GoodReads rating – 5 Stars
Let me just start with something that will not come as a surprise, I have YET ANOTHER seriously case of cover envy with this book when it comes to the American cover, just look at it, in all its beauty and glory…
STUNNING! Any way, on with the review.
A Darker Shade of Magic is an adult fantasy novel by V.E. Schwab, or Victoria Schwab, or QUEEN OF MY FANTASY DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES. This was my first experience with her work, and I cannot wait to have a gander at her other work. Her writing style if beautiful, she LIKES MY TWITTER POSTS and SHE LOVES EDINBURGH, which is my favorite place on earth. So obviously, as you can see, she has instantly captured both my imagination and my heart.
The story follows Kell, part of a rare breed of travelling magic users who have the ability to cross into alternate universes, or in this case, alternate Londons. We follow Kell’s adventures as he travels through Grey London – a London where magic is rare and lost, Red London – a place where magic is used and loved by all (to varying degrees of skill) and White London – where magic has is unstable, and sucking the soul out of its people. He meets Delilah Bard, and they quickly develop a bond and go about trying to right the wrongs of others trying to use magic to carry out their sadistic plans.
That was an awful synopsis, my apologies, but I am still reeling from the last 100 pages and my head is all over the place. Let me just say that I wasn’t a huge fan of this book when I started it, I thought it was quite slow and I found myself looking for the pace to pick up any time now, but then, BOOM. PACE. MAGIC. ACTION. FIGHTS INVOLVING FLOATING ELEMENTS. POSSESSION. EVIL ROYALTY. BISEXUAL BROTHERS. CROSS DRESSING LEAD CHARACTERS. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, I was in awe. Everything kicked off and I was so hooked I literally couldn’t but the book down.
The themes of the book of power and politics were strong, but what struck me as more exciting and refreshing were the unconventional use of a bisexual royal prince, which I have never seen in any book before, let alone a fantasy novel. This I appreciated greatly, and it wasn’t even important to the story, Victoria Schwab just made him bisexual, and that was that, no biggie. This I love, that non-hertosexual characters can feature in books and it not be about their struggle with it or anyone else having an issue with it, it was just a part of that character. I loved that. Also Lila’s character had an element of being gender fluid (V.E. Schwab, being the queen she is, has addressed this recently on twitter). She doesn’t care how she dresses, she doesn’t mind being mistaken for a boy, in fact, she relishes it, and uses it to her advantage. This was also a lovely refreshing feature to a character, again no drama about this, it was just a part of who Lila is. I think these characters are amazing and very important to the future of literature.
I cannot say enough good things about A Darker Shade of Magic. It is by far one of the greatest fantasy novels I have read. Victoria Schwab is a natural, her world building is beautiful, she hits you with ALL THE EMOTIONS when you least expect it, and she has that rare ability to make you actually care for all the characters. I will most certainly be reading more of her work in the future, and I recommend this book too EVERYONE.