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

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

“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 shall be careful not to give away too much. If you do decide to read any of the ‘reviewed’ books I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending for you, or give away any other major plot twists, so I’ll try to be as vague as possible. However, these won’t be completely spoiler free so if that bugs you stop reading here.

What I thought:

I had to read ADSoM after hearing all these good things about it! I was a little worried before I started that it was over-hyped and that my expectations would be too high, but fortunately I worried over nothing!

Very early on, Schwab gives a short summary of all four Londons, and at that point, reading their short descriptions, I knew that I would love the book. It was interesting before that, too, but for me the brief one-line descriptions were the point of no return. The different Londons are fascinating – White London in its cruelty emanating off the walls, and Red London with its magic pulsating through the very air – Black London especially intrigues me. I don’t know if it’s possible for Kell to go and return, but I would love to see more than rumours in A Gathering of Shadows.

For me this was a strange book to read. It made me want to write, but at the same time it’s one of those reads that made me wonder why on Earth I think that I can pull off what Schwab pulls off. It made me want to write while fuelling my insecurities.

Now, I don’t know if I’m just nitpicking (I did read this while in the final days of my beta edit and I was tired. Very tired.) but there were a lot of italics in this book. It’s not enough to stop me from enjoying it of course, I’m not that pety, but it did start to feel unnecessary around a third through the book. I understand why the different commands or names like Vitari might be cursive the first time we see them – they are important parts of the world, after all – but they didn’t need to be be cursive every time. At times there were seven or more words in italics on one page, and every time I read one I thought ‘I know! I get it!’

I loved the chapter with Kell (whose name I kept reading as Cale) and Lila where they talk about the different Londons, the stone and its magic, and seeing Lila’s outburst. Her personality really came through in that conversation and the aspects of her character she tries to hide were obvious. It made her look more vulnerable than she acts, and it made me adore her all the more. Kell’s all right but Lila is my favourite.

I don’t know why, but for some reason my mind kept drifting as I read. It was a great story and I really enjoyed reading it, but I kept having to go over so many paragraphs because my mind hadn’t been paying attention. I don’t know if this was because it was such a busy week for me or because her writing style isn’t compatible with me, but I don’t want it to put anyone off buying this. It’s a great book with a fascinating world and I can only recommend it. It’s probably just me, and all the hype you may have seen on twitter or elsewhere is very well deserved.

I’m reading A Gathering of Shadows now, so watch out for that review in a couple of week’s time!


Have you read ADSoM and would like to chat about it? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally, neither do I get paid for it. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Amazon listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

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  1. It’s funny, but I didn’t notice the italics the first time. But when I re-read it they did start to bug me! Like you, I thought, “We get it, there’s a foreign Antari language!”
    I hope you’re enjoying AGOS. I really liked it, but it wasn’t quite as good as ADSOM. Sequel/middle of trilogy book issues 🙂

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one! I did feel like I was nitpicking when I was reading it. I’m on AGOS now and I’m enjoying it, but the italics are bothering me again. I’d agree that it’s not quite as good as ADSoM, but I’m not done yet. The story took a while to get started, though. But as you said, such is the way with the middle child in a trilogy!

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