Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Recommended for Fans of: Six of Crows, Pirates of the Caribbean
Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.
Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.
Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.
This is very well-written. The storytelling is excellent, the worldbuilding is impressive, the magic system is unique, and the characters are bold, flawed, and likable.
This book does start off very slow. The first 100 pages or so are mostly exposition. We meet the major characters across the different Londons and start to learn about how magic works in each world, but it drags on with very little purposeful action (I wouldn’t say that there’s NO action in the first 100 pages, it’s just hard to see where it’s going). I am SO GLAD I stuck with it though because once the story picked up, DANG IT WAS GOOD. It should tell you something about the quality of the writing that I still gave this book 5 stars instead of docking half a star for the pacing.
Kell is a great MC. His many-sided coat is one of the coolest magical objects I’ve ever encountered. He is reckless but fiercely loyal, willing to risk himself to protect his world and the people he loves.
And then there’s Lila Bard, who just wants to live her best pirate life. My only complaint about Lila is that is took so long for her to be introduced in the book! She is clever and brave, diving headfirst into adventure, mischief, and danger even when her opponents have all the advantages. Her past is very mysterious, but there are some big hints about her true identity to be answered in future books (I hope).
I got swept away in this story, and I think the ending wrapped things up really well. I appreciate a book in a series that can stand on its own. There were no major cliffhangers, but enough unanswered questions to get me excited for book #2!