A Darker Shade of Magic
By: V.E. Schwab
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Genre: High Fantasy
Page Count: 400
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, traveling 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.
This review will be spoiler free.
This series has been on my radar for a long time. As someone who reads a lot of fantasy, and especially high fantasy, this is one of the most frequently recommended books. I had it on my list, but for some reason it kept moving down the list as I tried to complete other series, or as I got side tracked (you know how it goes with book shopping, you rarely leave with the book you went there to find). I finally bought it and I am so happy I did! This really reads like an adult fantasy story, and I know that it is sometimes marketed as YA and sometimes not, I think the sophistication and darker overall feel of the story really puts it more in the adult fantasy genre. I could not be happier to have found a truly great high fantasy series again, I always try and not get my hopes up because if I’m being honest my standards for high fantasy are pretty high up there. This book not only surpassed my expectations, but managed to tear me away from school work, which right now is a feat in and of itself.
The world building is flawlessly integrated in to the story, with no moments feeling like an information dump, but still giving enough information that I never felt lost. I enjoyed the brief moments of multiple POV, and I thought it was smart to not break the book up in equal parts, but to instead just jump to different characters when the story called for it. All the characters had distinct voices and I really felt like I was seeing things through their eyes during their POVs. Kell was of course my favourite, I love a good troubled magician as a protagonist, and I also thought it was refreshing to have a male main character, since most of the YA fantasy I read is driven by female leads (this is of course awesome, but sometimes I like to read something different too).
The action had a perfect pace, with a lot of tension and suspense to keep me hooked through the whole book. I am already clamouring to get book two, and I am actually happy I waited so long to read this because now I don’t have to wait to read the next instalment! There are definitely some great twists and turns in this now, and I have no doubt that there are more to come in books 2 and 3.
If you are a fan of magical realism (Harry Potter anyone?) or fantasy of any kind, trust me this one’s for you! The story is incredibly unique and intriguing and the writing draws you in. I definitely recommend this book, but I will warn that if you start reading it you should clear your schedule because it is really hard to stop.
Have you read this series? let me know your thoughts in the comments!