Kell is an Antari, a magician that can travel between parallel worlds. Kell also has a smuggling problem, despite the fact that carrying objects from one world to another is considered illegal. When in White London on an official trip, Kell is approached by a frantic woman, and is handed an object that he soon realizes he cannot give up, lest it fell into the wrong hands.
Why this book?: I’ve already had the joy of reading A Darker Shade of Magic once, but when the third, and final, book, A Conjuring of Light, was released, I decided I needed the full affect, and reread the first two before finishing the series.
Engrossing and brilliant
There are a lot of things I could go on about this book, but I’ll try to limit myself.
One of the first things that Schwab pitches at you is the world building, which is flaunted in a way that immediately hooks you. Grey London (of the four Londons that there are) is introduced first, and is painted as 18th century London, which gives you a basis. From there, Schwab artfully crafts the other Londons, all unique and wonderful but still connecting to the “real” London. Red London, the one with magic, is where Kell is from, and of which is the most extravagant. Then Grey London. And then there’s White London–dark, and dangerous, and cold. I could feel it through the pages, how chilled just traveling there in a fictional world could make me. Another character that you should know comes from there, Holland, who is also an Antari, like Kell. They are the only two known Antari, and everyone is in awe of the two of them. Holland, however, is nothing like Kell.
Beyond the world building, everything goes all out. The lore, and Black London (the fourth, and last, London), as well as the plot. The plot is the only place where I could find a single problem (in my opinion). The real conflict doesn’t start until later, around the 150 page mark. Those first 150 pages are filled with character development, world building, and build-up to the actual conflict. I’ve seen this bother a few people, but it felt like it enhanced the eventual conflict, rather than delay it.
How can I choose only ONE favorite character???
Seriously. Anything I say about any character will probably make someone fall in love. Kell = always grumpy, always frowning, but has a heart of gold. Lila = cross-dressing thief and wannabe pirate, master of snark. Rhy = biracial, bisexual prince who it actually the prince of extravagance and parties. Holland = tortured character that just needs a BREAK.
Not only are the characters amazing, but also their relationships end up growing on you. Kell and Rhy aren’t brothers by blood, but are just as close. Their love for each other literally makes my heart weep. Kell and Lila’s relationship, and how it develops throughout the book and how it ends up affecting both Kell and Lila. Holland and Kell’s relationship, though there barely is one, is honestly heartbreaking??
Schwab also leaves a lot open for the sequel, A Gathering of Shadows, but also leaves you with a sense of closure. A Darker Shade of Magic would have done well as a stand-alone, but is also the type of book that people just want more and more of. It was near addicting, and in all honesty, on my first time reading it, I had finished it in one day.
Final Rating: ★★★★★
A Darker Shade of Magic has so many unique elements that it automatically falls into the spot of being a favorite. The world building and characters are unique and lovable, and all I can say is that I love this novel, and V.E. Schwab knows how to rip a heart out.
Would I Recommend?
YES!! Especially if you’re a lover of high fantasy and parallel worlds. And snarky characters. And cross-dressing thieves and magic.
Trigger Warning for self harm, though. The Antari magic system is based around using blood, so Kell and Holland are often using a blade to cut themselves.
Published: November 1st, 2015
Publisher: Tor Books
Page Count: 400
Genre: Fantasy/High Fantasy
Synopsis: via Goodreads
Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.
There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. 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.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, 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.