In A Darker Shade of Magic Kell is one of the last magicians who is able to travel between worlds and visit the three different versions of London that exist in them. He is from Red London, where magic is plentiful and revered, and where he has grown up with the heir to the empire. For his king he travels to Grey London, where George III rules and magic is nothing but a rumour anymore, and to White London, where people fight to control what little magic is left.
But one day Kell smuggles an artifact across the worlds that could change everything. Because long ago there was a fourth London, Black London, where magic ruled until it consumed everything, and Black London might not be as dead as it is presumed.
I decided to finally pick up A Darker Shade of Magic because pretty much everyone on my timeline was getting hyped for the third book in the series, A Conjuring of Light, and I thought maybe spending six month on my TBR stack was enough (somewhere The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir is laughing hollowly I imagine). And I have to say I fully get the hype.
The world building in this book is absolutely amazing. I love the idea of a touch stone where all the worlds are the same and yet not, and I love how Schwab includes a historic version of our London and gives us something familiar in between the new worlds.
Then the characters. I don’t think I mentioned it in my review for Vicious even though it’s true for that as well, but I love how Schwab builds her characters. Most of this book focuses on Kell and Lila Bard, a thief from Grey London who wants to become a pirate and ends up travelling with Kell and kicking ass, and I adore both of them. They felt very real, and they really drew me in from the first page.
The one thing I didn’t quite like was the speed of the plot. It seemed to take ages to get anywhere, and while there really was a lot to set up so readers could understand the main action, it felt like too much compared to the amount of pages. The pace was fine as soon as the main action really started, but at that point I had started to wonder if it would ever get there. It will be interesting to see if the rest of the series is better with that.
Overall I really liked A Darker Shade of Magic. It’s a great book, sitting right at the edge between urban fantasy and high fantasy, which I found really intriguing, and the characters really make you want to get to know them.
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 Stars)
Publication Date: 27 February 2015
Publisher: Titan Books
Page Count: 384
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.