A Darker Shade of Magic

22055262by V.E. Schwab
Fantasy
5 of 5 stars

I’ve had this on my list for almost a year and I am so glad I got around to it! I knew from page 1 that this is exactly my type of poison, and it only got better from there. (I am now pestering everyone I know to read it). Dark magic, characters in fabulous coats, and four Londons—my favorite city multiplied by four. For me, it was insta-love!

Kel is one of only two Antari left—powerful magicians that can move between the parallel worlds. He also has a bad habit of smuggling items between the worlds, which is expressly forbidden by laws in all four of them. When he accidentally transfers a piece of Black London (destroyed by dark magic and the reason the four worlds are sealed off and kept separate) he must return it before it destroys the remaining three worlds with its power.

Lila is an aspiring pirate, current thief, making her way in Grey London when she bumps into Kel and proceeds to steal the stone without knowing what it is. Fighting turns to tentative friendship and of course complete chaos follows them from one London to the next.

So much to love here: excellent character studies, fast-paced action, and a twisting plot. The magic system continually evolves and derails what at first glance seems to be a straightforward story, which I loved. You’re never comfortable for long because the minute the characters decide what to do, you can bet it won’t work. I didn’t realize how often you can anticipate the steps of a story until my expectations were thrown aside for an alternative (and satisfying, that’s key) option. The writing isn’t pretty or delicious because it isn’t purple, but it’s my favorite type of specificity that I tend to find with Maggie Stiefvater’s work. There were a few sections of info-dumping but by that point I was so curious I didn’t care. The narration is a bit like a fairy tale or Diana Wynne Jones, so if you like those you will love this!

This is a fun adventure and though you can see its roots clearly (they’re even alluded to on the back jacket flap) this had me hooked! I’m excited to see where the series goes.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, A Darker Shade of Magic is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I recommend this partly because it’s another book where I knew it was for me from page 1! Agnieszka knows her perfect best friend is going to be the local wizard’s captive apprentice—except when he comes to choose a girl it isn’t Kasia. Incredible world-building, dark magic, excellent twists. See my review here.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Another dark London portal fantasy (unsurprising since Gaiman is one of Schwab’s influences) where ordinary office worker Richard Mayhew meets a young girl wounded on the street. Her name is Door, and the doors she creates and opens will change Richard’s life forever.
  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – One of my favorite YA fantasy novels of all time, also featuring a reluctant wizard with a penchant for magical coats who needs a strong-willed female sidekick to keep him honorable. See my review here.
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley – Her foray into adult fantasy features vampires, delicious baked goods, and a girl known as Sunshine that finds herself befriending the very enemy her town is fighting against. This is a vivid, memorable book that I love!
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – A gang of criminals with an impossible heist unite to beat the odds—even though they all plan to betray each other in the process. This book is amazing, just read it. If you need convincing, see my review here.
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – Book 2 in a seven-part series, the author describes this as her love letter to London. Paige returns to her underground criminal home with the intent of turning the voyants against the Rephaim. It’s full of intrigue, action, and theatrics! See my review here.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Mia Corvere is determined to survive initiation into the Red Church to become one of the best assassins in the land. Only then can she avenge her fallen family. See my review here.
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