Book: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic
Standing: Book 1 (ongoing)
POV: 3rd person by Kell and Lila
Source: Physical Copy
Publisher: Tor Books
Release: February 24th, 2015
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.
Wow. An absolutely stunning fantasy book!
In this book, there are numerous worlds, and ultimately, numerous Londons, in existence. You have Red London (filled with magic), Grey London (which is ours, since it has no magic), White London (where magic is used cruelly and as a means to an end), and Black London (completely destroyed by magic). Only Antari, people who possess a special kind of powerful magic, can travel between these worlds. Kell is one of them. However, though his role is to be a messenger between worlds, his unofficial role is a smuggler, bringing objects from other Londons to people for a high price. Caught in the act, he runs into Delilah Bard, a smart and brilliant thief. Together, they find themselves tangled up in something much bigger than them both, and embark on a journey to save all three Londons before something falls into the wrong hands...
To begin, I absolutely loved the idea of different Londons. Yes, they are parallel universes, but the difference is that within each world, magic has a varying role in their lives. Magic scarcely exists in Grey London, magic exists in harmony with the people of Red London, magic is used as a weapon in White London, and magic has completely taken over and destroyed the occupants of Black London. In each world, magic becomes a more and more dominant force to be reckoned with, and we get to see that too much magic can literally control and kill you.
"The ones who think they're ready always end up dead."
Kell was quite a character. As one of the two remaining Antari, he is employed by Red London's royalty to deliver messages to the other Londons on their behalf. These trips are beneficial since it allows Kell to continue his work of smuggling things to people. However, what made Kell different from your typical smuggler was the payment he demanded: not money, but trinkets. We discover that for him, he sees himself more as a belonging to the royal court, nothing more and nothing less. His character grows from this mindset as more prominent matters come into hand, such as the lure of dark magic. Kell's character struggles to withstand dark magic, and to resist temptation of it. Power is intoxicating, especially when you're fuelled for revenge...
"It's my fault," he said. "But I will set things right."
Lila Bard is definitely one of a kind. From Grey London, she's the one we can relate to the most, first with her disbelief of magic, and then her interest in magic. Lila is a wanted thief, but her cunningness has allowed her to avoid detection. She quickly earns the respect of the reader with her bold actions, with her desire to be a captain of a pirate ship humanizes her. After stealing an object of great importance from Kell, she discovers the existence of magic, and of other worlds. Lila's reaction to magic was very human and realistic: first disbelief, then curiosity, followed by reluctance to let magic go, then the desire to see more, to want more than Grey London can offer her. Lila is completely independent, capable of handling herself in an unknown world full of magic-wielding beings. She's a quick handed, dagger-wielding, wanna-be pirate thief with a thirst for danger, a sharp tongue, and a brave soul. Kell most definitely would have been screwed without her. But also... *spoiler-->* I think Lila is an Antari too, since she a) has "untapped magic" b) made it back from White London to Red London safe and sound even without the stone and c) doesn't know how she lost one of her eyes (my theory is that her missing eye was black like Kell's and Holland's, a mark of the Antari, and someone thought she was despicable and cut it out) *<--end of spoiler*
"I'd rather die on an adventure than live standing still."
The plot was fast paced and gripping, leaving you feeling like you absolutely had to keep reading. There was a sense of urgency in the beginning, which quickly turned to trepidation and anxiety of events to come. There were a few moments when I was left speechless, sometimes at the pure brilliancy of the world, and other times at the unexpected plot developments.
This book will make you wishing you were an Antari like Kell, wanting to glimpse the other Londons. I highly recommend this book if you're a fan of Lord of the Rings or you're looking for a unique spin on fantasy and parallel worlds, especially since there's magic, corruption, and a pair of sadist rulers involved. It's no wonder Kell gets so much business smuggling things between Londons; I would want his wares too! I absolutely can't wait for the next book!
"One adventure at a time."