If you’re looking for an epically dark fantasy, with a dash of sass and plenty of stabbing — A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab is absolutely entirely for you. I actually procrastinated reading it for ages, despite 90001 people yelling at me to try it (I have really great friends who recommend books so kindly) but the hype was high and I was nervous! I’d previously read and adored Vicious by VE Schwab and, hello look at that: A Darker Shade of Magic was no different! It captured my adoration instantly. It’s dark and bloody and has an incredibly marvellous magic system. I could not stop reading!
What’s it About?
Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers – magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…
What captures me the most is: how very unique it is! It’s basically alternate realities + 20th century + epic magical fantasy + magicians and kings and queens + dark EVIL that does not sleep. I honestly hadn’t read anything like this before and (as an avid bookworm who devours at least 200+ books per year) this was so exciting.
Plus it basically rattled off a checklist of things I absolutely adore reading about. Did it read my mind??? Does this book exist solely for me to adore it??? (Answer: yes basically.)
Check List of Things I Adore Reading About:
- Magical multi-sided coat ✓
- Characters who put things in pockets, like millions of things (I have a pocket infatuation) ✓
- Sassy, snarky witty banter ✓
- A girl who’s #1 aspiration is to be a pirate (#goals) ✓
- Evil magic that does not sleep ✓
- Concise but yet visually astounding writing ✓
- Lots of stabby stabbing all the time ✓
I absolutely adore Schwab’s writing style. It’s brisk and too the point. It doesn’t fluff around. And she is QUEEN of world-building. The alternate Londons were all so different, yet linked, and it was perfectly easy to get sucked in without confusion. Not many books manage to make a world this complex and dimensional but EASY TO UNDERSTAND.
I also couldn’t get enough of the amazing group of characters! They’re all intensely different and complex (and very good at snarky comebacks):
- KELL: was perfect. A little bit tragic and bitterness and mysterious backstory that not even he remembers…but he’s also totally sassy and his dialogue is my favourite. The entire book’s plot comes about because he makes a terribly stupid mistake. How wonderful! He’s such a winning protagonist, with definite anti-hero vibes and he’s immensely flawed.
- LILA: of course, is my hero. She’s nasty. She’s a thief and so snarky she’d bite you. And she’s wondrous. I love how she starts off just wanting an adventure — but then she meets Kell and the “adventure” turns a bit more life-or-death than she anticipated. And while she and Kell are continually saving each other and do have a connection, the romance is not very intense which was refreshing.
- RHYS: was definitely a potential favourite. I did love him, but there wasn’t enough of him! (Although this changes in the sequel much to my relief.) He was really cocky and dashing and dazzling and spoiled and vibrant and fantastic. Also the future King of Red London, so there’s that.
- HOLLAND: I feel the need to mention Holland, who is another magician like Kell (they’re the only two of their knd who can jump through worlds), and he was really creepy. But tragic? I felt really bad for him even as he was doing terrible evil things. He was enough of a villain to be hated, and enough of a victim to make me whisper a small “oh dear” and feel sad for him.
I also really appreciate how it didn’t spare the characters. Everyone’s moral compasses were super twisted. And there was much stabbing and blood magic and darkness everywhere.
All in all? This book is a masterpiece and I cannot recommend it enough! I thoroughly enjoyed the plot twists, the complex characters, the ingenious world, and the enthralling plot.