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

A Darker Shade of Magic Book Cover A Darker Shade of Magic
Shades of Magic
V.E. Schwab
Fantasy
Tor Books
February 24, 2015
Kindle E-book
401

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.

Image result for magic gifDarker Shades of Magic Stir in the Blood

A Darker Shade of Magic is the kind of book that is difficult to review. My book club selected it to read, and I opened to the first page, expecting to love it. But, I didn’t. Next, I wasn’t sure. Then, finally, I did. So I suppose I could sum up my entire review right here: read this book, give it a chance to unfold before you judge it, nod your head vigorously upon finishing it, then proceed to buy the rest of the series.

V.E. Schwab does an excellent job of explaining her world of alternate Londons, with varying degrees of magic, and inhabitants whom all relate to the magic differently (or not at all). The rules of magic are clearly defined, allowing no single character an exclusive advantage, which serves to raise the stakes during the many magical battles. The main character, Kell, is immediately intriguinImage result for thames river gifg and likable, but the other characters take some getting used to, at first seeming to be exaggerated stereotypes of their archetypes. For example, there is Lila, an impetuous (and cross-dressing) thief, and Rhy, a spoiled and handsome prince. Both of Lila and Rhy spend the book being entirely, to mostly, predictable. Meanwhile, the villains are dripping with evil, making them easy to loathe, which in turn makes any sense of conflict over their demise impossible. Herein lies my main criticism, which is that the characters lack any significant depth. The only minor growth and development are seen in Lila, who grows progressively less selfish and skittish as she comes to trust (and perhaps care about) Kell. that It is that subtle change, along with the questions that are left open at the close of the story, that provide ample reason to come back for more.

My cImage result for magic gifriticism is easily tempered by what I ended up loving most about the book: the emphasis on the importance of balance, and of truth. In this case, it is a question of the balance between degrees of magic, and the balance between pure magic and black magic in the heart of the magic wielder. But this could just as easily be the need for balance in real life, between obligation, and self-care. This is coupled with the importance of the truth, whether it be truth of intention or truth of feeling. It is the idea of balance and truth that allows Kell and Lila to defeat their enemies, saving their respective kingdoms, and what leaves open the menacing question leading to the next book: what happens when balance is thrown off elsewhere in the vast universe?

 

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