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

This picture smells like Red London.

Everyone has books that you see being discussed to kingdom come and you resist it a little because, how can a book that’s been hyped so much live up to your expectations? 

That was A Darker Shade of Magic for me. People have been telling me to read it ever since I joined Bookstagram. 

Well, the prodding worked and I am happy to report that this book is in fact a wholly original, supremely riveting book that had me planning on running to Barnes & Nobles tomorrow to pick up the rest of the series. 

So what’s this about?

There are four Londons; split up by amounts of magic contained within the cities. Kel, our dashing hero, is a smuggler/prince (ish?) of Red London; the one that has just the right amount of magic, goldilocks. Lila, our heroine, is an ill-tempered pickpocket of Grey London (no magic, fam.) Well, Kel smuggles the wrong artifact and accidentally brings about a minor plague that seeks to destroy Red London. Whoops. Lila, having become mixed up in Kel’s tomfoolery, assists him on his quest to fix his mistake. 

There is a lot more to it than that; little bits of plotline that you don’t immediately expect to come full circle like how they do, with just enough left open to wet your appetite for a sequel.

Lila and Kel, our two main characters, are hysterical. They are the epitome of “people who don’t really like each other having to get along to save the world.” They share a brain cell, but you certainly see them grow little by little in the opinion of the other until they begin working in tandem. Neither Lila or Kel are perfect, and it’s their flaws (Kel’s self pity and Lila’s refusal to trust anyone) that make you root for them to grow together and survive. Rhy, though not a huge part of the first book, is incredibly interesting and I really hope he gets his due as a character with a complete storyline.

The world-building is absolutely incredible. Details are meticulously placed from the histories of the Four Londons, to the languages developed for each, this book is an immersive experience that fully transports you into another world. And what a world it is, full of darkness and despair, but also teeming with the opulence of magic. It also weirdly speaks to our current society and capitalism; the four stages of power and ambition and wealth and how they can so easily destroy a superpower.

The villains of the story– and there are a couple– are all interesting. I wish Holland in particular, had been fleshed out more. But the murder twins were menacing and convincing in both their insanities and reasonings. 

Overall, there is a REASON this book series is all over the YA scene. And I can’t wait to further immerse myself in the sequels. 


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