is centred around the basic elements, it still utilises them in a different way. I would've liked to see more magic other than traveling between the Londons. however. There's battles, sure but I would've liked a bit more action using more magic. I'm being a bit picky with this one though.
I felt the ending was a bit Deus ex Machina to be honest, which is the biggest flaw in this book. In order for both main characters to survive certain things happen that guarantee their victory. The timing for these certain events to happen, so that they would be most beneficial to the protagonists, was so on point, it was far from convenient, bordering on "they just had to occur or everyone would be dead" cliche.
I'm really looking forward to reading the sequel but I just felt it could have been done a little better. I've enjoyed other Fantasy novels far more than this one, from authors that don't get as much hype as Victoria Schwab seems to have gotten. Worth the read in any case!
Kell, Lila and Rhy are all likeable but are just a shade too close to clichés. Lila doesn't trust anyone and hates being in debt, Kell is a self-sacrificing, self-centred hero and Rhy is a roguish prince. Still, they all have saving graces, that made them more than stock characters. Kell and Lila are at least introspective enough to realise they need to change and Rhy has a genuinely believable and humanising relationship with his brother. I love a good bad guy though and the main antagonists of this book are freaking brilliant.
All in all, it's the shallowness of the characters that stops this book getting 5 stars from me but even that may be a byproduct of its wonderful punchiness so I'm looking forward to more from this series.