A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Published by Tor Books on February 24, 2015
Genres: Adult, Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure, Magic
Pages: 398 Format: Hardcover Source: Purchased
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.
As a traveler between worlds, Kell finds himself in a tricky position when one of his side missions goes awry. Will he be able to stop an unraveling power before its’ too late?
I picked up Victoria Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic shortly after its release and I finally got around to read it in 2016. Everything about this book screamed ‘You’re going to love it!’, so I have no clue why I waited this long. Turns out my first instinct was right on point. With three vastly different worlds, powerful magic, and a slew of intriguing characters, A Darker Shade of Magic does not disappoint.
Grey London, Red London, White London
Creating three locales within the same topography and yet such remarkably different places takes a great amount of talent and Schwab absolutely excels. Each London has a completely unique depiction: Grey with it’s dreary skies and lack of magic, Red with such vibrancy and flourishing life, and White drained of all color, harsh and bitter. These worlds are so fully fleshed out and the juxtaposition of them so extreme. The attention to detail is excellent, creating gorgeous imagery. Victoria Schwab gives us a master class in worldbuilding.
A Magician & A Cutthroat
At the center of it all is Kell, a magician capable of traveling between the worlds, smuggling artifacts in his spare time, and Delilah Bard, a cutthroat and thief struggling to survive with big dreams of being a pirate. These two make quite the pair from the first moment they run afoul of each other, to a tenuous reliance, and finally a mutual respect. Even in supporting roles Rhy, Holland, the Danes, and many more were just as interesting and well thought out.
Overall, A Darker Shade of Magic was my first fantastic foray with Victoria Schwab. This story captured my heart and I was so engrossed with all the rich details and wonderful characters. The narrative was compelling with two distinct points of view and it was easy to become invested in the outcome. I would definitely recommend this to pretty much everyone and cannot wait to get my hands on A Gathering of Shadows!
Kell wore a very peculiar coat.
It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.
Some thought magic came from the mind, others the soul, or the heart, or the will.
But Kell knew it came from the blood.
Looking for trouble, he’d say. You’re gonna look till you find it.
Trouble is the looker, she’d answer. It keeps looking till it finds you. Might as well find it first.
Why do you want to die?
I don’t, she’d say. I just want to live.
Below a gleaming silver belt, she wore fitted pants that tapered into tall boots (rumor had it that a man once spat at her for refusing to wear a dress; she’d cut off his lips).
“The world sits in balance,” said Kell, “humanity in one hand, magic in the other. The two exist in every living thing, and in a perfect world, they maintain a kind of harmony, neither exceeding the other. But most worlds are not perfect.”
So, have you read A Darker Shade of Magic yet? Favorite character or world? Who’s ridiculously excited for A Gathering of Shadows? Let me know all of your thoughts in the comments below!