It’s extremely rare for me to take more than a month to read a book, but that’s what happened with A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. This book took so long partly because it’s been a crazy busy time at work. (November is looking to be no better.) When I get home, it’s all I can do to stagger to the couch and stare blankly at the TV. When I do make time to read, I want something light and fluffy, and those words definitely do not apply to this book. Also, I’ve had several other books that, for whatever reason, took precedence over A Darker Shade of Magic, so I had to put it on the back-burner.
During the past week, though, I devoted a fair amount of time to this first book in Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. While it took me a while to really get invested in this book, once I did, it was full steam ahead. I was captivated by the characters, their complicated personalities, and the worlds that both drew them together and very nearly tore them apart. As a long-time comic book reader, the concept of multiple or parallel universes isn’t exactly unfamiliar, but A Darker Shade of Magic had a different spin on the concept, and I look forward to exploring it further in the rest of the series.
Kell is one of the last of his kind. He is an Antari, a blood magician with the ability to travel between the different versions of London. Kell is from Red London, a land of prosperity and magic. He travels to Gray London, a city without magic, and White London, a brutal place ruled by the sadistic twins, Athos and Astrid. Only Black London, a city consumed and destroyed by magic, is closed to him.
Kell was raised in the palace of Red London, alongside Rhy, the heir to the throne, but he’s not exactly a member of the royal family. Kell knows he’s useful to the throne, but he also uses his power and position for his own ends. You see, he’s something of a smuggler, and he’s been known throughout Red, White, and Gray London to provide glimpses of magic for a price.
During one particularly dangerous and sobering trip to White London, Kell comes into contact with an object that should not exist. It’s a piece of Black London, and the power within this artifact is both repulsive and seductive to Kell. He knows he must be rid of this object–even as he thirsts for its power–but he’s also determined to find out who placed it in his hands…and what their endgame is.
Before Kell can get the answers he needs, however, he travels to Gray London and comes into contact with Lila Bard, a girl whose greatest aspiration is to be a pirate. Lila, brilliant pickpocket that she is, steals the piece of Black London from Kell, not knowing what she’s nabbed or the events she’s set in motion.
When Kell and Lila reunite, it becomes clear that they’ll have to work together to do what needs to be done. But what treachery lies ahead? Can they trust those around them or each other? Who is pulling strings to harness the power of Black London, and can Kell and Lila stop them in time to save their worlds…or themselves?
The worlds within A Darker Shade of Magic are rich, stark, complicated, and convoluted…much like the characters that inhabit those worlds. I’m actually glad it took me so long to read this book because I feel like I really got to know and spend time with Kell, Lila, Rhy, and the entire supporting cast–some of whom I think I’ll see again. I’m also looking forward to seeing more of each version of London in this story, perhaps even Black London as well. We shall see.
The second book in this series, A Gathering of Shadows, is already out, so I’ll hopefully make my way to that book soon. Book three, A Conjuring of Light, is expected to be released on February 21st, 2017.
For those wondering if A Darker Shade of Magic is suitable for purchase for school libraries, I would say it’s okay for high school collections. Not so much for middle schools. This series isn’t a YA series*, but I think many teen readers, particularly fans of fantasy, will enjoy it.
*According to the author, if her books are written as V.E. Schwab, they are written for an adult audience. If the first name is Victoria, it’s for middle grades or young adults.
If you’d like more information on A Darker Shade of Magic or other books by V.E. (Victoria) Schwab, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Pinterest.