Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V. E. Schwab
Published: Feb. 24, 2015 by Tor
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.
Yes I am late to the Schwab train and, yes, I regret it ok? But wow.
I didn’t really know what to expect from ADSOM other than the little tidbits of squees and fangirling that I’ve heard over the book. Now I understand why people love the series so much. The novel was a relatively fast paced read filled with great characters with opposing motivations and objections, a whole bunch of world building, and–the best thing, of course–the tantalizing feeling that there’s more. Even though ADSOM was coming to a close I could smell a sequel despite knowing that the sequel has been out for some time. There’s just a way that Schwab writes that gives you a little hint through out the writing that there’s so much more to come.
It makes me want to come back to the series as soon as possible.
Kell and Lila made such an amazing, funny, and dynamic pair. Kell is all about code and ethics. He’s been raised in a life full of privilege and beauty while Lila is hardened by thieving and getting herself into rather dangerous situations. However, there’s so much more to Lila that I want to know more of and there’s so much more for Kell to learn. They have a really funny relationship where they constantly bicker and sling clever little quips at each other, but they still find themselves fighting for each other. They’re obviously drawn in some sort of way, but they don’t really know what it is. Where I end up wanting to pull back the curtain for Lila, I end up wanting to see where Kell’s journey takes him.
I have to talk about the Londons because it’s both incredibly simple and incredibly hard to world build. In a fantasy world, the world is your oyster. You’re able to literally create whatever the hell you want and it’ll work because it’s yours. Schwab has both a fantasy world and a real world mixed up. The way she differentiates the Londons is really fascinating. Not only are there color codes, but each London is very distinctly their own. They have different languages, customs, dress, and architecture. Schwab had a way to give the readers enough information to understand that these were all Londons, but didn’t over kill it to the point where we’re overwhelmed and closed off to the idea. A lot of the differentiation is in the details, which I loved even more.
Plot wise this book was pretty straight forward and it was really the world building and the characters that really amped up this story. Without them, it would be a pretty cliche boy saves the world story. By bringing in Kell and Lila and then the Londons, Schwab has really made this story her own. It was rather fast paced and adventurous (Lila would be proud).
If you’re into books with magic, adventure, and witty banter I definitely think you should give ADSOM a chance. It reminds me greatly of Six of Crows (yes, I am aware that it came out after ADSOM).