Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Adult fantasy
I loved this book! It was exactly what I needed to read right now. A Darker Shade of Magic is clever, and brilliant, and captivating.
She looked at him as if it were a strange question. And then she shook her head. “Death comes for everyone,” she said simply. “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.”
V.E. Schwab is a powerhouse when it comes to world-building, and I was impressed at how effortless it was for the reader to become immersed and quickly understand the ways of the world she was building. Schwab’s backdrop involves four parallel worlds, all with parallel London’s. However, each London, like the world surrounding it, has a different ruler, history, and even scent. There is Grey London, the magic-less city; Red London, the healthy empire; White London, the starving world; and Black London, the world that was destroyed.
Only Antari can travel between the London’s, and Kell is one of the last of the Antari’s. He is the personal ambassador (and adopted Prince) of Red London’s Maresh royal family, and carries the personal correspondences between the royal family’s in each world. Kell, however, smuggles on the side, and one day he smuggles something out of White London that could wreak havoc on all of the worlds.
“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” he asked Lila now.
“Bad magic, Kell had called it.
No, thought Lila now. Clever magic.
And clever was more dangerous than bad any day of the week.”
There are so many things I loved about this book. The invented language, the magic, the epic adventure with a female cut-purse from Grey London – Delilah Bard – and the stubborn but loyal Antari – Kell. It is dark and violent, but also filled with small humorous asides. The type of magic in Scwab’s created world is fun and jealousy-inducing….well, at least in Red London!
The two main characters are fantastic. First there is Kell. A rare blood magician, I squirmed a little everytime he had to slice his palm or arm to travel between the worlds. His coat that is more than one coat that he uses to blend into the surroundings of the different London’s was such a marvelous touch. Kell is a force to be reckoned with, but with sentimental weak spots: his brother Rhy, and later in the story, Lila Bard.
Delilah Bard. Lila. Badass, pickpot, adventure heroine extraordinaire. She is tough, and she does what she has to do to survive. I loved her. She comes into Kell’s life after helping him in a dangerous situation, and strongarms him into letting her tag along for the ride. Which is good for Kell, because she ends up helping him out of trouble so many times that I lost count.
“I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”
“I apologize for shooting you in the leg. I was myself entirely.”
The humor and easy banter between these two was wonderful, without being over-the-top. I like a fantasy book that does not become overwhelemed by the romance angle. I look forward to seeing what further adventures are in store for these two!
Favorite supporting characters: The Dane twins, Astrid and Athos. Those two are evil! They use magic to control and/or possess others in body and mind – it reminded me a bit of the Lunar ability from the Lunar chronicles. Those two can really mess with your mind.
Least favorite supporting characters: Rhy. Heir to Red London’s throne, and a bit of a jerk, albeit with a good heart buried in there somewhere. I felt he was the least developed of the primary characters, so I hope that changes in the next book.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars