BOOK REVIEW: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC / AUTHOR: V.E. SCHWAB / PUBLISHER: TOR BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
There is a lot going on in V. E. Schwab’s new novel A Darker Shade of Magic. There are dashing princes, aspiring pirates, murderers and miscreants and a great deal of magic. To cap it all there are also four Londons; Grey London is bland and drab and the least magical of the quartet; Red London is beautiful and idyllic, ruled over by a benevolent Royal Family; White London is harsh and foreboding where the throne is held by whoever fights the dirtiest; and there is Black London, sealed off from the rest and almost forgotten about altogether. Virtually unique in his ability to travel between these parallel worlds is Kell, one of the last of the Antari; human’s with magic running through their blood. Kell’s life is pretty damn good until after a moment of weakness he finds himself fighting for his life and reluctantly must rely on the help of Lila, a young woman with a lifetime spent on the run.
A Darker Shade of Magic is a spellbinding (pun intended) mix of fantasy adventure and exciting intrigue that captivates the reader with striking imagery and surprisingly relatable characters. There is also a sublime effortlessness to the way in which Schwab introduces each element of her created world, trusting the reader to follow the twists and turns of the story without ever falling into the trap of overloading you with too much information. Instead, you simply find yourself accompanying these characters on their perilously exciting journey and in the end wish you had more time with them.
If this is to be the beginning of a series then it is a fantastic introduction to a world that demands further exploration. The possibilities would seem to be endless, with a multitude of stories hiding down the grim alleys of Grey London or within the dens of the cutthroats and thieves that populate White London. At a time when fantasy literature falls too easily into dystopia Schwab has created a novel that ends all too quickly leaving you pining for the next.
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