A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
Published: February 24th 2015 by Tor Books
Rating: 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy, Magic, Adventure, Adult, Young Adult
Source: Purchased from Book Depository
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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.
This is by far my favourite novel by V. E. Schwab. The premise is magical, captivating and so ridiculously tense that I couldn’t put the book down.
The world building is absolutely rich in detail as we are introduced to alternative worlds, each having a distinct personality and aura to it. Once the worlds had all been linked as magic flowed freely between the Londons. However, since then the connection has been severed. Only the Antari, a rare magician, have authorised passage into these alternate worlds. Here enters Kell, a traveler for Red London who delivers the royal correspondents to each world. The world sounds complex, however, the writing and building of this world is very easy to understand.
As a character I was immediately captivated by Kell. On the surface he appears to have a stable life, one he’s content with as he travels from one world to another. However, underneath the surface there is a complexity and a vulnerability to him as he is plagued by the questions surrounding his identity. This is visually seen in the way that he abuses his status as a traveler to smuggle goods from one world to the other.
Although Kell may appear to be the lone wolf type, his relationship with Rhy is something I adored as the two appear to be opposite in their personalities but they both lean so heavily on each other. This is an aspect I’m excited to see explored in A Gathering of Shadows, especially after what happened towards the end.
We also have Lila who at heart is a free spirit. She’s independent, fierce and because of her harsh upbringing she is very guarded and she doesn’t seem to want to form any emotional attachments to the people that come and go in her life. As Kell and Lila’s paths entwine the two learn to work together and begin to trust in one another.
There is no romance in this book, something that I really appreciated because of everything else that was going on in the book. Kell and Lila definitely have a connection though and I do hope that it’s explored in the next instalment of the series. I’m all for a slow burn with this.
My review can do no justice to how beautifully crafted this book is. It’s highly intense and so atmospheric that I actually have a solid image of this world embedded in my mind. A Gathering of Shadows will be my most anticipated book next year.
A little side note. I absolutely adored how badass the book covers are. So much that I actually own the paperback UK version and the Hardback.