Book Reviews, Fantasy

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

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51-CraQeweL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Author: V.E.(Victoria) Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic #1

Paperback: 416 pages

Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (January 19, 2016)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0765376466

ISBN-13: 978-0765376466

Amazon // Goodreads // Excerpt

Book Synopsis:

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.

My Thoughts:

  I have to be honest, I don’t read many fantasy books… I can probably count on one hand the number of fantasy books I have read.  Fantasy intimidates me.  There, I said it.  There are so many different subgenres within fantasy; contemporary fantasy, fairytale fantasy, dark fantasy, historical fantasy, urban fantasy, etc etc.  It’s overwhelming!  Fantasy has one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) followings in the bookish community, so I feel as if I am missing out by avoiding this genre.  I knew I wanted to read more within this genre, but I didn’t know where to start.  After seeing this series EVERYWHERE in the bookish community, I figured I would give it a shot.

Since A Darker Shade of Magic was available through hoopla, I downloaded it to my phone and listened to it via audiobook.  The audiobook version is narrated by Steven Crossley.   Steven Crossley’s voice reminded me a lot of Michael Caine‘s voice, which I adore, so this was a very enjoyable listening experience.

The book takes place in the Londons of 1819.  No, that is not a typo, Londons is plural, as in multiple versions of London.  I adored the setting of A Darker Shade of Magic Schwab forges such an originative and inventive world.  I was fully immersed in the world that it felt so real.  I could see it, smell it, hear it, touch it… The world came alive.  Schwab really dedicates a lot of the book to the setting, which suited me just fine since I’m the type of reader that likes to get lost within the pages of the book I am reading.  However because of this, I wouldn’t classify A Darker Shade of Magic as a fast paced read, but rather, an illuminating story that unfolds slowly.

I loved how the characters were so multifaceted.  I enjoy when the line between good and bad is blurred and not simply black and white. Schwab does just this with her motley group of characters.  Kell, one of our protagonists, is the last of the Antari, a person with the ability to travel between the worlds.  Essentially he is the liaison between his adoptive family, the monarchs of his London, and the other monarchs of the other Londons.  Kell spends most of his time brooding and struggling with inner turmoil.  He feels like he doesn’t fit in anywhere.  As much as I liked Kell’s character, Delilah was by far my favorite.  Delilah Bard is such an interesting and entertaining character.  I particularly enjoyed her cheeky humor.  She is such a sassy little thing!  Schwab shows us that a hero can come in unlikely forms, like a pick-pocket who aspires to someday be a pirate.  Lilah is looking for an adventure, because she does not simply want to live, she wants to experience EVERYTNG life has to offer.  I admired her gumption.  The antagonists, Astrid and Athos, will stop at nothing to quench their thirst for power.  They seek to control magic, and use it for their own political agenda.  Finally, we come to Holland.  Holland who is both the villain AND the victim… Will we ever learn more about the mysterious Holland?

V.E. Schwab… Wow.  I bow before greatness!  Her writing is absolutely exquisite.  This woman has more talent in her pinkie finger than many authors only dream of possessing.  It is not often that I am blown away by an author’s writing, but I was 100% swept away.  I think I’ve found a new favorite!  I will absolutely be looking into the second novel, as  well as her other novels.

Bottom line: A Darker Shade of Magic is the total package, enthralling setting, complex characters, impeccable writing, and a brilliant story line.

Noteworthy Quotes:

“I’m not afraid of dying. But I am afraid of dying here.” She swept her hand over the room, the tavern, the city. “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”
Her smile widened. “Everything.”

“You know so little of war. Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out.”


My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars


 About the Author:

untitledvems((Taken from author’s bio)) I am the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, I have been known to say “tom-ah-toes”, “like”, and “y’all”. I also suffer from a wicked case of wanderlust, made worse by the fact that wandering is a good way to stir up stories. When I’m not haunting Paris streets or trudging up English hillsides, I’m usually tucked in the corner of a coffee shop, dreaming up monsters.

My first YA novel, THE NEAR WITCH, a dark original fairy tale, debuted with Disney*Hyperion in August 2011, and is now out in paperback.

My next YA novel, THE ARCHIVED, is the first book in a new supernatural series about a world where the dead are shelved like books, and it hits stores January 2013, also with Disney*Hyperion.

My first adult novel, VICIOUS, about two brilliant and highly disturbed pre-med students who set out to generate their own superpowers and end up mortal enemies, came out in hardcover from Tor September 2013.

My middle grade series, EVERYDAY ANGEL, about a peculiar guardian angel and the three girls she must help to earn her wings, comes out with Scholastic book fairs in Spring 2014, Fall 2014, and Spring 2016.

My next adult series, A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, about a magician who can move through multiple versions of London and the pick pocket who steals a talisman that could end them all, comes out February 24th, 2015.

I have more books coming out in 2015-2016, but I’ll get to those later.

These days, when someone asks me what I do when I’m NOT writing, I just kind of laugh nervously. But in truth, on the odd occasion I’m not typing away, I’m probably baking cookies, or watching BBC shows, or wandering. (See how we came full circle, there?)

Website // Blog // Twitter // Facebook // viciousveschwab@gmail.com 

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16 thoughts on “Fantasy Friday! Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab”

  1. Oh, this sounds wonderful! I didn’t read any fantasy until last year (well, I did as a kid of course but not as an adult), when I ‘discovered’ Neil Gaiman and fell in love. This synopsis of this reminds me vaguely of his “Neverwhere” – a story about “London above” and “London below”. Sounds like this is definitely one for me to try this summer! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never heard of Neil Gaiman, but that’s not surprising since I’m such a fantasy newbie 😊. I think you 100% should read this. V.E. Schwab was born to write! I’m still recovering from being exposed to pure awesomeness 😜

      Liked by 1 person

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