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.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Format & Pages: Hardcover, 400
Published: February 24, 2015, Tor Books
Source: Providence Public Libraries
Will I Buy It? Yes.
I finally read it. The fantasy novel of the year. And it was one hell of a ride.
The protagonists were extremely gripping. Kell is our main character. He is one of the last Antari, an ancient magical race that can travel between worlds. He was wonderful: full of life, but with some deeper secrets. I wished that he was more high-spirited like his brother Rhy, but his brooding gave a certain mystery to his overall personality. Lilah, the catty thief who he teams up with, added just the right amount of spark to the story. She was smart and saucy, with a good amount of edginess. It really warmed my heart to see her compassionate side come out a few times. She has a lot of potential.
However, the antagonists were a whole different story. I felt like the evil Dane twins, King Athos and Queen Astrid, weren’t fleshed out enough. They were definitely creepy, with their bloodless skin and forbidden magic, but they lacked depth. V.E. Schwab just threw them into the story, and the reader didn’t get enough background to feel scared or apprehensive. As for their mind slave, Holland, he could’ve been a fabulous bad guy! The first description of him immediately intrigued me:
“…Holland terrified him. He didn’t know if it was the evenness in the man’s tone or his strangely faded appearance or his haunted eyes – one black, of course, the other a milky green. Or perhaps it was the way he seemed to made more of water and stone than flesh and blood and soul. Whatever it was, the foreign Antari had always given Parrish the shivers.”
Is that not insanely cool and horrific? But after this, the reader again is given no backstory. All we know is that this guy’s evil. His battles and conversations are written very well, and I enjoyed the darkness and hostility. But I couldn’t seem to empathize with him enough for me to care about his part in the story.
The plot was absolutely fantastic. It sucked me in and deepened with every chapter. It was complex and thrilling, but I never got confused. Each character’s mission was made clear from the first few pages. I loved the way that magic was infused into this. It didn’t have that little-kid, fairy tale feel; it was dark and twisted.
What a masterpiece. For a YA/fantasy piece, this was very well written. It didn’t have that teenage feel. No, it was sharp, elegant, and chilling. I cannot wait for the sequel.
Buy This Book!
Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, she has been known to say “tom-ah-toes”, “like”, and “y’all”. She currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and when she is not wandering in search of buried treasure, fairy tales, and good tea, she’s tucked in a cafe, dreaming up monsters.