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

★★★☆☆

Long overdue!! I finished this in MAY and I never got around to writing a review. (And this isn’t even the longest overdue review I have to do. Augh.)adsom.jpg

This was one of those books that I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on. Every time I saw a picture of the (ridiculously gorgeous) cover design or fan art of the characters, I was in love with the promise of it. I read the blurb on Amazon after swaying between “I need it right now” and “I need to save money, damn it!!” But after one page I immediately decided to drop some money for a hardcover.

Blurb: 

Kell is one of the last Travelers-magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes, connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad king-George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered-and where Kell was raised alongside Rhys Maresh, the rougish heir to a flourishing empire. White London-a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.



The good:

  • The cover designs are beautiful for both the US and UK versions of these books, and I seriously want to collect them all.

    adsom-holland

    Holland and the Dane twins. Art by Victoria Ying.

  • Kell was a fantastic main character, and I found him very sympathetic and easy to root for. His character design was easy to imagine (and easier to fan girl over, because who doesn’t love a man in a well-made coat?).
  • Holland was the same. I love the concept of him being bound to his duty by an enchantment, and it made me feel understanding of even his most evil actions.
  • The world-building was well-done, although I think I’ll need to read the sequels to get more of a sense of the history. The language and magic were super cool.

Annnndddd the parts I didn’t like so much:

Unlike every other reviewer, I couldn’t stand Lila. I found her overbearing and irritating, like a squeaky, angry mouse hell-bent on proving something to everyone. I think that was the point. She was tom-boyish and brash and said those super-quotable one-liners like, “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” Unfortunately I’ve always hated super-quotable lines (except for like everything Dumbledore says), because they feel cheesy and make me scrunch up my face like
ew.gif
NOBODY TALKS LIKE THAT IRL!!

 


 

Caution: Spoilers below!

Biggest let down: I found the ending very dull. There were a lot of interesting scenarios set up, but they all fell a bit flat. For instance, Holland dies. Or at least we’re led to believe he dies. Athos and Kell fight, and then Athos summons a huge serpent to kill Kell but the serpent kills Athos instead. (????) I found myself going “Uh… What? Why?” Then, in what I thought would be a great plot twist, Astros knocks Lila out and assumes her body and face to trick Kell, but Kell immediately knows it’s her and kills her. So every one of the antagonists is all of a sudden dead. Where’s the drama there? And the ease with which they were defeated was totally anti-climactic.

Smaller let down: I really, really wish there hadn’t been any romance, ESPECIALLY between Kell and Lila. They had zero chemistry and their kiss just made me roll my eyes. Augh. And I wanted some gayness!! C’mon!!!

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