I can honestly say I’ve never read a book quite like A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab and that’s a good thing! Immediately you’re drawn into a world of multiple dimensions, some with magic and others without, all sealed behind doors that only a rare breed of magicians known as the Antari can walk through.
We follow the story of Kell, an adopted son of the royals of Red London (one of the four dimensions, the others being Black London, Grey London, and White London) and he’s one of the last Antari.
He also has a bad habit of smuggling things between the three dimensions and after one deal goes wrong, Kell finds himself on the run with a thief from dark magic that shouldn’t exist.
What I loved:
In a Darker Shade of Magic I loved how vivid each London was shown to us. From the smells to the striking colors.
White London is covered in snow and the people are as harsh as ice. There’s magic there, but it’s twisted and unpredictable.
Grey London is simple. It’s like an ordinary 19th century London, if London had a bar that somehow is the center of all the other Londons.
Then there’s Red London, Kell’s home that smells of flowers and where everything is blanketed in rich vibrant reds. Each London is in the same location, but the roads and businesses are all very different which added even more intrigue into a riveting story.
I also enjoyed how magic was described in this story. As more of a utility that exists in a lesser grandiose way than it once was back when Black London still stood. In A Darker Shade of Magic it’s faded, but still present and I thought that it was beautiful.
“A Darker Shade of Magic has all the hallmarks of a classic work of fantasy. Schwab has given us a gem of a tale…This is a book to treasure.”—Deborah Harkeness, New York Times bestselling author of the All Souls trilogy
What I didn’t:
There were times in the story that things slowed down just a bit too much for my liking. While I get that this is a trend of the genre, the pacing could’ve been improved.
In contrast, the ending happened so quickly that it almost felt unplanned. It was like certain things just started happening without reason beyond it being necessary to end the story. All throughout the story Kell carefully made his decisions. Even when he has to make a split-second decision there are always good reasons for them. But one of his last, when they reach the final door, seems a bit… off for some reason. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t say much more on that. But it was a little disappointing when the entire story had been so artfully crafted.
All in all, though, I do have to agree with Deborah Harkness. A Darker Shade of Magic is a fantastic story and definitely worth a read for fans of magic and adventure!