by V.E. Schwab
Reviewed by SA and KM
Magic. Multiple Londons. A coat with more than two sides. A Darker Shade of Magic the most fantastic fantasy novel in ages, full of amazing characters, incredible world building, and, to top it off, a fast paced adventure that will leave you wanting for more.
Multiple Londons, multiple worlds that Kell can travel between, as one of the only men left in the world with the magic to do so. Red London, his home, a London full of live, vibrant magic; Grey London, a gritty, dirty London where magic is but a dream; and White London, ruled by tyrants, lay superimposed, only accessibly to the few who can travel between them. Magic is fought for, revered or controlled, but a certain fear lurks – stories of Black London, which had fallen years ago, warn of what happens when Magic is allowed to fester.
Though an ambassador for the red crown, Kell smuggles items between world, bringing small pieces of magic to where there is none, for a price. But when he is set up and accused of treason, he must unite with Delilah Bard, a cunning cross dressing thief and wannabe pirate, to set things right.
Things are not always what they seem, and the two must fight tooth and nail not just to survive, but to save all the worlds at once. And time is running out.
SA: Fast paced and utterly gripping, A Darker Shade of Magic is one of those novels that surprises you at every turn. Though you can’t tell this immediately: as the novel begins, I completely expected political intrigue, with royal power dynamics between the Londons, but the author was quick to change every assumption I had made. Schwab creates an incredible world, establishing the rules of magic, before throwing us head first into a race against time. It’s a fast, whirlwind plot, that will actually leave you breathless (I know I was).
Kell and Lilah are the heart and soul of this novel. Kell is a little rough around the edges, a clever, talented Antari, a magician capable not only of manipulating all the elements, but also able to travel between worlds. Lilah in a word, is a badass. She’s a crossdressing thief with dreams of owning a ship and being a pirate. They are an oddly matched pair, and there’s chemistry between them, even if there is no romantic interest between them. They balance each other out – the cool headed and hot headed – and their varied perspectives enhance the read, breathing life into this world.
KM: Victoria is one of my favorite authors; the way she writes just engulfs you and leaves you with the biggest book-hangover when you’re finished. If you haven’t heard of her, it’s totally okay, but you should jump on reading A Darker Shade of Magic. You shouldn’t stop there; Vicious and The Archived may not be in the same universe, but they all share that spark that makes them shine.
Kell is the type of person we all wanted to be at seventeen (alright, maybe that’s just me): magical and a bit of a rule-breaker. Now, I can’t say what shenanigans you’d get up to if you had the ability to travel through worlds, but I can say I’d be a prankster legend. And I’d escape all those awkward moments where family asks you to come to dinner with all your relatives, “Sorry, bro, I have to be in Black London. Peace out.” It’s probably for the best I don’t have any powers.
There is literally no downside to reading this book. It’s already been released in the UK and the US; it’s already been released in paperback (and the cover art is gorgeous!). I will say though that it has already sold out of warehouses once in the past few weeks since it’s been released, so hop to your nearest bookstore quickly to grab a copy. Victoria’s already writing the sequel; we should have too wait long for more Londons.