Publication Date: February 24th 2015
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre(s): YA, Fantasy
Series Status: A Darker Shade of Magic #1
Format and Source: Paperback, Owned
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis from 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.
One of my favourite things about A Darker Shade of Magic is the world building. Well, worlds building, since she had to write the setting for three separate worlds, and she did it spectacularly. It is obviously complicated trying to fit three different worlds into one book, but she somehow did it. I was able to tell the difference between Red London, White London, and Grey London without stating which London Kell was in. This was done through the mood set, the differences in description, and the attitude people each world portrayed, and I loved that. It was almost like I was actually taken there myself so I could see the differences myself.
Anything I liked was the romance in this book, or lack of it. There was definitely chemistry between Kell and Lila, and a couple of kisses, but they still were more friends than anything else. And, while they did form an attachment to each other, it wasn’t the whole insta-love, ‘can’t live without each other’ type that seems to riddle most fantasy books. It was the ‘you’ve earned my trust and you are actually a cool and decent person’ type, which I like. I thought V. E. Schwab was giong to go the obvious route and have them two in a firm relationship by the end of the book, but she didn’t and I appreciate that.
There was one thing that did irritate me a bit, and that was that Kell’s views on his family. He believed he was more of an object and that he was used by the King and Queen of Red London and not a part of the family, like they say he is. While I do see where he is coming from, I feel like there is quite a lot stacked against that. He is practically brothers with their son, the Queen is affectionate towards him, and the way he outright admits to feeling like that makes the entire thing seemed forced. Hopefully this will fleshed out more in the rest of the series.
SPOILER WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON
When I read this I thought this was going to be a standalone, even with evidence of further development needed. So I thought a couple things were red herrings, just to make us think. An example of this was the fact that Lila happens to have lost an eye when she was younger and can’t remember how, and so she has a glass eye instead. Why this is important is because the magical beings which can cross between the worlds – such as Kell – are called Antari, and a sign of an Antari’s magic is that one eye is completely black. This was barely touched upon in the book, but I thought it was there to tease us. Now I know that there are more books in the series, and that Lila does apparently hold some magical potential, I am making a prediction: Lila is Antari. There. I said it.
While this book didn’t wow me, I definitely enjoyed it and will certainly continue to read the rest of the series so I can see if my prediction is correct. If it isn’t I will not eat pizza for an entire month. I better be right.