A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) – V.E. Schwab

Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 414
Release Date: February 24, 2015

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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.

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A Darker Shade of Magic is my second Schwab novel and it may be my last. Though, that depends on my reading mood since I did purchase the sequel, A Gathering of Shadows, and have heard it’s better than its predecessor.

A Darker Shade of Magic features an incredibly interesting and complex idea with multiple Londons across different worlds. The city remains relatively the same, though almost everything else is different. The novel follows Kell as he performs his job of traveling between the Londons and delivering messages to those in power.

What I enjoyed most about A Darker Shade of Magic was the idea behind the story. The history about the Londons and what happened to each of them was interesting and kept me turning the pages. I couldn’t get enough of the world building. Unfortunately, there isn’t nearly enough of it. Schwab only scratched the surface of the world she was building.

I never connected with or enjoyed the main characters. At best, they were two dimensional. Kell is special because of his ability to travel between worlds and has a few eccentricities to make him unique, but for most of the novel he came off as someone in over their head with no idea what they were doing. 
Lila is a cookie cutter protagonist you could find in any pirate style fantasy novel. She’s intelligent, a terrific thief, and hoping for a better a life. The novel hints at her true powers, but never delves too deeply into them.

Overall, I wish I could have enjoyed A Darker Shade of Magic but the lack of world building and the underdeveloped characters was disappointing.

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Have you read A Darker Shade of Magic? What did you think?

3 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) – V.E. Schwab

  1. Sorry, you didn’t like it more, but I think your critique is fair. The world-building is definitely the best thing about these books, but it’s not as important in book 1 as in the other two books.
    I hope you have more luck with the next one if you decide to continue.

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