A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Synopsis from GoodReads:
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.
Oh man I LOVED this book!
*clears throat* All right, let’s try this again with a bit less enthusiasm and a bit more review. (Disclaimer: I wrote this review after finishing book 2, although I tried to forget that fact while I wrote this)
The world-building in this book was top notch. I loved the idea of multiple worlds, layered on top of each other so you have to travel through one to get to another (although only certain people can traverse worlds), and with certain places being ‘fixed points’ in each world. Such as the city of London in general, the three bars/taverns found in exactly the same spot (albeit under different names), etc.
The magic system is fascinating and makes a lot of sense, although I would have liked to see more discussion of the elemental aspects instead of just the blood magic Keller does. But I did appreciate what we learned about how magic works, and I liked the differing philosophies on magic.
Although while we’re talking about magic, am I the only one who found the use of magic in Red London incredibly wasteful? I mean, seriously, they use magic for everything, and combined with what we learn about the sealing of doors after Black London fell… I have to say, I’m feeling very judgmental.
Now, while I loved the book and couldn’t put it down after a certain point, the beginning started off a bit slow for me. I liked the characters pretty much immediately, but nothing felt like it was happening, so it was a slow, gradual increase of tension for me, building until I was hooked. And that worked for me.
You know what else worked for me? The characters. We get to see a lot of different sides to characters both major and minor – although some are flatter than others (the Danes, for example) – and I loved that. Most of them felt very fleshed out, from minor characters like Calla, Barron, Parrish, and Gen to the major players of Kell, Lila, Rhy, and Holland. And I can’t be the only one who wants to know more about Barron – there were so many hints about him and Lila or him and Kell or just him in general, but not much fleshing out of his past, just fleshing out of him.
Schwab has created a wonderful world populated with believable characters and an entertaining plot. I suspect that this will be one of those series I end up reading over and over again.
Five stars, would highly recommend – although maybe not until the third book’s out. (The wait for it is going to be agony I tell you, agony)