Published: February 24th 2015 by Tor Books.
Format: Kindle, 401 pages.
Goodreads Summary: Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.
Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that 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 take her with him for her proper adventure.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.
Thoughts: I was a huge fan of V.E. Schwab after reading her urban fantasy novel Vicious – a novel of anti heroes who worship self inflicting pain. After reading and loving her first novel I had to give her new one a try. This is a story about power at it’s most basic form and how it can corrupt the human spirit. Set within the backdrop of four parallel cities, A Darker Shade of Magic has the potential to capture its readers in a world of magic and adventure. Unfortunately, I didn’t find myself as taken by the novel as other readers had. The writing was perfectly fine and in most ways exceeded the standard for sentence level quality in the young adult genre. And although I liked the plot, I wasn’t invested in it.
The main characters Kell and Lila felt like characters I’d read about before. One being the “the chosen one” who suddenly stumbles upon an extremely powerful object and takes it into his own hands to see that the danger is destroyed. Kell was a character who knew he was powerful and although I liked how kind he was, I couldn’t help but think I’d read his storyline before. Lila, on the other hand, was a troubled young woman who wanted adventure and wasn’t very girly. She was stubborn and unafraid of dangerous situations. Here’s the thing, I have nothing against strong (kickass) female characters in books, but it’s starting to become common in this genre. It’s as if we have found something that works and now that’s the only route we can travel. I would hate to see strong females turned into literary tropes. Writers of young adult we’ve been here before. That’s not to say I didn’t like Lila. She was spunky and knew what she wanted. However, I found that in all 401 pages both these characters never went through any noticeable character development. That is vital to a story.
I know V.E. Schwab released a second book in this series titled, A Gathering of Shadows and likely worked on character development later on in the story, but with little to none in the first book there’s nothing pushing me to continue. I don’t think I’ll be picking it up anytime soon. If you enjoy magical worlds then I suggest you give this book a shot. As I’ve gotten older I have come to appreciate darker and more complex plots. This tells me that our reading tastes can change as we are introduced to more works. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of A Darker Shade of Magic I will be looking out for more from V.E. Schwab in the future. Give this one a try.
“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”