Title: A Darker Shade Of Magic
Author: V E Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Publisher: Tor Books
Publishing Date: 24th February 2015
I must begin by saying that the first time I read A Darker Shade of Magic I wasn’t that impressed. I thought it to be decent and even good when the story followed Kell but Lila’a character annoyed me and getting through her chapters felt a bit like wading through thick mud.
Now that I’ve re-read it, I look back at those opinions with completely bewilderment. I’m currently on the second book of the series and wondering why on earth I stopped reading it several chapters in as there’s this pull to get me to read more and more of it.
The idea of alternate worlds isn’t a new one but having four different Londons I found particularly interesting as someone who lives in the said city. I initially thought the differences between the four cities would just be the varying presence of magic but to have wildly different cultures and geography as well, that’s something else entirely. To create one world in a novel is hard enough, but for multiple!? I honestly have no idea how Schwab does it. It’s clear from the writing that she’s thought deeply about each one and planned them in such detail. A particular feature that I really love is Arnesian, spoken in Red London. The simple phrases and spells are really the cherry on top of the cake for me, as despite it not being vital in terms of plot, it deeply enriches this London and it’s culture because it makes it different from the other two in an obvious manner. Also because it’s a beautiful language.
All the familial relationships and friendships are beautifully portrayed and complex in the novel. Despite not being truly fraternal, Kell and Rhy do have the brotherly love you’d expect regardless, however Kell still doesn’t feel as though he’s treated the same as his sibling by Rhy’s parents, the king and queen. Whilst this can seem unfair, I do think it to be understandable but I love how none of those feelings are shared by Rhy, who does treat Kell as though he belongs by his side.
Another relationship I love is the one shared by Kell and Lila. They both start as headstrong individuals, constantly butting heads, whilst being intrigued by one another, and slowly but surely they form a strong bond between them. Friendship? Alliance? It doesn’t seem to fall into any defined category but relationship nonetheless.
What I particularly like is that despite this, however, they regain their own defiant personalities and self of self instead of becoming dependent on one another, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but would seem unnatural for the characters themselves.
Related to this is the character development and personalities in the novel, which are fairly varied. I feel as though Lila and Kell developed the most, which I suppose to be expected but I can easily guess that other mains, such as Rhy, will go through larger changes in potentially the next or last book in the trilogy. Again with the king and queen, as we didn’t see too much of them in this one, so I anticipate much more in the second.
My last point is Holland, a beautifully tortured man, who I think treads the line between villain and victim. His situation is a strange one and although Schwab opens up his backstory slightly, he is still a mysterious character whose story is still largely unknown.
All in all, A Darker Shade of Magic was a beautifully written novel, with an intriguing plot and no plain, 2-D characters. In addition it didn’t end with a cliffhanger at the end, but still left you wanting more, which I think can be hard to do but of course Schwab did it.
Rating : 4/5
Rating system: 1 = bad, 2 = okay/decent, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = wow
I know many of you must have read A Darker Shade of Magic before so tell me your thoughts in the comments below, and please, no spoilers!