Monday, February 26, 2018

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Series: Shades of Magic #1 
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Format: Hardcover 

Page Count: 400


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. (taken from

"You know so little of war. Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out."

This is one of those books that's been around for years that I've always sort of ignored, despite seeing so much praise for it on GoodReads and blogs. Seriously, people love this series, and I think I was almost hesitant to give a shot purely because it couldn't possibly live up to the hype. Unfortunately, I think I kind of had the right idea.

Don't get me wrong: A Darker Shade of Magic is an entertaining, thoroughly original ride, and I don't regret reading it. However, I can't say that I was as blown away by it as I hoped to be. Let's look at my reasoning.

The Good

Okay, multiple Londons and a magical being who can hop across the boundaries between them? That's pretty dang cool. As soon as I started this novel, I knew I was in for a unique experience. I enjoyed the descriptions of the different realms and cultures, and I was interested in the history behind their magic.

As for the characters, they're fun. Lila is totally sassy and independent, but not in an overly-annoying or brash manner. Kell falls a little too much into the self-sacrificing hero category for my taste, but I honestly can't complain about his character, either.

The Not-So-Good

By far my biggest problem with the novel was the pace. I realized that I had reached page 150 and still had very little idea of where the story was going. I found myself yawning frequently and finding other things to do besides finish this book. It's not that the story was bad; in fact, it was quite impressive in some ways. However, I was just so disinterested in what was happening at various points. A little more plot speed and a dash of complexity could have gone a long way, in my opinion.

In conclusion, I had a nice time with Kell and Lila as they skipped between Londons and battled evil magic, but I can't bring myself to love this series like so many do. I might check out the second book someday, but as of right now, I have too many other pressing reads on my list to spend further time with this series. I know, I'm as sad as you are that this didn't work out for me.

It was okay. Man, I've really been striking out with super popular books lately. Oh well.