A Darker Shade of Magic was my first V.E. (Victoria) Schwab book, but you can bet that I’ll be reading all of her others as soon as humanly possible.
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, science fiction
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
400 pages, hardcover
Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.
NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Tor Books for letting me read and review this! (I’m pretty sure I was only supposed to get the 30% preview, but THANK GOODNESS I GOT IT ALLLL)
I’ve been sitting on this review for a couple of days now attempting to figure out how to express my love for A Darker Shade of Magic. I haven’t read a fantasy/sci-fi/magic book that I loved this much in a long time. It’s got all things I ever wanted in a book without ever really knowing I wanted those things. “Cross-dressing thieves”? Got it. Wannabe pirates? Yep, there’s that too. More than one London? Of course! And all kinds of magic including unique and wonderful types? YES.
A Darker Shade of Magic is full of unparalleled world-building and fantastical characters, places, and ideas. I honestly can’t think of another book to compare it to, and that is awesome. It’s really dark and complex but with an unexpected bit of humor from its characters that kept it being too much. Like with Lila – I dare you to read this book and not think she’s incredible. She’s a thief and a wannabe pirate, and she’s such a badass. She’s tough but emotional, and she won’t give up until she sees the world. Lila also thinks things like, “Why anyone would ever pretend to be weak was beyond her (ARC Loc. 729)” – and if that doesn’t make you like her, I don’t know what will.
Then there’s Kell. Oh, Kell. He’s a…magician, able to control all of the elements and also able to cross between the worlds, which he does as an ambassador to Red London. He’s exactly the kind of hero I want in a fantasy, you guys. I love a hero who’s not perfect, who’s complex and layered. I love a hero who might be more dark than light, maybe even a little rebellious. That’s Kell. He’s ridiculously charming and incredibly loyal. Kell is “built like an afternoon shadow, tall and slim (ARC Loc. 530), and he’s also got a pretty amazing coat. Yeah, I’M DONE FOR.
Let me talk about the Londons (yep, plural) because it is so intriguing. We’ve got Kell’s Red London, which is so magical that it glows red. Then there’s Holland’s (not necessarily the bad to Kell’s good he comes across as) White London, ruled by twins who are chill-inducing in their scariness. We’ve got Lila’s Grey London, which is basically our world but it does have its own magic – look out for a pretty cool pub in all the Londons. Last, but not least, is Black London, and though we don’t see it, it’s my favorite because it gives us black magic, a character who’s not really a character. It may be (sort of) invisible, but it manipulates the characters and plot. It’s scary, interesting, and so so cool. One other character I loved was a prince described by Victoria Schwab as “A royal who is equal parts Prince Harry and Jack Harkness” and that is the perfect description. He’s magnificent, of course.
The amount of times I had no idea what was going on or I was surprised by a twist or a new development was astounding. ADSOM kept me on my toes and on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t really prepared to love this book as much as I did, but now it’s got a piece of my soul and it isn’t letting go.
The bottom line: A Darker Shade of Magic is a gripping, thrilling, wonderful adventure. The world-building, writing, characters, Londons, and magic are all incredibly done. I can already tell this will be one of my favorite reads of 2015.
Rating: 9 – practically perfect