A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic


Title: A Darker Shade of Magic

Author: V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic, #1

Publisher: Titan Books

Release Date: February 27th 2015

Rating:

Five Stars

Kell is one of the last Travellers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveller, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

‘Bad magic,’ Kell had called it.
‘No,’ thought Lila now. ‘Clever magic.’
And clever was more dangerous than bad any day of the week.

Kell is Red London’s Traveller. He works for the royal family taking correspondence back and forth between the different London’s rulers; but his side business is smuggling items through the passages, gifting people in Grey London with magical artefacts in exchange for something valuable from their world he can take home with him for himself. However after dealing with the Dane siblings in White London Kell is waylaid and asked to take a letter to Red London.

When he arrives in Red London though he realises he has walked into a trap, after barely escaping with his life Kell sees the payment he was given for the letter and sees its a piece of Black London. Black London was destroyed by magic so long ago and all artefacts from the city were destroyed, except one it seems. The magic in the stone is powerful and it corrupts but Kell knows he needs to get rid of it; the only way to stop its power from being abused by anyone in the Red, White or Grey London is to take it back to Black London. However before he can plan his next step he realises he’s been robbed and the stone is missing.

“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” he asked Lila now.
She looked at him as if it were a strange question. And then she shook her head. “Death comes for everyone,” she said simply. “I’m not afraid of dying. But I am afraid of dying here.” She swept her hand over the room, the tavern, the city. “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

Lila is a thief and a very good one. She steals the stone from Kell’s pocket without him even realising its missing , but when she gets back to her room Kell is not far behind her. Lila wants an adventure, and hearing Kell’s stories of magic and of the different London’s Lila wants Kell’s adventure. However as the two of them travel to Red London on their way through to White London they realise they are not the only ones seeking it’s power.

Holland, the other Traveller from White London, has been sent for the stone by the Danes and because of the binding sigil he cannot stop until he has it. Even the stone is against them; the magic is wild and uncontrollable, stealing people’s minds and slowly corrupting Red London. Kell and Lila need to stay one step ahead of everyone, trusting no one but each other, if they hope to get rid of the stone before it can be used to destroy all of the London’s.

…The Characters

“Some thought magic came from the mind, others the soul, or the heart, or the will. But Kell knew it came from the blood.”

Kell is one of the only two Traveller’s across all four London’s, and as such his ability is coveted. He can remain anonymous in Grey London but in Red he is respected as a member of the royal family and in White his powerful magic is coveted. Kell has no memory of his life before living with the royal family when he was five but he doesn’t feel he belongs with them more like he belongs to them. Kell is powerful but he isn’t one to abuse the magic he has and as such there are others out there, such as Holland and the Danes, who are stronger than he is.

“Lila Bard knew in her bones that she was meant to be a pirate.”

Lila is a thief but she is an ambitious one. She isn’t content with just stealing enough to survive from day to day. She wants to escape from her life and travel the world, have an adventure. Lila is also a survivor; she isn’t one to risk her life needlessly and if she doesn’t think the odds are in her favour she isn’t afraid to cut her losses and run. But then she meets Kell, he saves her life without truly knowing her and sees him and his world as the adventure she’s been waiting for.

Both Lila and Kell are different characters, practically the opposite of one another. Lila is much more reckless than Kell is, using her wits and weapons to escape from a sticky situation where he uses magic, and even though she has no magic she still manages to hold her own against everyone she comes into contact with. Lila is smart and resourceful, and though she may not belong in Red London she is a fast learner and adapts to Kell’s world quickly.

“He’s…charming and spoiled, generous and fickle and hedonistic. He would flirt with a nicely upholstered chair, and he never takes anything seriously.”

Kell’s brother Rhy, the prince of Red London, is the opposite of Kell but in a different way to Lila. Rhy doesn’t seem to take anything seriously at first glance but as the story moves forwards you see his determination and his desire to be a good ruler, to be respected by his people. He doesn’t have much magic and he doesn’t have much patience when it comes to practising it either. Rhy and Kell are very close and Rhy worries about Kell when he Travels, especially in light of Kell’s smuggling activities. He sees the two of them as brothers, and Kell feels the same way. Rhy is the only member of the royal family whom Kell truly sees as his family.

…The Setting

“You don’t know anything about these worlds,” he said, but the fight was bleeding out of his voice.
“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”

Rather than building one London V.E. Schwab has created four of them, and there was nothing I can fault with any of them. As Kell travels through the different London’s their different traits shine through; Red London is vibrant and alive with magic, Grey London is dull and lifeless without it, and White London is slowly dying and going insane. Through the descriptions and Kell’s own eyes we can see each city for ourselves. I loved reading about all the London’s; despite being the same place they each had different buildings, different rulers and different histories which have shaped the worlds they’re in. I thought the history behind the magic and the story of how all the London’s were separated was also well-written; there weren’t massive information dumps but there was more than enough information for the world to feel real.


I love all of V.E. Schwab’s books, and I’ve read all of them except Vicious, but A Darker Shade of Magic is by far my favourite. It has everything I love in a book; fantasy, far away places, magic, would-be pirates, thieves, great characters and an even better storyline. This story is fantastic and I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

What did you think of A Darker Shade of Magic? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

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35 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic

  1. Lovely review! I can’t believe I haven’t read this yet! Everything you’ve mentioned in this review makes me so excited to read it. I have no doubt I’ll really like this one. Would you say it covers some history too, or is it more of a fantasy?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Fatima, I’m really glad you liked my review and that it made you want to pick up the series even more. I really really hope you love it because, as you probably guess from my review, it is a favourite of mine 😀
      I’d say more fantasy than history. There are possibly influences and inspiration taken from history but I wouldn’t say it was anything obvious you know?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahh, that makes sense. I’ve heard such good things about this book, and I think it actually deserves the hype. 🙂

        Thanks for this!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Brigitte! This was actually a re-read for me but if anything I loved it so much more the second time around.
      I finished A Gathering of Shadows yesterday and loved it. I thought it was so much better than ADSoM, but now I really want the third book and there’s still such a long wait before it’s released!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel like it’s everyone’s life who has a book blog! Probably anyways!
        But to be honest I don’t regret buying all the books I have, I love seeing them all on my bookshelves and there’s nothing better than coming home and realising there’s a parcel from Amazon waiting for me 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. A Darker Shade of Magic was a re-read for me and I honestly loved it even more the second time. V.E. Schwab is such an amazing writer.
      I just finished A Gathering of Shadows today. It is brilliant so your definitely in for a treat; but, oh god, I really really want the third book now, the wait for it is going to be unbearable!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I reread ADSOM in January 😀 I agree with you about loving it even more the second time! You’ve made me even more excited to jump into the book now – but I know I’ll then have to wait another year after…Oh god aha!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Maybe if we read it for a third time it’ll get even better!
        Honestly, I think I preferred A Gathering of Shadows to A Darker Shade of Magic, and I am still in shock over what happened in the last couple of chapters. A year for the third book is too long to wait after reading the second one.
        You’ll have to let me know once you’ve finished, and what you think as well 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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