Saturday, March 2, 2019

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

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Published: February 24, 2015

Genre: Fantasy

Hardcover Pages: 400

Synopsis: Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

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.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then 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.

Thoughts: One thing I've been discovering since starting these book reviews is that, while I had previously thought I was an equal fan of science fiction and fantasy, it turns out I think I'm actually drawn to fantasy more. I think that tends to be because science fiction can focus on a lot of mechanical and technical things being different or advanced, and apparently I don't find that as interesting.

And now that we've gone on that tangent, let's talk about the book I'm actually reviewing! A Darker Shade of Magic does fall into the fantasy category, and on the surface, I should really like it. It has magic, and adventure, and parallel worlds. How the worlds vary is well done and the lore of the series is pretty cool in general. The story moves at a quick pace pretty much from the get go, which I always appreciate, and does a good job of mixing in the history along with the current happenings.

That said, I didn't love it. There is something a bit stark, something that doesn't quite make me feel much toward the characters. I think part of that lies in the fact that we don't really see Kell very much with his adopted family. While of course it's interesting how he smuggles things between worlds, for me to care about him, I need to know how he feels about everything. The fact that they call him their son, yet he's not. That he loves Rhy like a brother, etc. I mean, that becomes a rather important point later in the book, yet so little time is spent on their relationship in the beginning, it was hard to care very much when certain events went down.

Lila as well I wanted to like more than I actually did. She's meant to be a somewhat unlikable female lead, which I applaud because oftentimes that can be difficult to execute and difficult to get people to sign on to in the first place. My issue with her isn't that she's unlikable on the surface, it's that she's not that likable under that surface. We know next to nothing about, again, how she feels about everything. What makes her actually care about others, why she doesn't care about them (at least outwardly). She's a badass, sure, but I wanted a little chink in the armor, something that showed she was still human.

I debated whether to give it three or four stars, so I had to settle on 3.5. There's a lot of potential here, and I think I might continue on in the series just to find out more about where Kell and Lila came from, because that's a mystery I'm actually interested in, even though some of the mysteries I'm pretty sure I already have figured out.

If any of you have read it, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Rating: 3.5/5

Buy on Amazon

What I'm Reading Next: Mirage by Somaiya Daud


  1. This was a 3.5 for me too, although I think I rounded down on Goodreads. I had major issues with pacing in this book - it felt like it took way too long to build up to significant action and then flew quickly through to a resolution. I also felt pretty disconnected from the characters, although I did like the interaction between Kell and Lila. I've heard the second book is much better and helps reframe the events of the first book as well. I'm intrigued enough by the world and the magic system that I'm going to keep going in the series.

    1. Yeah I rounded down on Goodreads as well. I agree that the resolution happened very quickly. I kept looking at how much of the book was left and thinking wow there is still a lot to go here, it feels like, but then it all concluded very easily in comparison to the build up.

      Good to hear that the second book is better, I'll probably give it a try!