Good evening/afternoon/morning. Whatever it is, wherever you may be in the world, hello. Today, I’m going to be doing something very out-of-character for me: I’m writing a book review.
*cue audience gasp*
Although I am no good at writing book reviews, this particular book was just too good to NOT share. So, let me start by saying that I love Victoria Schwab. Not just as an author, but as a human being, too. The first book I ever read of hers was This Savage Song when it came to me in an OwlCrate box, and I’ve been hooked ever since. She is easily one of my favorite authors OF ALL TIME.
Since discovering her work, I’ve longed to read her Shades of Magic series, and two days ago, I started (and finished) A Darker Shade of Magic. Lives were changed that day.
Our journey starts with Kell, one of the last Antari. Antari are rare magicians who are able to travel between the parallel Londons; Red London, where Kell resides and acts as an ambassador to the royal Maresh Empire, Grey London, the devoid-of-magic domain of King George III, White London, a vicious city under the rule of bloodthirsty twin rulers, and Black London, the city that fell after a magical accident destroyed the city and its inhabitants. Kell is not only an ambassador, responsible for relaying political correspondence between the Londons, he’s also a smuggler of rare artifacts between worlds. When an object that shouldn’t exist falls into Kell’s possession, he accidentally and unwillingly teams up with an unlikely ally, cross-dressing thief and wannabe-pirate, Lila Bard, and the two set out to save the world(s) from falling under control of dangerous magic and ruthless dictators of White London.
Phew. Did you catch all of that? Schwab packs a lot of punch in 400 pages. I’m not upset about it.
I have many, many, many pros as to why you should read this book, and maybe one con.
- All of the main characters are dynamic and well-developed, which is (in my humble opinion), one of the hardest thing about writing: creating characters that your readers WANT to root for. Even the characters that I didn’t like, more on that later, are unforgettable.
- I’m a sucker for magic. But this isn’t run-of-the-mill magic: Schwab created an entirely unique concept of magic that I’ve never read before. I’m excited to learn more about the Antari and the fate of Black London as the trilogy progresses.
- Originality and creativity. This author’s creativity knows no bounds. When I was reading this book, I was fascinated by the concept of parallel, but very different, Londons, all with their own varying degree of magical influence and political agendas. It reminded me a bit of the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, in that a simple crossing of the border can erase all traces of magic.
- There is little to no romance in this book. Now, I love great chemistry between characters, but sometimes, more often than not, the plot is overshadowed by the relationship the author creates. I love that no one fell in love at first sight in this book. Very refreshing, 10/10 would recommend.
I could get spolier-y here and list tons of pros, but I’ll let you read them for yourself. Instead, let’s get into the cons:
- Lila Bard… Okay. I didn’t TOTALLY hate this character. In fact, sometimes, I even kind of liked her. But for the most part, I found myself wanted to reach into the pages and smack her with her own hat. Lila is a fan-favorite, so I’m hoping that she grows on me in the next book. I have faith.
- As well-developed as the characters are, I wish I had seen some of them more, particularly Prince Rhy, the adopted brother of Kell. I’m crossing my fingers for more Rhy in A Gathering of Shadows.
Overall, this book gets a 5-star rating from me. I love Victoria Schwab, I love this book, I love Kell and Rhy, I love the concept, I just love everything about it. If you enjoy YA/Adult Fantasy, magic, and pirates, I think you will, too.
“Magic bent the world. Pulled it into shape. There were fixed points. Most of the time those points were places. But sometimes, rarely, they were people.”
-V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic