Book: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
Author: VE Schwab
I have been hearing so much about this book in the last year or so, and nearly everything I heard about it was good, and the concept sounded exactly like something that I would enjoy, so I just had to pick it up. I was slightly nervous because of all the hype, usually hyped books cannot help but disappoint me. However, I am happy to say that this wasn’t the case with this book, I really enjoyed it, in fact it’s one of my favourite books of the year so far. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
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.
I guess the best place to start with this book is the characters. I loved Kell, he was sassy but also lost and flawed and feeling out of place and he was just so cute and you wanted to just give him a hug and yet high five him at the same time. He’s mysterious and charming and defiant and protective and magical…..and I just love him okay, the guy is awesome. I have definitely added him to my list of book boyfriends. Rhy was cute and precious and I loved his charm and wit and just everything about him, I hope there is more of him in the next book because there wasn’t really enough of him in this book. I loved the relationship between him and Kell as well (they’re brothers), the banter between the two of them was great and I’m hoping for more of it in the next book. One lingering question about Kell is how he lost his memory (it’s mentioned right at the very beginning that he doesn’t remember anything about his life before he came to live with the royal family, which makes sense given that he was young at the time but as it’s a fantasy book, I feel like there must be more to it, plus he has a mark that is indicated to be connected to his memory loss, so I’ll be interested to see what’s up with that). Plus I love Kell’s magical coat (it has many sides and can basically turn into whatever coat he wants), and I want one myself! It would save having to pick out the right coat to go with your outfit, if you had multiple coats in one!
However my absolute favourite character has to be Lila Bard. She was a total BAMF. She’s a female pirate which on it’s own is awesome, but she’s reckless and cheeky and mischievous and funny and determined and feisty and brave and basically everything that I love in a female character. I liked her back and forth banter with Kell, they had a great dynamic and I actually liked that it didn’t develop into romance, I mean they are definitely shippable and there are a few romantic moments, but they were great as friends, they had each other’s backs and they worked really well together, so I wouldn’t be disappointed if they remained just friends (equally, I wouldn’t be opposed to them becoming a couple either). There was really barely any romance in this book and I found that refreshing, it’s nice to be able to just focus on the story, without any romantic subplot distracting from the main plot. I loved the first meeting between the two of them in particular, it was so perfectly done.
The villains were also very well drawn. The Dane Twins (rulers of White London) were psychotic and power hungry and made me flinch every time they appeared on the page. Holland was complex, he was hollow and evil and the perfect foil to Kell and yet he was enslaved by the Danes and you couldn’t help but feel sorry for him at the same time, he was dark and complicated and generally quite fascinating, I would totally love to read a Holland backstory (in fact a backstory of any of the characters in this book would be great).
It took me a while to get used to the structure of the book, it’s separated into different parts and the parts each have a small number of chapters (between 3-6) and that’s quite different to anything I’ve ever read before, but once I got used to it, it flowed quite well. It was relatively slow paced to start off with, but I didn’t even mind that, because the writing was so engaging and the characters were so interesting and once the pace picked up, it really didn’t let go (considering that the whole book took place over the span of just a few days!). There were some great action sequences, particularly towards the end.
I loved the magic in this book, it was so different to the way that magic is done in any other book that I’ve read, it felt alive, like magic was another character in the book and I really loved that, it really brought the setting to life. All the magic was so cool, the Antari magic, the stone magic, everything, it was great.
The world building was amazing, all the worlds felt so different, I loved all of the different Londons (my only gripe would be that we didn’t get to see Black London), the setting of 1819 felt really authentic and I think it fit really well with the world. All of the Londons felt different and I loved the different cultural aspects, different languages, settings, degrees of magic etc. Everything in this book felt so alive, I loved that!
I particularly loved Part Eleven with the masquerade, what can I say, I love the idea of people dressing up in costumes and having masks and not knowing who people are and it makes a great setting for sneaking around!
There were some twists in the book that I wasn’t expecting and I found them really interesting and really well done.
Kind of off topic but there was a merchant called Calla in this book and that made me think of Calla from The Raven King which made me laugh!
The writing was very engaging and I really enjoyed Victoria Schwab’s writing style, as I’ve said, it felt like everything came alive, the setting, the characters, the magic and I think it takes a very special author to do that. Sure there were a few typos and grammatical errors, but that’s an editing issue and honestly, it never really bothers me unless it’s incredibly frequent (which it wasn’t).
It’s pretty clear from the start that Lila is not normal and whilst I’m not going to give anything away, I definitely have theories and I’m excited to see if any of them come true in the next book. I’ve also been looking at other theories which make me very excited. Basically lots of theories going round!
Everything seemed pretty well wrapped up at the end, but there are still lots of things to be revealed and I’m really excited to read the next book and find out what happens next and hopefully catch up before A Conjuring of Light comes out next year! Basically this book is awesome, the world is great, the characters are great, the writing is great, you must pick it up and read it right now if you haven’t already.
My rating: 5/5
The next book I review will either be Look Who’s Back (my #RockMyTBR read for July) or of Nevernight (my current e-ARC that I’m reading).