Our Dark Duet

Monsters of Verity, Book 2
By V.E. Schwab (or Victoria Schwab)

I’m always excited when V.E. Schwab releases a new book! Especially one that ends a series. I read This Savage Song last year, and loved it, so I had high hopes for Our Dark Duet! It did not disappoint: though the reading experience was quite different.

Summary32075662

THE WORLD IS BREAKING. AND SO ARE THEY.

KATE HARKER isn’t afraid of monsters. She hunts them. And she’s good at it.

AUGUST FLYNN once yearned to be human. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

THE WAR HAS BEGUN.

THE MONSTERS ARE WINNING.

Kate will have to return to Verity. August will have to let her back in. And a new monster is waiting—one that feeds on chaos and brings out its victims’ inner demons.

Which will be harder to conquer: the monsters they face, or the monsters within?

Musings

Six months have passed since the events of This Savage Song, and Verity is in disarray. The northern half of the city has been taken over by Sloan, along with Alice, the malachai born of Kat’s actions from the end of the first book. Kate has run away to prosperity, as August has risen to lead the FTF. A new sunai has been born, Soro.

I don’t know how to really write this review, because I’m still reeling from the ending. I was entranced, per usual, by Schwab’s fantastic style, which flows seemingly effortlessly on the page – and elevated through short passages written in verse. Her short poems depicting the point of view of a monster unlike any other were by far my favorite part of this book. I would love it if there was a companion story entirely in that glorious style of hers, as it offered not only insight into the new enemy, but a real depth to the story.

I was excited to see my favorite characters again. Both have grown (or changed) since the last novel. Kate is shaken from her own actions, while August is more determined in his resolve. We find Kate in Prosperity fighting the monsters both of her past and the ones that plague a city that turns a blind eye on what lurks in the dark. Her isolation is at the forefront of her arc. August has got the voice of Leo in his head, pushing his monstrous side out as he tries to be a good leader. This is what Schwab writes the best: messed up people with confusing, conflicting feelings. She weaves complex characters that are relatable through their massive flaws.

And then, there are the monsters. Sloan gets his own POV, as he ruthlessly tries to satiate his thirst for Kate’s death. There’s Alice, Kate’s dark shadow. And then there’s something new: a creature that kills by inciting others to kill in a frenzy, whose reflection lives in a sliver in Kate’s eye, who we see through poetry. The author has managed to make monsters musical. It’s outstanding.

But there was something… missing. I don’t know what it is! The novel has a slow build, and an incredibly fast ending that left me shattered. The ending is magnificent. Heartbreaking. All the feels. Everything about it is amazing. And yet, the novel as a whole doesn’t feel as poignant as the other books by Schwab. I think it might be because so much of the strength of TSS came from the connection between Kate and August. The growth they experienced at each others’ side. I’m not even talking about romantic chemistry, just how well they work together. And here, we only get one small scene where they open up to each other. It was insanely beautiful.

But their own personal isolations made it harder for the reader to connect with them, and the story. And this is intentional, I see the novel couldn’t be written any other way. But this lack of connection made it feel less powerful than the last book.

Nevertheless, it was a fantastic conclusion to the duology. I highly recommend these two books.

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A Darker Shade of Magic: a Kniterary Afghan Block

Recently we introduced a new aspect of Readcommendations: Bookcrafting.

The Kniterary Afghan is going to be the biggest project that we’re crafting; it’s a full blanket constructed of thirty five squares made to look like our favorite book covers.

We’ve chosen V. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, which we reviewed a few weeks ago, for our first cover. I couldn’t be more excited for how it’s come out.

The pattern that we’ve created can be done in either stranded colorwork, double knitting (with a bit of duplicate stitch for certain parts), or cross-stitching. I’ll be doing my entire blanket in double knitting with duplicate stitch, but mine will not be reversible.

You can download the pattern for this block here: ADSOMPattern.

A Darker Shade of Magic

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.

Summary

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.

Musings

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.