Book Review: #28: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab

Wednesday, 11 March 2015
Product details:
Publisher: Tor
Format: Hardcover
Length: 400 pages
Published: 2015
Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Source: Purchased
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.

Right so where do I even begin when trying to discuss my feelings on A Darker Shade of Magic... Well first and foremost I would say that it was definitely one of my most anticipated reads of 2015, so naturally I admit I did have quite high expectations of this book. When Victoria announced the initial book's conception and publication she gave away very few details, but what we were promised was: pirates, thieves, parallel London's and a whole lot of magic. Now tell me that premise alone doesn't grasp your attention? So does V.E.Schwab deliver with her promises? You bet she does! That and oh so much more! I do have to admit however that this was my first novel of Victoria's that I have read, although I do own two other books by her on my shelf. I am a bad reader! I know! I'll get to them eventually! For my first read of Victoria's I am extremely pleased to announce that in no way was I disappointed by this book, it definitely shapes out to be a fantastic instalment in what looks to be a very promising trilogy. So what did I think?

Cover -  So when this cover was first announce I was immediately drawn into how beautiful it is. Now looking at is, it's quite a simplistic cover and by that I mean that the background colour alone takes up a lot of the space. Besides the main image, the title of the book and the author's name, there isn't a lot there. However this being said I think this cover is stunning - especially for it's simplicity. It doesn't need a lot to grab your attention which is why I think it works really well. The typography is absolutely fantastic, a very classic font is used and it really pops out at you and the colour scheme of black and red is very suited to the story and if you read it you'll find out why. What really brought my attention to this stunning cover was the centre image. Isn't it so beautifully complex and in your face? We have a depiction of our main character Kell stepping between two parallel versions of London. Now obviously because Kell is a traveller, the element of travelling between Red London and Grey London plays a major part in the plot of the story. Can we also just mention the coat? Isn't it amazing? Especially in the story! Overall, I think for a cover it's extremely effective and really stands out on your shelves.

Plot - Okay, this is the part where I am having to try really hard not to write my intense feelings of this book in all capitals. Breathe and stay professional! This plot was so gripping and adventurous that it really made this book beyond fantastic. Even though this book is the first in a trilogy, it had enough of an adventurous structure that could have quite easily made it a standalone fantasy novel - which is not something we see often! Besides the ending being very open, this plot was very smooth and contained it's own closed off story within a much larger one. I honestly feel that this was probably my favourite feature of ADSOM, because it literally surprised me, I was expecting Victoria to end on some life ruining cliffhanger from all of the raving tweets I've seen about it to date. I am so glad that was not the case, I would not have survived. Instead we got a beautiful adventure story set in a fantasy world that contained magic, humour, parallel London's, witty and sarcastic characters and so much more I can't even begin to think of listing them all. In terms of the plot, we are introduced to Kell, a blood magician who has the ability to travel between alternate London's. In his mind, Kell identifies each London by colour. We have Red London where magic thrives strong, Grey London - an ordinary world where magic has long been forgotten,  White London where magic is restricted and ruled heavily by two blood thirsty siblings who sit on the throne and Black London, a once thriving world until magic consumed everything and everyone. I don't want to give too much away about the plot because I feel this is really one that you just need to go into and experience for yourself, but to sum it up in a few sentences then I would say that when a traveller and a thief come across a strange and powerful artefact from a world once lost, they are tested against all odds to return it without losing themselves along the way. ADSOM provides the reader with such a unique and adventurous reading experience that when you finish it you will dream of what you only wish were possible. V.E.Schwab sums this thought up really well in her dedication in this book: For those who dream of stranger worlds - and I truly believe that this book is perfect for that.

Characters - A Darker Shade of Magic has a full cast of characters that each are very unique to the story. Each were very specific in design and when reading this book it is very easy to distinguish between them. Kell's character was wonderfully blunt and bitter in his attitude towards certain things. He was charming, sarcastic, cocky yet extremely level headed. Kell has very strong feelings in regards to keeping those he holds dear safe, and this really shone through in terms of what is considered family and the lengths we go for them. There is a scene later on in this book that really highlights this and I thought this was a beautiful trait to bring to such a complex character. Delilah (Lila) Bard in my opinion was probably my favourite character in this book. She was the perfect blend of wit and security, an odd mix I assure you. Lila was very quick witted and humorous not only some of her dialogue (which was an absolute pleasure to read - I found myself chuckling more than once), but also in her actions. Lila is our kick-ass, feisty aspiring pirate and thief combined and she is fully capable of looking after herself, or so she thinks. There are moments in this book that really identify the secret security each of us have in us. That longing or dread when posed with a difficult situation. I was really impressed with how Victoria wrote Lila to be, because especially in one scene where I expected Lila to kick butt, she had to retreat. This was very smart thinking on Victoria's point because it portrays a realistic side to Lila's character. It's not often that kick-ass characters have to fun from the fight because often their too shrouded in what is expected of fantasy writing. Often we miss what it truly means to be human and this shone through beautifully in Lila's character. I also loved how she disguised herself as a guy and had just as stylish sense in coats as Kell. Beautiful. Now obviously a good fantasy novel would not do well without a good villain, but in this book we aren't just introduced to one - we're introduced to three, or perhaps four. First of all we have Astrid and Athos Dane, the rulers of White London. In my opinion both of them were as bad as each other and it's very difficult trying to decide who I thought was worse? Each had their own manipulative and ruthless traits that made them the idealistic villains. One's that really send a chill down your spine and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! Also, they had their own way of being especially creepy in this book, especially the way they drank blood. That scene with Holland and the goblets? Nope that's me done I'm creeped out to the bone. So another character that was pitched as a villain in the beginning of this novel was Holland, the White London traveller - the only person besides Kell with the abilities to step between the parallel London's. He was ruthless, without mercy, treacherous but also was a magician in chains, tied to do the bidding of the Dane twins. Whatever they command, he has to obey. In this light I feel that Holland deserves some sort of redemption because if he wasn't tied to them and forced to do their bidding it makes me wonder just how different he could be? Finally for the villains, and this is more of a metaphorical one but I would class the black magic as a villain  because unlike other fantasy novels where black magic is often the creation of the user, black magic in this book took on a whole other force of it's own. One that I am hoping will come to play an even larger part in the books to come!

So overall I absolutely adored A Darker Shade of Magic, it's definitely left me wanting more which means until then I will be stalking Victoria's twitter feed and spamming her with never-ending tweets about the sequel, yet untitled. But for now, ADSOM was a thrilling, adventurous read for those who do indeed dream of stranger worlds... I award A Darker Shade of Magic 5 out of 5 stars on my classification scale!

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