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 haven’t been that entranced or full on in love with a novel in quite a while. And it being my first V.E. Schwab novel, I am hungry for more. Magic, sadistic kings/queens, multiple Londons (I was already sold at that point), handsomely quirky prince, travelers, aspiring pirates, and not one drop of romance but all the shipping my heart desires. I tripped face first into this book and kissed the pages.
Multiple universes. Multiple Londons. Each one couldn’t be farther from different, except for the fact that there is always a city named London, there is always a great river, and there is always a shabby little tavern. It’s like Bioshock: There is always a man, a city, and a light house. Calling all Bioshock fans. this book is everything you could dream of after finishing Infinite. Grey London lacks magic and mirrors our own reality. Red London flourishes with life and prosperity, magic is kept at a safe distance. White London is well revered as feral, magic is used to control and rule over the weak. Black London ceases to exist, magic ravaged the lands and the people. Black London was the reason that the multiple Londons closed their doors and remain solitary. Only a select few can travel across the barriers, the Antari, people like Kell who themselves are magic. Working & brought up by the nobility of Red London, Kell acts as a messenger between the worlds. And with traveling to different worlds comes with responsibility, but Kell has a frowned upon habit. He brings items across the borders. And Kell’s hard to break habit unleashes a series of unfortunate events when he brings an old relic from Black London into his prospering home city.
Be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime, and for a little piece of your soul to break. A Darker Shade of Magic transports you on an epic journey beside Kell and Lila Bard, our sassy and feisty pirate-to-be with her sights set on the horizon of prosperous possibilities, through the barriers of different Londons, magic at its most beautiful and deadliest; where I fell in love with these characters and had my heart aching by the very end. Schwab trickles so much life, flaws, and back story into these characters whether it be the endearing Kell or the horrific Astrid and Athos Dane. This book has Game of Thrones suspense where everyone is a chess piece and no one is safe, and I am chewing my fingernails as I pray for the wicked universe of ADSOM not to kill those I’ve claimed as my favorites.
Schwab is a master storyteller, one who weaves words through the pages and captures you for mere hours at a time before you realize that the day is gone. The world-building and character development is rich, exciting, and executed well. The Dane twins are are merciless at their best and black magic that seeps into the different London’s all are wonderfully established villains with a purpose that is airtight: complete and utter control. Even Holland hurt my heart despite the darkness that eclipses him. Every character gives a good, hard tug to the heart strings and it hurt to say goodbye when the time came.
Final Summation: Fantasy fans, A Darker Shade of Magic better not miss your radar. Whether it be understanding the elements of magic or learning about and discerning between the four different Londons, there is fun for all kinds of readers. It would be a shame if this masterfully crafted novel never graced your presence. An absolute new favorite. Falling down the rabbit hole is one thing, falling into a V.E. Schwab novel is another. A story completely new, I hunger for more adventures of Kell and Lila. Book two cannot come fast enough!