A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab is the first in a trilogy, a relatively self-contained story in its own right first published in 2015. Luckily for me, all three books are published, so I don’t have to wait between book two and three! This is another booktube curiosity so when I found it on the Kindle Daily Deal at 0.99p, I downloaded it instantly.
What if there was more than one London? What if there were four parallel worlds that only two with the power to walk between the worlds? Kell is one of the Antari, a very rare type of magician with such an ability. He gives the four London’s names: There is Grey London, the magicless London of our World. Red London, where magic and humanity are balanced: Kell’s world. White London ruled by power, might and bloodshed, the throne held by whoever murdered their way up there. And Black London, closed off and consumed by raw magical power. A forbidden world.
(Standard cover appreciation post. I miss it because I read this on kindle and that means I just get the title – but check out the swirly silhouette!)
Kell is a messenger who walks between the worlds. And then he is tricked into delivering an object from White London to Red London. What starts off as a simple message delivery between the thrones of Red and White becomes a fight for the death, magic and all worlds. In Grey London, a wounded Kell meets Lila, a cross-dressing thief with a dream of being a pirate.
Each city is unique, with a different set of rules, a different set of powers, a different level of magic and an overall different feel. Kell has a coat for every occasion: if he turns it enough times it becomes whatever he needs to fit in each world. Lila has a short temper and light fingers, which gets her into trouble on more than one occasion.
The book explored power, corruption, the darker side of magic, self harm, lying, and questions when bending the rules becomes breaking it. There’s cross dressing, sadistic monarchs, murder, death, self-harm, toys with consent and it can be very very dark. But at the same time, the intricacies of EACH world are breathtakingly detailed, and the semi-distrusting relationship between Kell and Lila, with Lila’s stubbornness, can be highly entertaining at times. The descriptions are vivid, the smells are tangible. I want Kell’s coat. A Darker Shade of Magic is an excellent example of fantasy fiction, for YA and adult readers – in fact many of the themes usually found in YA (coming of age, romance ect) were not present.
It was just a fantastic book. It kept me on my toes, waiting, trying to guess how they would fix it. I won’t like, its a bit like The Lord of the Rings in some respects, but without the big ass quest that takes seven years or whatever. Instead it takes a matter of days. I started this before I went to bed Saturday night, and read it on the train Sunday morning, finishing it Monday the second I had a spare two hours. I was so good.
I highly recommend this book. It’s increasingly difficult not to spoil anything, so I will have to stop and just say that I usually find it hard to give out five stars, but this one, I didn’t even think about it. It’s five stars. And I really really want to be able to read the sequel, but I can’t afford to buy it and so I will have to wait till next month.