Written by Joseph
A Darker Shade of Magic — by V.E. Schwab
Rating — 3.5 / 5
Format — Paperback
Published — February 24th 2015 by Titan Books
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.
I enjoyed A Darker Shade of Magic. It’s not a piece of literary genius, and doesn’t live up to some of the cover quotes promising “A refreshing take on magic” (The I) or “Reminiscent of Neil Gaiman” (We Love This Book). However, it was a quick, fun, and exciting read, with some novel concepts and a very well-paced plot.
Schwab includes small, missable hints to the larger story early in the plot, which left me retracing my steps at the end of the book — which is a nice way to finish a story. The final ‘twist’ is not explicitly stated, but is implied strongly enough that I’m 90% sure I ‘got it’. A few clues also turn out to be irrelevant to this story, leaving some open-ended questions for a sequel.
The concept of parallel worlds isn’t new, but Schwab does weave it into her magic system nicely, and I especially liked that each of the four Londons has its own distinct variety of magic, and that the worlds are stacked on top of each other, so you might have to go through two worlds to reach a third.
The romance subplot was almost non-existent, which was a plus, as it meant the relationships between characters felt real and organic. Schwab left me wanting to see more of the four worlds she has created (one of which, ‘Gray London’, is our own planet in the eighteenth century), but Kell and Lila explore them enough to fill in some small details that flesh out the worlds and make them feel more real.
Overall this book was enjoyable and relaxed, and I’m looking forward to reading another book set in the same world(s).
—Thanks for reading!—