Book: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Original Release Date: 24th Feb 2015
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Alternate Reality
Rating: 5 out of 5
Blurb: 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.
My Overall Thoughts:
Wow. Just wow. I knew this book was at least going to be moderately good from the glowing reviews I’d read but I did not expect that! Most ya fantasy books stay quite light even with their battle scenes, only talking about death when it’s a significant character and it’s drawn out to pull at the readers heart strings but this book was not light that as all. I mean it did have some drawn out parts to pull on the readers heart strings, but they were appropriate and followed by some kind of twist that shocked and distracted you.
What I’m trying to say is that this is not your typical ya fantasy and I absolutely loved it for that. I did not expect half the things that happened in this book because I went into it thinking it was something completely different, which actually made it more enjoyable for me. You think you have a grasp on the story and what’s going to happen but then you’re thrown in a completely different direction. I think this book has given me a book hangover because I don’t know how to form sentences to tell you guys how amazing this book is but I’m going to try, so wish me luck!
Thoughts on Characters:
I’d say that the characters in this book was one of my favourite parts but all of it was my favourite so I can’t quite say that. The characters in this novel were so developed and they changed so much throughout the course of the book but it was at an actual plausible pace and they changed in such a good way! I loved the characters at the start of the novel but by the end of them I wanted to hold them close, squeeze them and never let go!
I didn’t want any of the action to happen (although when it did I loved it), I was just happy reading about Kell traveling between the London’s with his mystical coat and delivering messages for people. But then shit went down and Kell’s character just got better. He isn’t perfect and that’s what I loved about him, despite him being the ‘hero’ of this book he doesn’t always do the hero thing. He isn’t the typical ‘chosen one’, actually he isn’t a ‘chosen one’ at all, he’s just a typical rebellious teenager who wants to have one secret from his parents and also has insane magical powers. His rebellion gets him into some mess and he tries to get himself out of it, but it doesn’t go perfectly to plan. Does it ever? But how Kell goes out of his way to fix his mistake shows so much about him, that he’ll do anything and everything for the people he cares about and although that isn’t always morally right it makes me love him even more.
Lila was just bad ass. She’s this amazing independent character who can easily look after herself, and does so for the majority of her life, but her character development is amazing. She learns to be selfless, that simply being alive isn’t enough and sometimes it’s worth dying if you actually get to live. She realises that sometimes it’s okay to ask for help, and that doing so isn’t a weakness but a strength. But she never loses her spunk and her bite, even when she’s asking for help she throws an insult in here. Her sarcasm was just one of my favourite things throughout this book, and even though she used it in serious situations it didn’t pull attention away from the tension and severity of the situation.
My feelings about Holland were so up and down throughout the whole book, which kind of made me love him as a character because he was so complicated. One second I’d be feeling so sorry for him and willing there to be a way for him to escape the Dane twins and then the next I’d be throwing my book around and yelling about how I hated him and can he just die already. In the end I settled for feeling sorry for him but still not liking him as a person. Did he have bad things happen to him that he probably didn’t deserve? Yes. Did he still make stupid and horrible decisions of his own accord? Yes. So all in all, I loved the complexity of his character but by the end of it I was not rooting for him to come to the side of the light.
The Dane twins were just amazing bad guys. They only did something if it helped themselves and a lot of the time it wasn’t even for that, it was for pure fun. That’s what makes a great villain (only if you do it right though, if you don’t it comes off as lazy but Schwab definitely does it right), they do all these evil things for the sole reason of it amuses them. Although they didn’t feature heavily in the novel until the end you can still sense them throughout, as if you know they are always watching, which makes them even more intimidating and scary. But you also go a sense that it wasn’t them that were the villains of the novel, it was White London as a whole which I liked, I liked that it wasn’t a person that was a villain but a state of mind and I’m excited to see how that’s explored in the next book in the series.
Another of my favourite parts of this book is the secondary characters. Normally it is the side-kick that I love the most in the book, but I don’t think you can class either Kell or Lila as a side-kick. But that didn’t take away from the novel because my love went to the secondary characters instead. There were three that I loved above the others so I’m going to talk about just those because otherwise we’ll be here all day.
First I need to talk about Rhy before I explode! He is my favourite character in this whole thing and I can’t explain completely why that is but I just want to hug him. I love the spoilt little rich prince with a heart of gold thing he has going on, I love his none specific sexuality (although I do slightly ship Rhy/Lila but that’s mainly because I think they would play off each other amazingly so I’m friend-shiping them hard) and I love his sarcastic comments to Kell and their brother love for each other.
