A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Book Review

A Darker Shade of Magic

Rating: 3/5 Stars


Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. 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.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, 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.

My Review:

I think this book fell victim to high expectations going into it after all the hype about it on Booktube and Bookstagram.  I was looking forward to reading it.  If it is about magic it will quickly be on my TBR.  The problem for me was quickly apparent when I realized that while this book is about magic, I did not find it very magical.

There are four parallel worlds which are very different from one another with one exception.  They all have a city called London and all the London’s have similar geography and places although everything has different names in each one.  The four Londons (Black London, Grey London, White London and Red London) used to be connected by “doors”, or passage ways, but they have been closed and now only Antari, blood magicians, can travel between the four worlds carrying messages to the different royalty.  I am still trying to figure out why these messages needed to be delivered since they really didn’t serve any specific purpose.

Kell is a young Antari, and only one of two Antari who still exist after magic became out of control and destroyed Black London.  He was raised by the royal family alongside the prince since the age of five.  Kell has no memory of his life before then and does not know where he came from.  This is explained but not explored in the book.  Maybe it will come into play in one of the sequels.  Kell travels to Grey London (the London we know) during the reign of Mad King George and it is during one of his trips that he encounters Delilah Bard, a young woman living on the streets and a cut-throat thief.  She plays a large part in the storyline and brings a breath of fresh air to the book.

I found myself trying to get through the book.  When this happens I tend to not want to finish a book but I did.  The first three quarters of the book were slow going but the last quarter really picked up with a lot of suspense and action.  Delilah definitely added to the interest of the book.  She was an interesting and plucky character and I enjoyed her the most.

V.E. Schwab writes well and I had no problem with her writing style.  I just wasn’t hooked on the story line and never became completely invested in Kell who is the lead character.  He was a little bland for a hero.  I know there are other books in this series but I don’t know if I need to find out what happens next.  Maybe one day I will pick up the second book, but not right now.

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