5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
I still have yet to read Vicious by V.E. Schwab, but when I heard about A Darker Shade of Magic I knew this was one I had to read, so imagine my delight when I was offered a copy by Titan Books! Plus those covers… I could stare at them all day.
I really love the concept of different versions of our own world, filled with magic, and it’s definitely something I haven’t read enough of. A Darker Shade of Magic is technically about three different worlds, one of them our own, within each of which London has the same name and location, despite differences everywhere else. Grey London is our own world, so named for its lack of magic. Red London is where magic is embraced, whereas White London is where magic is almost feared, and those who brandish it are not to be trusted. There was a fourth London, Black London, but it was destroyed by magic. Kell, as a Traveller, can move between the three worlds, passing messages on for the monarchs.
Kell was a bit of mystery although his intentions were always good. Lila was a bit of a contrast, a somewhat morally ‘grey’ character just trying to survive. The contrast between the two of them was nice, and I feel like they could both really help each other. I desperately wanted more back story for both, so that better come in book two!
I have to say, V.E. Schwab has some serious talent. Her words paint such rich and vivid scenes: I could practically see the foggy, shadowed streets and smell the scents of beer and roasting meat pouring out of the taverns; each London was so markedly different. Too often, books featuring magic make it seem so easy – wave a wand, speak a few words and bam, magic. When a magic system requires some sort of sacrifice, that’s when I really love it, and this particular system requires blood. It makes magic something to be feared, reinforced by the destruction of Black London, something that is not easy to control. And despite the fact it is about magic, it makes it more believable, in a way…
My only issue with the book was, ironically, the setting, or at least the setting in a larger context. Because Kell’s visits to every world were limited to London, and we didn’t see or even hear much of the worlds past London, it felt very small. Therefore if something were to happen to the people of one of those worlds outside London, it wouldn’t feel ‘real’, if that makes sense.
But apart from this small issue, A Darker Shade of Magic was a wonderful read. Vivid and original, it’s only convinced me further that I need to get my hands on a copy of Vicious and sample more of V.E. Schwab’s fantastic writing.