A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
How do I even begin to describe A Darker Shade of Magic. The world – it’s so imaginative, the concept of four interlocking universes, with magic flowing between them, and special magicians called Travelers able to pass between them. And the magic itself is created in such a way, that it lends itself to the danger in the world and one of the prime obstacles of the plot, which makes the setting unique for the story – something I like in fantasy books. Also, there are two kinds of magic – elemental and blood, which is an interesting combination in that they are both commanded differently and react differently.
Kell, an Antari, can command both, and is basically a very powerful person in his world, but his existence is a lonely one. Lila, a thief, is seemingly normal but gets caught up in his story when she picks his pocket. The thing I liked about their partnership is how they complement each other – Kell is the cautious tender-hearted one and Lila is the fierce storm living for adventure. Also, I loved the fact that this book focused on the worlds and their developing partnership, rather than any romance. If there is to be any, I feel it will be a slow burn, but I am very interested in how their story plays out further. The ending of this book felt very complete, but of course, the possibilities are myriad. There is still Black London to be explored, and Lila’s future aspirations to be a pirate, as well as Kell’s fate. I am just to excited to read the next book.
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