Review: A Darker Shade Of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A darker shade of magic v e schwab
A Darker Shade Of Magic V E Schwab

Title: A Darker Shade Of Magic 
Author: V.E. Schwab 
Series: Shades Of Magic #1 
Genre: Fantasy, YA 
Publication date: February 24, 2015 
Rating: ★★★★★ 

Kell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city. There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now. Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

I'd rather die on an adventure than live standing still.

Last summer, when I read A Darker Shade Of Magic whilst on a glorious vacation in Portugal, I may not have given this book the attention it deserved. I was an admirer then, but upon rereading it and actually letting it sink in, I realise I have become an even bigger fan. It’s simply wonderful! Everything was just as tense and compelling the second time around and I am so glad I decided to pick this back up in preparation for the long-awaited release of A Conjuring Of Light!

V.E. Schwab is a very talented writer with an incredibly vivid imagination. Her style is clever and compelling, full of delightfully complex characters and a magical world to lose yourself in. I had never read anything by Victoria Schwab before, so I had no idea just how much she would impress me. In fact when I first started reading ADSOM, I was afraid this was going to be your typical alternate-universe-book. I don’t like alternate universes at all.

But I loved this book. It’s so different from anything I’ve read before. The story is set in four different Londons that are parallel in a very loose sense of the word. Shades Of Magic is however not science fiction, but more of a traditional fantasy series. Complete with interesting invented languages, royal intrigue and powerful magic.

Dark magic. Hence the title. The characters operate in a grey zone. The line between good and wrong is constantly treaded and not always very clear. The main characters are a compelling breed of anti-heroes that tug at your heartstrings in the best kind of way. You can’t help but sympathise and root for them. They carry a huge responsibility in an ignorant world full of even more formidable characters. Perhaps not all of those likeable, but each without exception interesting, well developed and layered.

Bad magic, Kell had called it.
No, thought Lila now. Clever magic.
And clever was more dangerous than bad any day of the week.

Kell - my personal favourite - is an Antari, the second to last of his kind. He possesses a powerful blood magic that allows him to travel between the different Londons. Because of his extraordinary ability, he is in service of the crown. More, he has basically become an adoptive son to the royal family of Red London. I dare say it is impossible to dislike Kell. His considerable powers have not turned him arrogant. Instead he’s smart, calm, understanding and very loyal to his loved ones. He’s not purely good, but he’s also not evil and he has this disarming charm about him that is simply irresistible. Kell’s history is still obscure and unclear, but I have a feeling there is more to him than what we’ve learned so far.

Some thought magic came from the mind, others the soul, or the heart, or the will. But Kell knew it came from the blood. Blood was magic made manifest. There it thrived. And there it poisoned. Kell had seen what happened when power warred with the body, watched it darken in the veins of corrupted men, turning their blood from crimson to black. If red was the color of magic in balance—of harmony between power and humanity—then black was the color of magic without balance, without order, without restraint. As an Antari, Kell was made of both, balance and chaos; the blood in his veins, like the Isle of Red London, ran a shimmering, healthy crimson, while his right eye was the color of spilled ink, a glistening black.

There is also Delilah Bard, my other personal favourite. She’s the second main character and a girl after my own heart. She’s just so impossibly badass. There really is no better way to describe her. She’s a self-proclaimed thief and wanted criminal with no interest in anything but herself. Or that’s what she keeps telling herself, until misfortune leads her to Kell. The one thing Lila wants out of life is the one thing Kell’s quest is most likely to bring her. Adventure. So she decides to follow him across the worlds. I adored her. Lila is tough-as-nails, resourceful and clever. She’s also an aspiring pirate and absolutely fabulous.

Other characters worth mentioning are Rhy, Holland and the Dane twins. Rhy (autocorrect keeps changing his name to Why - I hope it’s not an omen) is Kell’s confident, charming, prince-brother and I loved him way too much. He is just so damn adorable. Holland on the other hand is a perfect villain. Cruel and dark, but with a hint of sadness surrounding him. A huge contrast to the Dane twins who are without a doubt one hundred percent evil.

The plot itself is fast-paced (in a good way), action-packed and often darker than expected. It never drags and it is ever creative and tense. I have read A Gathering Of Shadows already so I know that there is a lot more of this awesomeness to come. If you have not started this series, now is the time! With the release of the final book later this month, there really is no moment more perfect to dive in.

Hesitation is the death of advantage.

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