Rating: 4 / 5
I read A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab a couple years back and remember enjoying it, but then never got around to picking up book two in the Shades of Magic series, likely distracted by reading prompts that didn’t fit the book. When a friend suggested picking up the series as a buddy read I was happy to get back to it, starting with a reread of book one.
A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC is set in London, but a different one from the one we know and it’s actually a few different Londons that we explore in the book. There are parallel worlds which are very different from each other. White London is fraught with political upheaval, Grey London is dull, a world without magic, Black London is dead and gone. We begin following Kell who lives in Red London, a world of magic. As an Antari with the ability to move between worlds, Kell is officially an emissary carrying messages for the royal family. Unofficially, he’s a smuggler bringing goods across the divide as well.
While in the midst of doing a bit of smuggling, things go wrong for Kell. In Grey London, Kell meets Delilah, a thief who steps in to help him out of a tough spot. With a dangerous artifact in their possession, the pair reluctantly agrees to work together to get it where it needs to go to render it safe.
Rereading this book, the reasons why I really enjoyed it quickly came back to me. We’re dealing with two strong characters with some shades of grey in their morality, but characters you long to root for even so. Even when they don’t know each other well, they can’t help but step in to help someone in trouble.
The different worlds are very intriguing, the differences between worlds where magic is and isn’t a part and the dangers inherent in that magic as well. I really flew through this first novel and I found it really easy to settle into the writing and the world building without feeling like there was too much information thrown at me in the beginning.
I am very much looking forward to continuing on with book two, A GATHERING OF SHADOWS, next month!