Review: A Darker Shade of Magic – definitely magical and entertaining

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Publication date: February 24th, 2015 by Tor Books
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 378
Links to: Amazon | Goodreads

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.


And that definition, ladies and gentlemen, applies perfectly for this book. Because every single page in it screamed “badass” at the top of its metaphorical lungs.

Imagine a world that looks like this:

Now imagine four world like that, all of which have magic as a part of them. Each of these parallel worlds are called “London”, but they’re differentiated with colors.

So we have 4 Londons – Red, Grey, Black and White – and each of them is different. These differences between them are basically thanks to the culture of its people and the balance between magic and people. You can see a better explanation for each of them in this attempt of a graph I made:

Red London is the home for our hero Kell, one of the last people who can travel between Londons. He gains his life by sending the letters the kings from the Londons write to each other, but after taking with him something he was not supposed to take he gets himself in trouble and meets the thief Delilah – Lila – Bard to make company to him in his mission to return the object to its home in Black London.

These two people I mentioned before are the main characters of the story, and oh, how I loved them! As in V.E. Schwab’s Vicious, the characters are perfectly drawn and developed. None of them are perfect, but they’re all badass in their own way.

Lila was perhaps my favourite. She can be described with this quote:

“You’re very fond of weapons.

Lila stared at him blankly. “Who isn’t?”

If that doesn’t leave clear the level of badassery she has, then I don’t know what will. She’s selfish, brave, adventurous and cunning, but she’s also willing to help others as long as she’s made sure her life will be spared.

But as I said, all the characters are well-drawn… and so is the world-building.

The world-building was fantastic. When the four Londons were introduced, I was confused, but soon I understood perfectly each of them. You see, everything in ADSOM’s world(s) can be summarized in one word: Magic.

Think of magic as the Force (sorry for getting Star Wars in the way): Some kind of energy that surrounds us and needs to be in balance in order for the world(s) to work perfectly.

You can see even the world-building is badass. But can the writing be so? Oh yes.

The writing. What can I say about it?

• It’s freaking fantastic.
• It flows easily.
• It’s not clogged with metaphors.
• Has a 3rd person narrator that gives a complete view of the events.

Why, yes, this was a great book. It has confirmed my love for V.E. Schwab, and now it has left me waiting for the next installment very eagerly. No, no, there are no cliffhangers (thank God), but there’s obviously more to the story, and I can’t wait to see how it goes from where it left.


4 stars



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