Title: A Darker Shade Of Magic
Author: V. E. Schwab
Publisher: Titan Books
Published: February 27th 2015
Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.
There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. 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.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, 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.
A Darker Shade Of Magic was everything I wanted it to be and more. I’m always nervous going into something with so much expectation beforehand, but there’s a reason why everyone raves about this book and I completely get it now.
It was my first time reading something written by this author, and I struggled to follow the story right at the beginning; we travelled through all of the Londons within the first few pages, and that meant we were also introduced to many characters at once. Nevertheless, it became fairly easy to follow afterwards – a slow start, but I expected nothing less – and if I had picked it up at any other time but exam period I probably would have sailed through it.
Schwab’s writing is magical; it is both compelling and addictive, and the world building is like something I’ve never read before. It was so fascinating to see the similarities and differences between the three Londons – Grey, Red, White – as well as trying to compare it to our own. I definitely loved Red London the most, from its unique language to its magic to its royal family. I would have loved to learn more of the history of each London, but that’s something that can be explored in further books. The balance between the plot and the world-building for the first in a trilogy was perfect.
The third person narrative mostly follows Kell, one of the last remaining Antari – a blood magician – and a professional smuggler. Though I liked Kell and his multi-sided coat, it was Lila who really impressed me. An aspiring pirate and cross-dressing thief, Lila’s whole world is the dull and magic-less Grey London. That is, until she meets Kell. I adored their relationship and how it wasn’t your typical love story even though they save each other and their Londons. It was just an epic adventure, both for the reader and for Lila Bard who finally gets to escape from the clutches of her grey world.
I also loved the relationship dynamic between Kell and Rhy; because there really isn’t anything I love more than an unbreakable sibling bond, especially the non-blood related kind. I cannot wait to meet these characters again in A Gathering Of Shadows.
Considering the huge fantasy fan that I am, it was probably guaranteed that I would enjoy this. It offers the chance of visiting a completely new world, and turning each page is a bit like switching Kell’s coat – you don’t really know what to expect, and there are plenty of hidden gems in the pockets.
But, why should you read it, you ask? As I curl my fingers around the unbroken spine, I prepare to tell you. As if by magic, the answer comes not from my lips but from within the pages. “As Travars,” they whisper, so quietly that at first you don’t hear. You reach out for the book and press your fingertips to the cover, repeating the words like a spell. “As Travars,” you say – to travel – as the pages listen and let you in.