Monday, March 9, 2015

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin': a darker shade of magic

Name: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
find it on goodreads
barnes & noble 

synopsis: Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.
Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby 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 another world for her 'proper adventure'.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

Full, non-spoilery review under the cut! 

 I first want to start out by saying just one word: wow. I had extremely high hopes and expectations for this book, and I am happy to say that it lived up to every single one of them, and more. Though in a different way than I expected, if that makes any sense at all. It's an amazingly fun, fast-paced, thrilling read, and I would definitely recommend it to everyone. 

A Darker Shade of Magic is definitely a fantasy book. There's lots of magic and wondrous things involved in the world of this story. However, with fantasy books, I understand that there is a measure of commitment involved with reading them. Books like the A Song of Ice and Fire series or the Throne of Glass series throw us entirely out of our comfort zone, leaving the reader to figure out the new world for themselves. Except A Darker Shade of Magic isn't like that. Maybe it's because at least some parts of the story take place in a Victorian London, which is at least a little familiar, but I also think it is due to the tremendous world building of V.E. Schwab. She doesn't throw you into the world, she gently lowers you into it, and before you even realize, you are immersed. That may have been my favorite part of the book, though it is so hard to choose, but her brilliance in world building gave me chills. 

This story was a lot darker than I was originally anticipating, but that only made me like it more. There are real dangers and conflicts in each of the Londons that Kell goes between. It isn't just the memory of corrupted Black London that haunts the story, there are more layers to the antagonists, and I liked that. I loved the twisted, ruthless twins who rule white London, the ones who will do anything to keep their power. And another interesting part of the story was the other opposing force, which isn't even human at all. 

The characters in this story are absolute treasures. Though flawed and definitely, by no means, moral, they felt gritty and real, products of their own lives. Kell, being so serious and deadly, concerned with doing right but only when it is right by him; Lila, a bold and fearless pirate by heart but a thief by trade, who would rather wield dangerous magic than get rid of it; and Rhy, dashing, princely, flirtatious, and utterly ungifted by magic, jealous of his adopted brother Kell and willing to do whatever it takes to be a good king. I fell in love with all of them, cursed their mistakes and glories with them in their triumphs. Even with the backdrop of magic and intrigue, the characters felt like people that I've known for ages. 

Kell and Lila made for a shaky alliance at first, and I could definitely feel the distrust between them. But I think that the wariness that came from the fact that they're both killers and criminals strangely had the opposite effect, binding them more tightly together. And before they even knew what was happening, they were somehow in all of the huge mess together, a unlikely team. (and we aren't even going to TALK about the significance of Lila having a glass eye) I want to go on adventures with them, sail on Lila's pirate ship and hang out in the red castle with Kell and Rhy. 

The last half of this book went so fast, I'd gone from page 200 to 398 without even realizing that it was almost over. I enjoyed the way everything was left, especially because there are still lots of things that were left open-ended. I absolutely cannot wait for the second book to come out, though I don't even know how it could top this one. I'm so glad I finally got to read a V.E. Schwab book, and that this one was so amazing. 


1. "For the ones who dream of stranger worlds" – dedication, which I ADORE.
2. "At first glance, the chamber looked fairly empty, but a closer inspection would reveal that the space under the cot and the drawers in the dresser were filled with boxes and in those boxes were treasures from every London." – pg. 55
3. "Holland's mouth quirked in something that wasn't a smile" – pg. 91 
4. "A pirate without a ship, that's what she was, through and through. And one day, she'd have the ship, and then she'd sail away and be done with this wretched city once and for all" – pg. 113
5. "Other Londons. Men walking through magical doors. Stones that made something out of nothing. It was all the stuff of stories. Of adventures." – pg. 159
6. "'I'd rather die on an adventure than live standing still" –pg. 199
7. "'I'm not going to die,' she said. 'Not till I've seen it.' 'Seen what?' Her smile widened. 'Everything.'" –pg. 205
8. "'You've gotten in the way long enough,' said Astrid, raising her hands in front of her. Lila's mouth quirked. 'I do seem to have a talent for that.'" – pg. 367


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