Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic Book 1) by V.E. Schwab (published by Titan Books)
This fantasy was an enjoyable read set in an imaginatively crafted world which consists of four Londons: red, grey, white and black. It follows the story of an Antari magician called Kell who can travel through the ‘doors’ that connect each of these worlds.
There is only one other Antari, Holland, who can do this. This pair are the last remaining travellers. Kell and Holland carry letters from one monarch to the next in each of the different Londons, apart from Black London which has been shut off from the rest due to dark magic.
This story focuses on Kell’s accidental carrying of a Black London relic, a stone, into Grey London (based on the real-life London, set in 1819), where he meets thief and street urchin Delilah Bard (Lila), and their lives become entwined in the task of getting the stone back to where it belongs, by having to go through Red London (where Kell is from) and White London (where Holland is from). However, there are lots of dangerous others after this stone and plenty of obstructions that stand in their way.
I was enthralled by the first half of this book, the worldbuilding gripped me and the characters of Kell and Holland were intriguing. I loved the descriptions of the different Londons and how magic was different in all four places. The writing is brilliant, and reminded me a little of Neil Gaiman. The story swept me along beautifully until I got to about half way.
And then I got a bit bored. Mild spoiler alert – I couldn’t work out why Holland didn’t just carry the stone into Red London? And this bugged me throughout, and wasn’t resolved at the end (in a way that was satisfactory/made sense for me anyhow!). The character of Kell became a little hollow. He loves his brother, and suddenly that’s all we hear about. I wanted to know more about his background, where he’d come from etc, but perhaps that’s in Book 2!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get on with the character of Lila at all. Although I understood her motivations and found her realistic in her determination to have an adventure and seeming lack of fear, I just couldn’t picture her. The book describes her as skinny with brown dark hair chopped to her chin. She’s nineteen, but to me she came across as a pouting, spoilt child with blond hair in pigtails who stomps her feet and does what she wants although everyone tells her not to. I honestly don’t know why! And I thought she treated Barron despicably.
This is a fast paced read, with an intriguing world, obvious plot (there are no didn’t-see-that-coming! moments) and likable but predictable characters.
My rating: 3/5
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