Title: A Darker Shade of Magic ( A Darker Shade of Magic #1)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24th, 2015
Summary: 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.
I’m not even sure where to begin with this book. Should I start with the amazing characters and how I fell head-over-heels in love with them? Or the magical world and how every different London was just as amazing as the last? Well okay, Grey London wasn’t anything exciting but that’s not exactly V.E. Schwab’s fault. Or maybe I should start with the intense and intriguing story of magic, mischief, evil, aspiring pirates, multi-sided coats, and a black stone that’s far too clever for anyone’s good? I suppose that would be a good place to start.
A Darker Shade of Magic begins with our hero Kell, one of the last magic users alive, traveling back and forth between different Londons as a sort of glorified postman. But you can immediately tell he has a heart of gold despite his potentially unsettling appearance, (his one pure black eye) from the kindness he shows an old, lonely king. But Kell secretly smuggles items back and forth from one London to the next, something that is strictly forbidden. He never paid much attention to the rules though until a woman gives him a black stone that turns out to be far more trouble than it’s worth. Although perhaps not as much trouble as Lila Bard ends up being, after she steals from him, ties him up, and makes him drag her around on his misadventures with him.
This book was so much fun, but even more than that, it was interesting and it had so much life. The different worlds were all so defined and unique, but ultimately similar enough in some aspects that they felt connected. Every time Kell travels to a different London, it really just gives you a certain feeling or vibe while he is there.Not only was the world building fantastic, but the characters were beyond well written. Every character was unique and so complex and well written, I found myself even enjoying our moments with secondary characters and villains. Speaking of villains, hot dang, these baddies gave me the willies. I mean, V.E. Schwab gave sinister a whole new meaning in this book.
Kell as the main character was just a darling. I seriously love this boy, and I instantly knew that I would. If you look back months ago when I first raved about how excited I was to read this book, I told you all how madly in love I was going to be with Kell. I was not mistaken. Kell was absolutely fascinating and I found myself constantly just wanting to pick his mind and know more about him. He was “adopted” by the royal family in Red London but considers himself more of their trophy, despite the affection he feels for them. The fact that he was forced to forget his past only adds to the whole slew of confused feelings he has with his home life. So he defies them in small ways and has a hidden room full of trinkets he collects. The thing about Kell though was that while he had a heart of gold, he wasn’t all good. He kills, and has killed before. He makes mistakes that gets others hurt, then he makes more mistakes. But what matters is how he tries his best to do the right thing, the decision that allows him to live with himself.
Then we have Lila Bard, the thief that is actually an aspiring pirate with a heart set on adventure and a stomach for murder. Plus awesome taste in weapons. My kind of girl. but mostly she ends up being a loyal friend who constantly has Kell’s back, whether he wants it or not. Seriously, this girl is my dream BFF. She constantly proves herself to be brave and resourceful, plus she is quick enough to keep up with magic using Kell and his never ending pile of trouble. She is spunky and tough as nuts, she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty or, you know, killing the occasional person. But only if they really deserve it.
Overall, this book was exactly what I wanted it to be and more. It constantly kept me on my toes with the fast, suspenseful pace, amazing magic system, some of the best world building I’ve experienced in a long time, wonderful and interesting characters, and an absolutely brilliant story. There was not a single aspect of this book that I didn’t like, besides the fact that it had to end at some point, and I would recommend it to everyone. The only problem now is I’m wondering if I’ve waited long enough to re-read it.