Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
My Rating: 4 stars! ⭐️
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.
I was very pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book! Yes, I have been hearing a lot of mixed things about this first book especially, so I went into reading it with somewhat low expectations, and I’m really glad that I did!
A Darker Shade of Magic follows Kell, an Antari who is able to travel to different between “Londons,” an ability that is very rare in this story. This allows him to experience the ways of life in each of these worlds, Red London being prosperous, White London constantly in the midst of violence, Grey London bland and without magic, and Black London which is lost.
We also follow another perspective, Lila Bard (one of my new favorite characters ever!) who is a thief and an aspiring pirate.
This book managed to blow me away with this completely new concept of a world that is so different from the other books I have been reading. It’s so rich and complex, and the author manages to pull it off so well. I love reading a book in which I am so engrossed in the world(s), that I constantly want to keep learning more about it.
The characters in this book were also a favorite of mine, but not so much Kell (which I’ll get into later).
Lila was everything I wanted her to be from reading the synopsis. She grew up with a tough life and she knows that the world she lives in isn’t merciful. She’s a quick thinker and doesn’t make stupid decisions that can frustrate the reader. Even if she is inexperienced on something, she still trusts her instincts and makes the best of the situation.
Rhy is also a character that I loved reading about, although I wish he was in the book more! I had expected him to join along with this journey, but unfortunately he hadn’t. The scenes we did have with him always left a smile on my face, and I really enjoyed the relationship between him and Kell.
Now…onto Kell. From the beginning of this book, I knew I felt something off about him. I found him to be boring. Usually this isn’t a problem for me in books, because typically the protagonist is the most interesting character in the novel, that we get to see grow, but in ADSOM, I couldn’t help but notice the other side characters that I found much more interesting.
Like I wanted to know their backstories and their perspectives on things more than I wanted to know Kell’s. And maybe Kell will end up becoming more interesting to me in the later novels, but in this one he fell flat.
And obviously if the author took the route of following a different perspective, the story would be completely different, (and don’t get me wrong, the story itself was fantastic) it’s just that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kell as everyone else seems to be.
I would love to learn more about Holland though! 🙈
Overall, this book was super enjoyable for me, and I highly recommend it to those who haven’t read it yet! It’s definitely a solid first book in a series, and I can’t wait to read A Gathering of Shadows soon!