“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”A darker shade of magic by V.E. Schwab
Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.
This was the first V.E. Schwab book I’ve ever read. I was trying out Kindle Unlimited and back then this one was available there. I flew through the book and once I finished it I immediately bought the entire box set. Schwab happens to be one of those authors whose books I’ll read just because they are hers. I truly love how fast paced her stories are and how she manages to create such rich characters and worlds.
Her characters truly make the book. Kell is an amazing protagonist. He is a character who is just beginning to get a grip on his powers but is holding back from who he could be. And that’s what makes the sequels so exciting, because we get to see him grow and move on from magician seeking curiosities, to a full-fledged hero. Just as Kell has layers, Lila is a satisfyingly rich invention: Single-minded, selfish, often unsympathetic, Lila would rather be a pirate queen than a hero’s arm-candy. And there is also Holland, who is by far the most intriguing character for me. His complexity and grey morality make him the most interesting character in the book and his part on this story only grows from here on. The list of amazing characters goes on and on and each and every one of them are extremely well-developed.
Although magic is almost always a key component of fantasy, it never appears in quite the same way. Some authors work with the elements of nature – others use spell work and magical instruments. Occasionally, an author relies on darker magic involving blood or bone. In any case, there are many unique forms of magic. But there are always similarities, and while V.E. Schwab creates a system of magic that resembles a few others, it is breathtaking and beautiful and dangerous. Where others introduce magic, Schwab brings it to life in A Darker Shade of Magic.
This is the series that made me seek out the rest of her work and I can’t recommend it enough. Schwab really takes the time to make a world worth getting lost in.