A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24th, 2015
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.
Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.
Better late than never, but I finally arrived to this party. And what an awesome party it is. But this is also a party I'm finding hard to review. I pretty much don't know how to do it without spoiling something.So I figure I'll just do a list of my favourite bits. First though, the only reason A Darker Shade of Magic didn't get a five star is because every time I put it down I wasn't exactly compelled to pick it up right away. I loved it as I was reading it, but wasn't really thinking about it when I wasn't. That might just be on my reading mood, or maybe it wasn't.
- The Londons are done in such a clever way. I know parallel universes isn't something new. But I love how each London was so different in many ways. And that travel between the Londons is done in the most realistic way. Kell couldn't just jump around wherever he wanted; there are rules which never made anything convenient for Kell. The Londons are fully developed characters with their own distinct personalities. Essentially they are the heart of the story.
- The magic system incorporated the elements, which is one of my favourite magical tropes. But what I really liked is how the magic is said to be wild and everywhere in the world and through a person. How controlling it isn't in what you say or do, it's like an open door that is always changing. Whenever Kell would explain magic to someone his explanations would change in subtle ways because magic is not one thing and it takes a lot to control it.
- Kell, my precious Kell. My broody precious Kell. Being one of kind(for the most part) will shows through in his loneliness. It's one of those things where you're not alone but you feel lonely. It's hard for Kell to feel like even Rhy can understand his responsibilities and his usefulness to Red London. I really hope we come to get his backstory, even though Kell is unsure of his own history, I feel like it's needed to help Kell survive.
- Lila Bard, a cross dressing thief. She's reckless, a little insane and kind of my new hero. She's distrustful and trusting all at once. She's a complicated women and that is what makes her so compelling. And possibly her unknown and mysterious story.
- Rhy, the charming prince. And man am I utterly charmed. There is no way not to be taken by Rhy. He's entertainment and sadness all rolled together. And trying to explain that would spoil Rhy. His relationship with Kell is powerful. And thank you Schwab for including a bi-sexual character and for that never being questioned. Just accepted.
- Banter. Banter everywhere, It's glorious!
- Villains are villainous. Some are the kind where you want to like and possibly trust and some are just bad.
- A Darker Shade of Magic is essentially coat porn. Not only Kell's amazing never ending sided coat; which what and where can I get one? Schwab clearly has a thing for coats and can describe in detail every coat in the book and have you drooling. It's actually quite the visceral experience.
- Which brings me back to the world building and how wonderful it is. It's that great kind of world building where it's effortlessly weaved into the story as you visit or learn about the world. Having the multiple worlds could have easily become overwhelming, but that was never the case. There is distinction and visceral descriptions where I had no problem imagining the world(s).
A Darker Shade of Magic is simply a treasure of a book. A great start to a trilogy that is only going to be epic.