Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Written by: V. E. Schwab
Release Date: February 24th, 2015
Pages: 400, Hardback
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic, #1
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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..


All right, so I heard about this book on my twitter, specifically from one person, and then I pretty much started seeing it everywhere on my timeline. I hadn’t read anything by Schwab before, I wasn’t even really sure I knew the name at all, but the official blurb sounded interesting and there was more than enough fan support to make it clear this book was going to be one of two things. First Option: overly hyped up and I was going in with too many expectations and I was going to be disappointed in the end. Second Option: This book was going to be fantastic and life ruining and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

Survey says? Door number two!!

Okay, fine, ignore me mixing metaphors. But the important part is that A Darker Shade of Magic is a fantastic fantasy ride. It might feel like it’s starting out slow, but it hardly feels like a bump in the road; it all goes into world building. You understand how each of the Londons work, you understand how Kell’s magic begins to work, and you even get to know our cast of characters. All this happens in an extraordinarily short period considering how much there is for the reader to learn. But once Schwab finishes the world building? Hold onto your magic coat.

That’s when things go boom. The story takes off into its own right and pulls you along on this fantastic adventure. In a lot of books I read there’s moments of pause where the characters catch their breath, where we as the readers get to know the characters better; often the romance is built in these moments. But in ADarker Shade of Magic the characters and even the romance are built while the story continues to chug right along towards what you know will be an amazing final battle.


All right, fine, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. The part I hate. Reviewing books you love and bringing up bad things is the bad thing…However, with A Darker Shade of Magic…well, I’ve been working on this review for over a week and I can’t come up with anything. I think this is why I loved the book so dang much. Because there weren’t moments when the characters let me down, or felt pushed. I suppose I can mention here I would’ve liked more of a romance? But the slow burn that Schwab has building up between her characters is such a refreshing change from everything else on the market that it worked perfectly. I know I’m bad at the didn’t work section but this time? This time it’s truly because I’ve got nothing.


I’m a person who loves world building, always have, always will. I wasn’t sure how the world building in this would work, since we are talking about London. Yes, different versions of London, but still, it’s a place pretty well defined. I wanted to see where Schwab could take this. Where she took it was both surprising and moments of ‘well duh’. The worlds were built with craft and care, and despite the fact that Schwab had to manage three different worlds she was able to hold them all together through these common threads that we can not only see, but also relate to.

The characters of A Darker Shade of Magic were powerful, and I don’t just mean that literally since Kell has magic. They each had their own story, and their own ways of viewing the world. Schwab did a fantastic job being able to hold each character’s wants and beliefs and to leave the readers trying to pick up the pieces and clues she leaves behind to each of their pasts. Especially a few clues simply dropped at the end, which still have me freaking out to be quite honest.

Which brings me to the end. The ending of A Darker Shade of Magic is quite thoughtfully done. It’s the start to a series, and there’s many open doors so you as the reader can tell that Schwab is going to continue the series. There are enough clues to make you sit there and count the days to next year. But at the same time, it’s closed too. The plot is finished; everyone is okay. Truthfully; if she had said it was going to be a standalone I could’ve understood it. There’s a lot of open doors that I want answers to. But, there’s enough answered and closed off that the story can rest on my shelf easy.


Trust me, this is a book you’ll pick up, and you won’t put it down until you finish it. It’s one amazing magical thrill ride. I am so in love with it and I can’t wait to keep going. I think I’ve pushed this book more than I have any other recently.


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