Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1
Hardcover, 400 pages
Publication: February 24, 2015 by Tor Books
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.I've been a fan of Schwab since I read her young adult novel, The Archive and later her adult novel, Vicious. And I must say again, is there anything that she can’t do? Schwab has pen yet another amazing, imaginative and wholly original novel. With each book she publishes, whether it is YA or adult, it really does get better and better; not only her writing but also her characters and world building. She pushes the boundaries and does things that no author has done before guaranteeing a one-of-a-kind novel each and every time.
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 Traveler, 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'.
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.
I remember saying that Schwab’s last book, Vicious was ambitious but I think she just outdid herself once again. The world of A Darker Shade of Magic was multifaceted, comprising of alternate Londons, each London unique from the setting, laws, language to its inhabitants. With such a expansive world and cast, you’d think that something in the novel would suffer like world building, character development, or even the concept but none of that happened. I never had a problem differentiating which London Kell enter or left or which Monarch belonged to which throne. So while the world was complex, Schwab made it easy for readers to understand the worlds, which had magic and which didn't.
Schwab knows how write realistic, well fleshed out characters…we've all seen it in Vicious. So it comes as no surprise at how much I ended up loving Kell, Lila, Rhys and even the bad guys! Kell is my favorite kind of male lead. He is charming, devoted, and usually takes the high road but isn't afraid to get his hand dirty or break the rules when he needs to. He goes beyond the duties of a stranger, friend and family member. His relationship with his brother, Rhys was beautiful as it was heartbreaking (the scenes towards the end killed me). Then there is Lila, a Grey Londoner thief and aspiring pirate. She’s an unconventional heroine which made me love her even more. In the short span of the book she grown from a street rat without morals to a hero saving all the Londons from the vindictive Twins all while remaining her spunky and snarky self. There are so many more unforgettable characters but I’ll let you discover them for yourself, if you haven’t already read this book (then again who hasn't? I know I'm late to the party).
Let me just say that all the hype you've heard about The Darker Shade of Magic is true. Although I've read a couple of 5 stars novel this year, A Darker Shade of Magic has just climbed to the top as being my new favorite read so far this year. I highly recommend A Darker Shade of Magic for those who want to read a fresh and original fantasy, this book is un-put-down-able and should be on everyone’s must read list! I'm so glad this is going to be a series, super ecstatic! Read it, you won't regret it!