Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

23403402Title: A Darker Shade of Magic

Author: V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic, #1

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction

Page Number: 400

Date Published: February 27th of 2015

Publisher: Titan Books

Synopsis (through Goodreads):

Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 of 5)

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I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.

Back in the old days of yore—2015 to be exact—I gave up on this book after several chapters in. Whether it was the sheer fact that I was under so much pressure in college or just that I didn’t really like the premise of the book, I may never know. I’ll leave that aspect to the past. But no kidding, dramatics aside, really I just forgot why I DNF-ed this this when it first came out because it is so good! (And yes, I’m totally beating myself up for doing that! 😣)

What I quickly observed when I was reading this recently was the fact that there were too few main characters. Looking back, the only characters I remembered with all my heart was Lila, Kell, and Holland. And for me, that was sort of weird since most of the time, fantasy books or series have a LOT of intricate and complex characters. But on the other hand, I also observed that Schwab painted the picture of the few characters that stuck to me excellently and very realistically, i.e. they have flaws and have such distinct stories in their past that gives their characters a twist. But as much as I had few characters enamored to me, I also noticed that there were lacking areas where I would have gladly read the backstory of, for example, Kell. I was hoping for more on their background and how they have come about to their present stature and the likes. However, this is a series so perhaps I should be looking forward to that in the next books.

My favorite character of the bunch is Lila Bard. It’s such a wonderful breath of fresh air that she is not the clichéd oh-I’m-beautiful-but-I’m-also-dangerous type of character. She is presented straight-up what she is. For Pete’s sake, she dresses up as a boy! (On a completely different note, it reminded me of that one episode of Sherlock where Molly Hooper dressed as a man! Haha) I loved how badass she is and I cannot wait to get to know more of her. My second favorite character is Holland simply because he is just so mysterious! And I was constantly feeling that there is something more about him than meets the eye. (Get it? Because antari eyes? No? Okay.) The characters need probing into—and I love it. You don’t just take them as they are but rather they have different sets of layers in them that needs to be closely scrutinized.

I’m also happy that there wasn’t really any romance factor of any kind in the air, or, okay okay, maybe perhaps there is a teensy bit but that’s easily tolerable. For some reason, I have a feeling that the story is best suited without it…it just does. I also want to add that I think this is the kind of YA book that even more mature people can get into.

Now, my favorite part when it comes to fantasy books! The world-building. I must implore for your forgiveness, especially to those who have praised the writing so much, but I felt the world-building was a little too bland, for the lack of a better term. Now, allow me to explain myself. In the story, there are four Londons. Not just one. Not just two. But FOUR Londons. It’s like she’s not making one world. She’s making four. All at once. So, I think the level of difficulty in that aspect of outlining the different worlds was particularly higher. I was hoping for more details on White and Grey London. I was hoping for more immersive characteristics of the different setting in the story but I didn’t get to have that completely. There was this sense of an unfinished business. (But I must also bear in mind, this is a series!) The main goal of the story was to get that black stone back to where it belonged—to Black London. However, I was bit disappointed because I noticed the lack of outlining of Black London. It was just too vague. And I don’t know if that’s really the intent of the author but I sure would have liked to know more of it.

Although it is still a good one, it’s not something that pulled me in at one snap. It took me quite a while to get into it because I was quite thrown off with all the new terms such as the as travars, as hasari, etc. and then add the fact that the pacing was quite slow. But after about thirty percent in, I got the swag going on. (Yes, I just said that. I’m just 2cool4u. 😂It certainly didn’t engage me right away like how the books of other fantasy authors I’ve read did e.g., Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir.

I really liked the book despite all of my little knick-knacks here and there. I will be reading the next book, surely. I didn’t particularly liked the ending for this one but I guess that’s another reason to look forward to reading the next book.

The world was hers.

The worlds were hers.

And she was going to take them all.

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*I think if I had the type of Kell’s coat but in pants or skirt or dress variety, I would most certainly save more money.

*I feel like—oh, I know it, maybe?—maybe, just maybe, Lila is also an Antari because of  this theory on Lila’s other eye, which we all know is an artificial eye.



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*Cover image and Synopsis via Goodreads

*I am a Book Depository affiliate which means I get a teensy bit of commission when you use my link to purchase the books.

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