A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Shades of Magic #1)
Published February 27, 2015 by Titan Books, 386 pp.
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.
How goes it?
Ugh, magic is so tricky. As if we didn’t know that already, but A Darker Shade of Magic drives that point home in spades. For Kell, it’s sometimes a burden, for Lila it’s a way out, and for Rhy, well he just wishes he had it because he wants to be a better ruler someday. Overall, this was okay, just that I was expecting more, but there are parts of it I really liked.
My three favorite things about this book are that first, it’s so descriptive – you can see the river of red winding through Kell’s London, the dreariness of Grey, and the bleached, lifeless wash of color in White. You could just see yourself walking along the streets in each different London.
Second is Kell. Kell is a doll. A doll that smells like flowers when he uses magic, bless. Actually, most of the characters here are interesting, but for some reason I couldn’t feel for them. (Except for Kell, I wanted everything good for Kell) Though they are intriguing, especially Holland, and the twins.
Third is Rhy’s and Kell’s relationship, which, thank goodness, remained intact throughout the entire book. Despite Kell feeling a bit used or taken advantage of, he and Rhy are each other’s best friend and confidante. More Kell and Rhy in the future pls.
Honestly, the book as a whole was just okay. It was like I was waiting for something to happen, but it never really reached that peak I was expecting. Even that grand takeover of the Red London palace kind of fell short of what I expected to be a huge magical showdown. The parts of it – the Londons, the cast of characters, the magic – are all so interesting, but put together it lacked that bang I was expecting from such great components.
This is my first book from V.E. Schwab, and I have other books of hers that I want to read. I do actually like her writing style, so I’ll definitely pick up her other books in the future.
3 paper planes, primarily for a boy who smells like flowers when he uses magic, and the Londons he travels between, but overall an okay read.