Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1
Published by Macmillan on 2015-02-24
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Kell is one of the last Travelers—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 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'.
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.
I’m so excited to be back doing these double reviews with my husband! It’s so much fun to talk to him about books because I just love talking to him but also because we tend to have really different tastes when it comes to books. These reviews give us a chance to explain why we liked the book or didn’t like it and gives you guys a chance to see one book from two different points of view. Every month we will alternate who gets to pick the book and then we’ll both review it on our own and you guys can see how our opinions were the same or different and why. I hope you guys enjoy these as much as we do!
I got to choose this month’s book and I’m so excited that it’s A Darker Shade of Magic! Everyone talks about this book and how amazing it is and I’m excited to see what all the talk is about! Here are what my husband and I both thought of the book:
The first thing I need to say about this book is do NOT read the description of book 2! It spoils the last thirty pages of book 1 very, very much.
I really liked A Darker Shade of Magic. It was an easy, quick read — largely because V.E. Schwab did a great job of just getting into the action. I greatly appreciate when authors show me what the character and setting are like rather than telling me for scores or hundreds of pages before anyone starts doing anything. This is not to say that major, climactic moments are happening constantly in the first half of the book, but you can tell that things are happening and the story is advancing from the start.
I will caveat that in some ways, I am giving the author a bit of a pass. While we understood enough of the world to enjoy book 1, we did not get enough description to decide whether the universe created by Schwab is internally consistent or interesting beyond the story we got here. There are some aspects of how magic works and why characters acted the way they did that I took on faith. I am not always willing to take such things on faith, but was in this case because the author was moving forward and the characters were likable. I could very easily see the world, or possibly the characters, fall apart in the 2nd book as these details get filled in. It would not be the first time.
As for A Darker Shade of Magic, however, it is well worth checking out. An intriguing story of multiple dimensions, magic, and relationships that feel realistic instead of YA wish-fulfillment. I strongly recommend it.
I’m so glad I finally decided to pick up ADSOM and that I had my husband to keep me accountable for it! I think it’s been on several of my monthly TBR lists and for whatever reason, I just never actually picked it up. Sometimes I was worried I’d hate it, sometimes I was worried it would take me too long to read, and sometimes I just wasn’t in the mood for fantasy. But finally I picked this for our book and my husband blew through it and threatened me with spoilers if I didn’t read it in a week, so I got right on it! And I’m really glad he gave me the final push. I didn’t hate this book like I was worried I would nor did the hype come back to bite me in the ass. This book was very enjoyable and engaging and I highly recommend it to fantasy fans!
My favorite part of this book was the characters and their complicated lives. At first it might seem that Kell is just an ambassador who lives in the palace as part of the royal family but we go on to discover that he has a past he can’t remember, a desire to collect trinkets from the many different Londons, and a deep sense of responsibility and love for his “brother” Rhy. At first it might seem like Lila is just a thief living from room to room, stealing anything she can and barely keeping herself out of jail. But we go on to find out that she’s more dangerous and ruthless than we imagined, stronger and smarter than we’d have thought, and very brave. The rest of the characters in the book are also more complicated than they first seem and I loved getting to see as much of their histories and personalities as we could. And then they came together and their relationships developed or revealed themselves, it became even more interesting. The writing really gave a sense of who these characters were when we were seeing them and when we weren’t and what their strengths and weaknesses were and I loved that I felt like I knew them so well by the end of the book.
Another aspect that I really loved was the setting. It did take a bit for me to really understand the different Londons but once I did, it was really easy to imagine them. And along with the different Londons comes the description of magic, which was a little strange at first but when I saw it in action instead of being told about it, it made much more sense.
And that was the part that I liked least about the book. In the beginning, everything is slow. I had a hard time getting into the book because we were just dumped right into it and had very little introduction to the world. And while I don’t want a book that just tells me about the world rather than showing me, I do like some sort of description or explanation about the world we’re in. But we start in what feels like the middle of a scene and proceed from there and that’s always a little hard for me. And the first 50 pages almost don’t even end up mattering at all. I remember when I started the book right after my husband had read it and was asking him a bunch of questions about the characters in the beginning and he didn’t even remember them. Because they don’t come back or matter at all. And that annoyed me a ton. Instead of just telling me how the magic worked and all about the Londons with these characters that don’t matter or play a part in the bigger plot, why not just get to the real story and the characters that actually do matter?
But that’s all just a minor complaint really. Because when everything picks up, it really doesn’t stop after that. There’s a ton of action and battles and magic and darkness and all kinds of interesting characters that come and go. And the writing is really what makes the book stand out. I highly recommend this book to all fantasy fans, whether you prefer YA or not, because the characters and the world are incredibly intriguing. I hope the next installment is just as good! And that I can get my grabby little hands on it ASAP!
P.S. I really really really want Kell’s coat.
So there you guys go! A book that both my husband and I enjoyed! If that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is! It was so much fun to talk about this book. If you decide to read it, I promise you’ll want to talk about it too. Especially with that ending! So go read it! Before the sequel comes out next month!!