Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

Posted March 12, 2015

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Published by Titan on 27th February 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

Kell is one of the last travellers -  magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There's Grey London, without magic and ruled by the mad King George III. Red London - where magic is revered, and where Kell was raised alongside the heir to the empire. White London - where people fight to control the remaining magic and magic fights back. And once there was Black London...
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveller, carrying letters between the monarchs of each London. Unofficially he is a smuggler, a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences. His escape to Grey London leads to a run-in with Deliliah, a cutpurse with lofty aspirations, who forces Kell to take her on a proper adventure. But perilous magic is afoot, and an adventure becomes a mission to save all of the worlds.


Having never read a novel involving alternate Londons, I’ve unintentionally read two in a row – The Invisible Library (review here) and A Darker Shade Of Magic.

When I heard about A Darker Shade of Magic (ADSOM) I was really intrigued. I’ve not read any of V.E. Schwab’s work before (I hear Vicious is brilliant though), but decided to pre-order ADSOM. I even managed to get a signed copy – check out Transreal Fiction, I got mine from there.

Kell is Antari, one of only two left in the worlds. He can use blood magic to open doors between alternate Londons – Red London, White London and Grey London. He has been raised as a son of the Red London royal family, brother to Rhy, the heir to the throne of Red London. Kell uses his magic to travel between Londons, delivering letters between the monarchs of these alternate cities. However Kell also smuggles items between the cities, something that is not only dangerous but treasonous.

At one time there was free movement between the Londons. There was a Black London. But when the magic in Black London posed a threat to those in the alternates the doors between the worlds were sealed and any remnant of Black London destroyed. Now only Antari can traverse the worlds, Kell and the only other Antari, Holland who answers to the cruel monarchs of White London.

In magic-less Grey London, there’s a thief, a cross-dressing thief who is desperate for an adventure. Lila sees herself as a Pirate without a ship. She just needs to find a ship so she can leave London and embark upon her long-held dream.

When Lila picks the pockets of a stranger she has no idea that this particular crime will lead her on an adventure that will surpass her wildest dreams. She and Kell quickly become partners on a mission to save all of the worlds.

Upon finishing this book I marked it 5 stars on Goodreads and pondered upon how to review it. In the end I opted for one word – “BRILLIANT“. I stand by that one word review, I don’t think I can find any other words to do it justice!

V.E. Schwab has created a truly brilliant world (or worlds I guess). Her writing is stunning. Her world building is awesome. The first few chapters are very much scene setting, but I could have read a whole book just like that!

Schwab created well-rounded characters that I really cared about; not just Kell and Lila but Rhy too.  The dynamic between Kell and Lila, and the building of their relationship is really interesting to watch. The relationship between Kell and Rhy is clearly a special one, which only enhances how much I care about these two characters.

I loved the ideas in this book. Loved the way Schwab conveyed them. I loved the action, the magic, the danger and the coat with multiple sides. I loved, loved, loved it all!!

This is actually the first book in a trilogy (I believe). However it’s the kind of book you could read as a standalone… but why would you want to? I now want to read all the V.E. Schwab I can get my hands on!