A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

There are multiple Londons: Red London, full of magic and opulance; Grey London, gritty and without any magic at all; and White London, a city being slowly drained of magic (and ruled by two ruthless monarchs). There’s also Black London, which is full of chaos and dark magic. No one goes there.

Kell is the Red Traveler, meaning he’s one of the few magicians with the power to travel between worlds. He acts as a messenger, but he’s also a smuggler. He ends up with something dangerous: a forbidden stone taken from Black London. It brings danger with it.

Traveling to Grey London and hopefully to safety, Kell meets Lila Bard. She’s a thief who just happens to save his life. The two end up running together, in an effort to stay one step ahead of those who want the stone’s black magic for themselves.

First of all, I’m kicking myself: why didn’t I read this book sooner? It’s amazing, a rush of excitement from beginning to end. Every character is well written and fully developed. Also, no character is untouchable, something I really appreciate. Too often in fantasy, there are no twists, which makes for a boring book.

Doubly great is the fact that Schwab didn’t feel the need to force an overtly saccharine romance, instead letting her characters, and the plot, develop naturally. Kell is fantastic, but Lila really stood out to me. She’s hardcore, doesn’t apologize for who she is or anything she’s done, and doesn’t spend time dwelling on things and feeling sorry for herself.

I’ll be rushing out to find the next book, A Gathering of Shadows, as soon as possible. I have a feeling I’ll be reading all of Schwab’s books in rapid succession. I’m so excited to have found a new author to love!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

4 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

  1. I’m staying away from fantasy for some time, because of my not very successful first attempt in decades to read it, but people suggested I’d read some urban fantasy, which sound like this book. Is it urban fantasy? Your review made me very curious. What would you say about the writing?


    1. The writing is fantastic. This is technically urban fantasy because it has London as a jumping off point, but it’s very unique. The Londons in the book aren’t anything like the real London.
      As far as urban fantasy, I would highly recommend either Jackaby (which reminded me of a Doctor Who/Sherlock hybrid with a supernatural flair), or Strange Practice. Both of those are fantasy, but the setting is firmly in the real world. They have the bonus of both having strong female characters as their main character.


  2. This was such a great read! The characters and their connections to each other were well written. Kell and Lila were compelling enough that I based a DnD character on a combination of their personas. (Lila Kell a changeling rogue/bard if you must know. And I had to have the jacket). The pacing of the book was rushed but it felt right, thrilling, and made it quite hard to put down. The author left me needing to know more about these characters and the world they are in so I am looking forward to getting the next book. And will likely read this one again.

    Liked by 1 person

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