Book: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic Book #1
400 pages, Hardcover
First published February 24, 2015
Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.
Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.
Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.
Magic has four colors
After getting to know the author and the book The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, which fascinated me, I continued with her work as expected. And for all you magic lovers out there, I’ll tell you what the very first thing I read when I opened the book was.
” For those who dream of extraordinary worlds”
And the place we are transported to is indeed extraordinary, even if it does contain a bit of reality. The magic here is vivid, insidious and cruel. There are four parallel worlds, radically different from each other – black, white, red and gray. The magic is elemental and obeys one of the elements of water, fire, earth, air and the most terrible, which gives control over the body and whose element is bone. Most people master only one type of magic and very rarely someone manages to master two. The most powerful magic is blood magic and only two people can master it. They are called Antari and are unique because they can pass through long sealed doors between worlds.
“But the problem with magic,” Kell added, “is that it afflicts the strong in mind and the weak in spirit, and one of the worlds has failed to stop itself. People fed on magic, and magic fed on them until it ate their bodies, then their minds, and finally their souls.”
The Magic of London
In every world, there is a London. The only one in which they resemble each other. I’m very impressed with the idea of color separation, so I’ll tell you a little more. In the very beginning of this world, the doors were open and people could travel between cities. Until a plague struck Black London. Here, years ago, magic took control and killed all the living. It dresses them like a robe and sucks all life from the body it wears until it turns to dust. Fearing this “black plague”, the other cities seal all doors and destroy all relics of Black London.
The city closest to the fallen city is White. Page 84 was the moment the book grabbed me: the description of White London. There is no balance in magic here, this is about domination. The throne is not inherited, it is won by force and blood. The townspeople kill anyone who is weak in order to secure a piece of magic. A cruel and brutal world. White London starves, gradually fades and loses its magic, and its rulers can really stink your blood.
Gray London has completely lost its magic. The people here have long forgotten the gates and the rest of the world. Magic is considered heresy, and only a few look for traces of its existence.
Red London is drowning in wealth and prosperity. It is the home of Kell. Away from the Black Plague, the city flourishes. A place where people live peacefully, enjoy life and magic is in balance.
Kell and Lila – A Darker Shade of Magic
Frighteningly different characters. While Kell is super calm and level-headed, Lila is dynamite. A strong female character who impresses with her fighting spirit. A thief who is perfect with a knife and a gun. She survives in gray London and fights to fulfill her dream of boarding a pirate ship. Laila is the kind of heroine who looks for trouble and doesn’t wait for it to find her. Lila Bard doesn’t give up, even when she finds herself in cruel White London. Having no magic, only a human, she faces every danger with her head held high.
The two characters are an interesting combination. Kell comes across as a bit of a rebel. He lives peacefully and fate has rewarded him for being an antarian in Red London, of all places. And even though he has everything he needs, he gets involved in smuggling relics between worlds, which is strictly forbidden. The young Antarian is a little excited. Why, really? Kell has never had to fight for his life the way Lila has.
The book has a very interesting cover and at first glance we know we are in for something magical. I definitely like the way Schwab writes. “A Darker Shade of Magic” is a light, fun read that will keep you on your toes at times. There was less of everything, the plot could have been a bit more convoluted in my opinion, but for its modest pages it was a good start. The book was by no means lacking in intrigue or surprises, I just set my standards a little higher. What I also liked was that there was no slimy Hollywood-style love story with a happy ending.