I’m starting to sense a pattern with my love of sarcastic characters. I desperately need more Rhy!
The other two are quite minor characters but I desperately wanted to hear more about them. Barron is the father figure I needed Lila to have. I don’t know why I needed her to have one but his presence in her life was just so comforting to me, to know what someone cared about her no matter what she did and would always have her back even before Kell came along was just the best thing possible. He didn’t actually do much in the novel but I loved how he was someone that Lila could count on even if she didn’t want to at times. Another character I really liked was Parrish, he’s another character that I don’t particularly know why I like him so much but he just made me smile. He was so worried about doing something wrong and was completely loyal to Rhy, it just made me smile every time Rhy would let them have time off and Parrish wouldn’t know what to do with himself. I think I liked him so much because I am also a worrier, and that was what he did for pretty much every appearance he made in the novel. Also he loved Rhy (like me) and just wanted to do him proud, I found that ever time he was mentioned I would mentally cheer him on in my head, wanting him to do well and impress.
Thoughts on Plot:
The blurb on the back of the book doesn’t give away a lot about the overall plot of the book, which I’m kind of glad. I didn’t read the synopsis on goodreads before reading this book, just peoples reviews so I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for, just that it was going to be good. Although reading it back the synopsis on goodreads doesn’t give away a lot of information either, which I really like about this book. It has a sense of mystery to it before you even start reading which just increases the need for answers as you’re reading.
The plot of the novel was just great. I can’t think of another word to describe it other than great. There’s so many shocking moments that are actually relevant to the plot instead of just shoved in for shock value. I think my boyfriend got fed up of me shouting curse words at this book because of how annoyed or shocked I was. I’m normally quite good at predicting what happens in things like books, tv shows and movies but with this I did not have a clue what to expect next. But when it did happen I was hitting myself on the forehead for not picking up on the clues sooner.
There was no romance! Well in my eyes there was no romance. Some people may see some of the things that happened in a romantic way but to me it was all done in friendship. It’s one of the main reason I loved this book so much was that although I do love having a ship to root for, this book didn’t need it. It didn’t feel like it was lacking anything because there was no longing gazes or love filled good bye speeches. If what happened does lead to a romance then it is incredibly slow building which is perfect for these characters, especially as they’ve known each other for a couple of days and the what could be considered romantic parts weren’t put in there for the sack of it; they actually added to the plot and characterisation. I think this is one of the first times I’ve been happy my favourite characters didn’t get together, but that’s because their friendship was so amazing and the plot didn’t need it, it would have taken away from it if anything.
I can’t really put much else about the plot because I feel like I’ll be giving too much away and I don’t want to spoil it all for you. I will say that I loved the ending though, you could kind of tell that that was what was going to happen but it didn’t take away from it and it just seemed so fitting.
Thoughts on Writing:
Schwab’s writing is so easy to read, she manages to build a world and the magic within it so effortlessly that you don’t even realise it’s happening. Although the whole book is set in this magical place because the setting is also a familiar one you don’t even realise there’s anything different about it. I was learning new information about the different London’s but it was done in such an amazing way that it just added to the flow of the story, there was no information bumps and I was so immersed in this world that when I stopped reading it took me a while to adjust.
The pacing for this book was just perfect. It was slower at the start when Kell was going about his every day life, but slowly started picking up pace when the action kicked in. It was done in such a casual way that you don’t even notice at first and then before you know it you’re flicking pages like you only have 2 hours to finish the book and then it will be taken away from you. The last section of the book did seem to end in a blink of an eye and left me with a bit of a book hangover but then considering it all took place in less than two days it’s going to go a bit quickly. So thinking back, her pacing for that was perfect as well. Basically her pacing is perfect, her writing style is perfect, her world building is perfect, this whole book is perfect!
Recommend This To:
Everyone. If you love amazing characterisation, a plot that isn’t predicable and a world that sucks you in then you need to read this book. If you’re a lover of fantasy/dystopian/paranormal/magical books then you’re probably more likely to love this than say a contemporary lover but I still think anyone who appreciates good story telling will love this book.
What did you guys think of A Darker Shade of Magic? Are you as in love with it as I am? Have I convinced you to go and pick it up immediately if it’s still sitting on your TBR pile? Also what do you guys think of the new review layout? Do you prefer it or should I go back to my rambling paragraphs? Let me know in the comments bellow!