Saturday, July 9, 2016

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

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)

Author: V. E. Schwab

Rating: 4 Stars

I'm obsessed. I'll admit that I avoided picking up A Darker Shade of Magic when it first released because of its minimalist, and rather unappealing, U.S. cover (I cheated and am using the UK cover on the blog--I'm sorry, okay? I just want my blog to look pretty!). But, damn, what a remarkable story. Schwab's debut, The Near Witch, was a novel I found to be entirely dull and, consequently, I've largely ignored her other novels. Until, that is, an ARC of This Savage Song arrived on my doorstep and I proceeded to be enraged, enthralled, and all-too-emotionally-unstable on a train ride back to college. I've since wanted to read her entire backlog but, having started with A Darker Shade of Magic, I wonder now how I will manage to read anything else, forget another one of Schwab's novels. I want to live, breath, and die in this world with Kell, Lila, and Rhy. I want to forget that I live in America, not London--not even Grey London--and escape back into this beautiful, wonderful book. Like I said, I'm obsessed.

A Darker Shade of Magic is one of the most innovative fantasy novels I've come across. Kell is one of two people in the universe who can travel between worlds--Grey, or normal; Red, or magical; White, or caught in-between magic and its evil counterparts; and Black, or a world consumed by dark magic and now simply a wasteland. As an Antari, or blood magician, Kell is revered in his land and has grown up as the adopted prince of the realm. Truly, though, Kell feels as if he is little more than a puppet to the crown, sworn to deliver messages to the rulers of the Grey and White worlds. While Kell finds family in Rhy, his brother and the true prince, there is a restlessness in him--a yearning, if you will--for something of his own. It is this that fuels his life as a smuggler, bringing objects from different worlds back to Red and vice-versa. It doesn't matter that this is treason--is illegal--because either than Kell, there is only one other known Antari, Holland, and he is being held captive by the twins who rule White. When Kell's smuggling lands him with a dark and dangerous object, it throws Kell's life and the stability of his world into chaos. Into this enters Lila, a thief who has lived on her own for far too long. When she steals this object--a stone--from Kell, their lives become inexplicably intertwined and, surprisingly, Kell finds that he needs Lila's help to destroy the object and restore peace to the lands.

From early on, Schwab makes this tale irresistible. Whether it be her descriptions of these worlds--each similar, but eerily different in their politics and the manner in which magic works within them--or even just a description of Kell's magical coat, her world-building is spot-on and impeccable. Her characterization, too, is mesmerizing for I am in love with Kell, Lila, and Rhy even after having spent such little time in their world. Rhy and Lila are easy to root for and connect with--after all, Rhy is a prince of a magical kingdom with no magical ability of his own but he is charming and sweet, the type of royal who is loved by his people and will do everything in his power for them. Lila, on the other hand, is stubborn and hesitant to trust, yearning for a place to belong but relishing the thrill of adventure. I admired her strong will and her fearlessness in traveling to worlds she only barely knew about. If there is a definition of "kick-ass" then, surely, her name is beside it for she can wield her knife and fend for herself, saving even Kell multiple times, but she's also emotionally strong for surviving the hard hand she drew in life and still persisting despite it all.

Kell, on the other hand, is tough to read; his serious nature makes him a hero who isn't likely to win our hearts with a joke or smile--those are rare, and far between--but his loyalty, his innate sense of good, and his all-too-human penchant for making mistakes is charming. There is so much more to his character than we are able to uncover in this novel but I loved being inside his head and, most of all, watching his interactions with Lila. They irritate each other, but they also challenge one another and their adventure allows them to understand one another in a way that only the best hate-to-friendship arc can achieve--I loved them. Together, apart, you name it; I am wholly enthralled by this world and its characters. The villains are terrifying, the stakes are high, and the ending is not easy or wrapped up with a bow--at least, not for these characters since the repercussions of these events will, I am sure, be felt for a long time to come.

A Darker Shade of Magic can be read as a stand-alone, though--BUT, I must say that I am so very glad it is not. I want more of this world and characters and I am confident Schwab will deliver in the sequel. The politics of this universe leave much more to be explored and even these characters, as deeply as we know them now, have many more layers to peel behind--of that I am sure. I don't care, truly, if no one else ever picks up this book. I am selfish about my favorite books--I like to keep them close to my heart where few others can peer closely enough to see their titles. So, read this--if you want--but know that I loved it. And I so rarely love a book.


  1. I hope you will like the next one, so good :D

  2. I really really want to read this one! I just want to read pretty much EVERYTHING by this author really. haha That's great you found the books you do love by her, and didn't stop on her debut. Some authors just really DO get better and better with time. I also like that there is a sequel but this one still feels like a stand-alone, which is great! I like fully-wrapped stories...even if I do want more!


  3. I'm surprised you went with 4 stars for this one, considering how much you loved it, and that it really deserves all the love! I adored it too, and I adored Victoria, who was really kind when I interacted with her for the blog tour. She always has such original ideas! I don't know how she does it, but they are just gripping and fresh. Wonderful review, my dear.

    1. Honestly, I don't even know why I went with 4 Stars! There's just something about this that made me hesitate to give it 5 Stars because I knew the characters could get better--and they so DO in the sequel!--and I suppose, when I rated it, it was my way of distancing this from the sequel which, IMO, is just pure perfection. I love this, but the sequel is all things fabulous in the world combined into one novel. So. So. Good.

  4. OMG! Why isn't this in my hands right now? I have been wanting to read books by this author and I think you just found me a place to start. :) Hope you love the next book even more!

  5. I absolutely loved VE Schwab's Vicious, so I am so glad to hear that this one met your expectations. I'm definitely going to have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

  6. I'm so glad you discovered her work! I, too, didn't enjoy The Near Witch. Thank goodness her writing has evolved!

  7. This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while! It's a travesty, I know :P. I picked up Vicious a year ago and couldn't get through it. Though I think that had more to do with my circumstances at the time rather than the book itself. But that memory has soured me a little on the rest of her books. I need to give it a go though! I'm seeing so many excellent reviews :)

  8. I need to read this Keertana! I'm the same way about books that I absolutely love, I want to keep them close and not share them just in case someone else doesn't love them as much as I do. So glad that this can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone even though it has a sequel, yay for no cliffhangers!


I love hearing from my readers and I read, reply, and appreciate every one of the comments I receive!(: If you're a fellow blogger, please leave a link to your blog - I'd love to drop by!

Unfortunately, this is now an award-free blog. I simply do not have the time to respond and forward on the award, but I truly appreciate the nomination regardless.