Published: October 31, 2017 (First published February 24, 2015)
Publisher: Tor Books
“Purity without balance is its own corruption.”
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.
A Darker Shade of Magic is one of those books that truly capture the essence of its genre. It is a reminder that one could really get lost in a book. The world and the magic system that Victoria Schwab created is unique and familiar at the same time.
The biggest selling point of this book for me is the four Londons. It intrigued me and makes me wonder if this is an alternate-universe type of story. The answer is no. Nonetheless, the story did not disappoint. The magic system and the world co-exist with one another, some words are more powerful than the others in terms of magic, while others seek it in trinkets or other things. Moreover, the distinction between the worlds truly changes the atmosphere of the story once the main character travels through different Londons.
To be honest, I did not like Lila, the female protagonist, at first. Her attitude rubs the wrong way to me in the first part of the book, especially in her first interaction with Kell, but she grew on me as the story progress. Kell, on the other hand, is a character that I truly adore. I like that V.E. Schwab has created his character with a visible flaw. Even though he is powerful, he is not used to fighting one-on-one. I also like how he is not the brooding main character. He has a past that is left to unfold in the whole trilogy and yet it does not hinder his character to be approachable, caring, and understanding.
Plot-wise, this is a solid first book in a trilogy. The world and the magic system were established, but could easily be expanded in the following installment of the trilogy. There are a lot of loose ends in the story that one could be a stepping stone as to what would unfold in the next book. I also like that the story ended not in a cliffhanger, but in a good note, and the main issue was resolved. With that being said, it makes me wonder as to where the story will go after the first book.
All in all, this is an immersive and fun read. You would get lost in the pages, and it felt like transporting to another world. I really enjoyed this book, but I did not feel too satisfied with it as a whole. What’s frustrating is I cannot pinpoint as to why I cannot give this a 5-moon rating.
That is all for this review. I will certainly continue on with the rest of the trilogy.
Until next time!