Synopsis: Kell is one of the last Antari – magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.
Kell was raised in Arnes – Red London – and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, travelling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.
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.
After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then 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.
Author: V.E. Schwab
The first V.E. Schwab book I ever read was City of Ghosts, which is an MG book that came out last year. Even before I finished it, I knew I had to read another one of her books.
So I started with A Darker Shade of Magic.
I read a lot of incredible books in 2018 and this was no exception, but this was the book that reminded me of why I adore reading fantasy. Not only that, but this book reminded me of the very reason I love reading. There was something about A Darker Shade of Magic – and the writing of V.E. Schwab – that really made an impact. The stunning writing from Schwab meant I was able to get lost in the world and so it’s no surprise that I was able to completely devour this book within days. I knew from reading City of Ghosts that I was going to enjoy all of Schwab’s works, but this is the book that cemented Schwab as one of my all-time favourite authors.
I’ve always seen people rave about Schwab’s writing style and how descriptive it is. But it’s so much more than that. The words pull you into the pages. It’s not that you can imagine the scene in your head, but the way the words flow on the page make it feel as though you’re there watching it with your own two eyes. Schwab has a gift, and we’re incredibly lucky that she has chosen to share that gift for storytelling with us.
The book starts with a bang. You’re introduced to Kell, a magician from a race of travellers called Antari, a race that is incredibly rare and has all but died out with the exception of Kell and one other by the name of Holland. Kell’s magic enables him to travel between alternate worlds. Each alternate world has a London. That’s where their similarities end. Each London has a colour. There’s Grey London, Red London, White London – and, previously, a Black London. Our London is their Grey London. Kell is from Red London.
‘There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London. See? I’m a fast learner.’
The entire concept is intriguing. I was hooked from the very beginning. Although, between Schwab’s writing style, the enticing plot, and the beautifully developed worlds in which this story takes place, it’s no wonder that I was hooked from the get-go. How could I not be when it’s got absolutely everything that I love in a book packed in only 400 pages! The plot itself is not overly complicated, which can happen with fantasy. It was developed well and was not at all predictable. The book may be fantasy but it’s way more of a character driven book rather than plot heavy, which I think makes it a great book for anyone new to the fantasy genre.
If there was ever a character that felt three-dimensional, it would be Kell. It was very clear as soon as you’re introduced to Kell that this is a character with an abundance of layers – and I don’t just mean his fabulous coat (which is the ultimate definition of goals). He is charming, calm in the face of adversity, protective – oh, and did I forget to mention, super powerful. He also oozes sexiness… can I say that in this? Is that something we say about characters? I don’t know, but I’m saying it anyway. His backstory, which is both simultaneously tragic and hopeful, did not feel forced under the basis of conjuring up the ideal protagonist. It felt natural, made complete sense to the story, as well as serving as a basis to his personality and motivation throughout the book.
I have no other way of describing Lila Bard other than strong, fierce, and badass. She refused to allow other people to dictate to her how she should live her life. Being female is not going to hold her back. While I didn’t feel as though all her motivations were justified in this book, I thought she had one of the best arcs in this book. I’m looking forward to getting to know her more in the second book.
I could talk about the characters in this book for hours and hours. I adored them all. Even Holland, who was creepy and devastating. I loved the motivation behind his character. It added a frantic, destructive element to his actions that I thought was executed brilliantly. My one complaint in regards to the characters in this book is that we didn’t get nearly enough time with Rhy. I needed more Rhy. I’m a sucker for sibling relationships, especially close bonds between brothers, and so I’m hoping the relationship between Kell and Rhy is going to be explored more in the second book, A Gathering of Shadows (which I already own and cannot wait to get started on).
‘I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.’
Overall, this book was the definition of perfect for me. It was the easiest book I’ve ever had to rate – it was a no-brainer that this book deserved five stars! A Darker Shade of Magic is a book I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who enjoys fantasy, superb writing, an enticing plot that leaves you hanging on to every word until the final page, and characters that are so beautifully developed that you simply cannot get enough of them.