I love the fantasy genre. It’s just about all I read growing up, and while my reading tastes have expanded over the years, I still love it. My problem though is that I’ve become quite picky and/or selective about what I read in the genre, and thus sometimes have a hard time find something to read. For instance, I hated Game of Thrones. I only got halfway through the first book and stopped because I completely despised it. I actually threw it across the room in disgust, something I’ve never done to a book before.
But for all that I’m picky when it comes to fantasy, it’s always the first section I head to in the bookstore and the first section I comb through hoping for a good find. This is how I found A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. What drew me first was the cover. I was immediately intrigued as soon as I saw it. I wanted to know what was happening. So I picked it up and I was done. It was coming home with me.
Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.
Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that 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 take her with him for her proper adventure.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.
What I loved about this book was the world building. It was done so well and in a way that didn’t draw or slow the plot line down. That’s usually the fail for me when it comes to some fantasy books. It’s like they pause to detail and show you the world at the expense of the plot and the flow of the story. That didn’t happen here. Everything was explained in an organic way that really worked with the story.
I also really loved Kell and Lila. Kell starts out as a cocky but lovable little shit who grows up in a hurry when everything starts to fall apart. He is understandable and there is something about his past that even he doesn’t know and that the reader really wants to find out. He’s a great character, with some definite flaws, which to me makes him all the more enjoyable. Lila is badass. She is all about herself and looking out for number one. She has very little desire to do the right thing or to think about others, and while she does help out Kell, she remains very much herself throughout the book, and I loved that she kept her identity as a character and didn’t become to Kell.
Overall, this was a fantastic book, and I recommend it to anyone who likes the fantasy genre. Book two in this series just came out a couple of weeks ago, and I will definitely be diving into that soon. A great read!