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Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Dudes, I swear I can’t find a book I actually want to finish at the moment. They’re all samey, dull and full of cliches. UNTIL NOW! If you’ve read my Vicious review, you won’t be surprised to hear that I love V. E. Schwab. I think she’s brilliant, and she’s done it again. A Darker Shade of Magic is a part of a series and it’s so hard to not go and spend money I don’t have on the next book. P.S. yes, this is the UK cover. darkershade

‘Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.
Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that 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 take her with him for her proper adventure. But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.’

I don’t know why, because it totally makes sense, but I wasn’t expecting historical fiction. I guess I was focusing on the Other Londons and not the one I should recognize. I don’t know much about the Georgian era, other than what I’ve seen on Blackadder and read in Jane Austin, so I won’t focus too much on historical inaccuracies, although I’m sure there are non. Anyway, grey London being from that period of time works and I guess makes the things Lila sees in Red London more amazing and more magical and gives us more of a basis for comparison. My one issue with the Londons, is that they all have their own language but the Royals speak English. But they speak American English. I know its a multiversal world and the use of the word ‘pants’ instead of trousers could have evolved among these people, but it really bugs me in that context. King George, mad or not, did not say ‘pants’. Unless he had them on his head and had chop sticks up his nose.

Lila wants to be a pirate, something I think we can all relate too. She wants adventure and freedom and the wind in her hair and the spray of the sea. So when she meets Kell, steals the magical maguffin and enters his world, she couldn’t be happier. Apart from the people out to kill her and get back said magical maguffin. The stone did seem to be a bit One Ring-ish to me. It calls to whomever is holding it, it makes them powerful but at the cost of the user, it makes people crotchety and irritable. Oh and they are on a quest to return it to the firey chasm from whence it came! Very Lord of the Rings. And without giving too much away, the ending reminded me of a certain Disney film. If you read it you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t I’ll just say… “Jafar, Jafar he’s our man, if he can’t do it; GREAT!”

That doesn’t sound like I liked it, does it? Ooops. Let me set this straight…

I loved this book. The plot is windy, in the way that you don’t always see the twist coming, the characters are diverse and 3D and likeable/unlikable in the way that the best characters are, something I think Schwab does very well, they are almost like friends by the end. The fight scenes are amazingly well done, so much detail and description, you can very easily visualise everything that is happening. The world building is amazing. All three Londons are different, all three have their own languages and peoples, and all three are believable. There is mystery: what did happen to Black London? And there is enough of a cliff hanger to make you want to read more but enough of an ending that if that was it, you wouldn’t be miffed, wouldn’t feel cheated. Oh and there is a magical coat that will mould itself and fit anyone who wears it, take that Hollywood continuity people! I loved escaping into this reality for a few days and I can’t wait to go back.

I’m giving it 4 stars, because the plot is brilliant and original, it just reminded me too much of LOTR, but it’s well written, fast paced and a very enjoyable read.

4/5 ****

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