Sunday, 9 August 2015

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab **Review**

A Darker Shade of Magic
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1
Pages: 484
Publisher: Titan Books
Release date: 27th February 2015
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

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Goodreads 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.

I feel like I had been waiting an age to read this book – and yet, when I finally got hold of a copy, I waited some more, saving it so I could read it on holiday, so sure was I that I’d love it. To a certain extent, I was right – I did love it – but it took me a lot longer to get through it than I thought it would. Admittedly, a large part of this is because I simply haven’t had that much time to read recently. On holiday, we were out exploring the excitement of Amsterdam all day, which only really left us with an hour before bed for reading, and often we were too tired. And then there has been that irritating thing called Real Life that kept getting in the way.

But I think another part of the problem, and a big reason that it has taken so long to read, is that the pace of the story never seemed to pick up any speed – at least not until the very end (I flew through the final 70 pages). I knew that the pace would be a little slow at the beginning, as we began to get to know the world, the magic and the characters, but once the main plot began to play out, I expected it to be pacier than it turned out to be. That being said, it didn’t drag its feet too much, and now I’ve finished, it feels incredibly rewarding.

Despite the lack of pace, there are a lot of positive things to be said about this book. The characters were fantastic; I knew I wanted to be friends with Lila, Kell and Rhy the moment I met them. And the bad guys were spectacular as well … I didn’t see the main threat coming.
Then there is the world building. And what world building it is! Absolutely incredible. The entire book takes place in London … but the twist is that there are three of them; white, grey and red London, all with varying degrees of magical power and affluence, and all with their own distinct atmosphere. All of the Londons felt like real worlds to me, all trapped in different time periods in history. And then we’re introduced to Black London. Although we don’t see this world, we learn quite a lot about its history and the dangers that surround it. Black London was consumed by dark magic, and was sealed off from the rest of the worlds … but Kell must find a way of getting there.

Although A Darker Shade of Magic wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, I really enjoyed it, and it was one of the more satisfying fantasy novels I’ve read, once I’d finished it and looked back on the story. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel and seeing what happens to Kell and Lila next!


Jackie said...

I think I may be the only person on the face of the earth who DIDN'T adore ADSOM. *hides* I'm so glad you loved it though! Great review :D

Jackie @ No Bent Spines

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