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A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel (Shades of Magic) Paperback – January 19, 2016
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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
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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Kell is a deliciously mysterious character with a tortured soul and a habit for bending the rules. From his thoughts you learn that he is devoted to his brother and family despite the tortuous realization that he is not in fact a member of the Royal family so much as their property. Though Kell values the law and order of moving between worlds, he is fascinated by small trinkets with little meaning to others and often risks bending the rules in order to collect these precious items. These small aspects of Kell’s personality show the humanity behind his magical difference from others and allow the readers to wonder more about the man behind the magical black eye.
When you’re just getting invested into Kell and his story, enter Lila Bard — fierce, lethal and likely to steal the glasses off your face before you’ve even finished reading about her. The author chooses to portray her story in the same way as Kell’s, walking the reader through her thoughts and actions rather than providing backstory to prepare you for her arrival. Schwab executes this incredibly well, as I never found myself confused as she shifted between Kell and Lila’s perspectives.
At her core, Lila is an adventurer who longs for a life far more vibrant than the Grey world she was born into. Prone to pick pocketing in order to survive, Lila craves the life of a pirate who serves only themselves and the sea. Despite her rough and tumble, quick draw exterior, Schwab provides the readers with small cracks that show how vulnerable and caring Lila can be. I found myself wondering what led Lila to the life of a thief and who built that wall around her heart that forced her to believe she could only rely on herself.
These characters drive the plot of this story through their incredibly vivacious, competitive and quick-witted relationship. There is a tangible chemistry between them from the very beginning, again showing the brilliance in Schwab’s ability to write dimensional characters. Their chemistry is undeniable, yet it doesn’t distract from the main plot of the novel. They continue to pursue their goal while simultaneously showing that the nature of their relationship is evolving along the way into something more than just a thief and a smuggler who wound up obtaining a rare and deadly artifact that could destroy the worlds they know.
I found myself impressed by all the characters and their ability to subtly hint at what’s to come. We’re given ruthless villains readers easily hate, who introduce us to the main problem of the series — reintroducing the true vitari magic to Grey, Red and White London, potentially leaving them open complete destruction. These villains are tied to Holland, the only other antari to exist, who we long to believe has good inside his controlled soul. Holland’s character reminds me of the Darkling from the Grishaverse in that he is ruthless and cunning, yet tortured and a product of his circumstance. You want so badly for this character to redeem himself.
I thought the end of this novel was the perfect set-up for future books in the series. There were questions answered, resolutions provided, and yet so many little easter egg situations scattered throughout that never really were addressed. This is brilliant writing because it allows readers to feel comfortable and content with the ending, only to likely have their worlds shattered and mind’s blown at the beginning of the next book. I am not convinced that some characters won’t come back to haunt us in the next book, and I love that I have that sense of unease.
Overall, this book is filled with excellent characters, an intriguing and mysterious plot, and dynamic relationships. I was hooked from the start and only craved more with every page turn. This is an excellent read for those who love magical stories but may want a change of pace from the fantastical elements of faeries, witches, wizards and mythical creatures. This book perfectly ties the modernism of present day world with royalty and magic. Definitely worth taking a chance on this book!
I thought the plot, as well as the world-building, were absolutely incredible. I loved the idea of these parallel cities that the Antari could travel between, and I thought the magic system was beautifully built up. Too many books ignore the foundation for their magic systems and you're kind of left just going, "oh, well, it's magic and that's that," but Schwab didn't do that at all in this book. The idea of these Antari being sort of the chosen ones who could control blood was just super cool, and I really hope that Kell and Holland aren't actually the only ones left.
My very first impression from the opening segment:
"Kell wore a very peculiar coat. It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible."
was that her writing reminded me a great deal of Tolkien, circa The Hobbit. As I got further into the book, I did find that Victoria's voice is very much her own, but I enjoyed it to no end. It was the perfect balance of straightforward and flowery prose, and it painted a splendid picture while never wasting too much time on the details.
Overall, I thought this book was a fantastic beginning to a series and I cannot wait to continue with book #2. I gave this an easy 5/5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes three-dimensional high fantasy read, full of a delightful set of characters and a terrifically intriguing world.