Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic

Author: V.E. Schwab

Information on series: First of Darker shade of magic trilogy, second book expected 2016.

Audience: New Adult/Adult; possibly YA though there is some language and violence, but nothing gratuitous

Rating (scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the highest): 9.5

Recommended to: Historical fiction readers; fans of political/royal thrillers

Tl;dr:  A gritty urban fantasy set against a backdrop of parallel Londons where dark magic threatens to overtake and destroy everything, and there may be only one person who can stop it.
“Some thought magic came from the mind, others the soul, or the heart, or the will. But Kell knew it came from the blood.
     Blood was magic made manifest. There it thrived. And there it poisoned. Kell had seen what happened when power warred with the body, watched it darken in the veins of corrupted men, turning their blood from crimson to black. If red was the color of magic in balance—of harmony between power and humanity—then black was the color of magic without balance, without order, without restraint.
     As an Antari, Kell was made of both, balance and chaos; the blood in his veins, like the Isle of Red London, ran a shimmering, healthy crimson, while his right eye was the color of spilled ink, a glistening black.” 
Kell is Antari, which means he possesses special magic that allows him to pass between parallel worlds acting as courier to each of London’s different crowns. There are three Londons to which he travels: Grey, White, and Red. Grey London is the one we know with Parliament and Westminster and the Thames flowing through the city. It is a drab place with no magic, though there are those who believe it exists. White London’s river is called the Siljt and the palace is an icy fortress ruled by evil twins (literally, evil twins). In White London magic is a rare commodity, highly and viciously sought after, hoarded by those in power and taken from others at any cost. Red London has an abundance of magic and its people live in lavish luxury. It is there where Kell lives at the palace with the King, Queen and the High Prince Rhy, and is treated by others as royalty himself, though he doesn’t feel as if he truly belongs. There’s a fourth London, Black, but no one comes or goes from there anymore. When Kell journeys to White or Grey London he returns with small keepsakes and trinkets, amassing a private collection of odds and ends. Like a magpie he hoards these objects, despite Rhy’s warnings that dire consequences will come from Kell’s habit…

Lila has been surviving on her own in White London’s rough streets, stealing to stay alive and dreaming of the high seas. She wants nothing more than to be the commander of her own pirate ship, but she can barely stay afloat on land. When her path crosses Kell’s she knows there are greater adventures waiting, and she will do just about anything to be part of them.

Holland is like Kell; he can travel between the Londons and does so at the behest of White London’s rulers, Astrid and Athos Dane. Unlike Kell, Holland has little freedom even though he is Antari, and is at the mercy of the ruthless Danes who will stop at nothing to satisfy their desire for magic.

 A darker shade of magic will appeal to readers of historical fiction and political thrillers who are perhaps interested in Fantasy but aren’t quite ready to submerse themselves in a completely new world.  Though there are elements of more traditional fantasy, including a new language, the fantastical elements and the magical system are not overly complex.

 Read alikes:

  • A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway, (see RART review)
  • A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Grey
  • Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Reviewer: Jillian Rutledge, Waverly Public Library

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