A Darker Shade of Magic
by V.E. Schwab
Read: March 9 - 23, 2015
Published: February 24, 2015 by Tor Books
Source: Borrowed from Heather @ The Flyleaf Review (THANK YOU)
Category: Historical London, Parallel worlds, Magic, Mayhem
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
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.
Although I always try to choose books I'll love, there's no way to predict how a story will affect me until I dig into it. Even then it isn't until after I've closed the last page and stepped away from the tale that I realize how much it has impacted me - or sometimes not. When I cannot stop thinking about a world and it's characters, feel an intense longing to see them all again and get caught daydreaming about what's happening now, I know I've found a gem. This is one of those. Rich world building, vibrant characters and lots of bloodshed and magic, A Darker Shade of Magic is the type of story that seeps into your bones.
What's funny is this story includes two elements that usually make me run in the opposite direction, and yet I loved it. The first is a parallel world, which along with love triangles, tends to give me whiplash (and hives) with its back and forth. However, a few things set this one a part. The three Londons - Red, White and Grey - are very different places, each with its own personality, scents and flavors. Also the characters that reside in them are distinct, and not just versions of each other. I completely fell in love with Kell, Lila and Rhy. A few others I loathed with an equal passion, but they were all complex and unique.
Second, I love a good love story, and I usually avoid books without romance in them. Although there isn't any romance in A Darker Shade of Magic, I've fallen in love with these characters myself, and I see seeds of possibilities to come. Slow burn love is my favorite, and I hope there's at least one of those in this series. But even though I see tendrils, I'm not certain of the direction the romance(s) will take. In this first installment, I enjoyed getting to know the characters and watching them get to know each other. Still, I'm ready for some sailing ships in book two.
Because of the high level of intensity, it took me a while to get through this book. But I think that's a reason it so strongly seeped into my mind and heart. The three Londons can be deadly places and characters face frightening magic and terrifying opponents, including the stark white terror of the Dane twins *shudders*. There were several times I was afraid one or more of them wouldn't survive. You'll have to read for yourself and see if they do.
Victoria Schwab is a crafter of words as much as she is worlds and the people in them, and her language is is a visceral part of her stories. From the menswear wearing pickpocket, Lila who longs to be a pirate; to the two-toned eyed Kell who travels between worlds with his blood and an incredible coat; to the spoiled prince with his endless charm and love for his people, I cannot wait for more. I'm utterly besotted with A Darker Shade of Magic.
Love Triangle Factor: N/A. No romance, but I have favorites and please no love triangles!
Cliffhanger Scale: Low, clearly more story, but installment wraps itself up well.