Now this is a first. I am doing a two-part review! Or a review for two books at the same time.. Or… Never mind. Anyway. It’s a first. I am not going to spoil anything (or try really hard not to!!) but I will put a separate review of the second book (A Gathering of Shadows) below with a heading so feel free to skip or turn away QUICKLY. But for now.. A Darker Shade of Magic as a series…
So A Darker Shade of Magic begins with Kell who is an Antari, one of the last magicians in all the worlds that can master all types of elemental magic and can travel across dimensions, primarily into different Londons. He works with the royal family and delivers letters to the different rulers across the three Londons (Red, White and Grey). Each with their own different countries, worlds and levels of magic. On such a trip to White London he get tricked into taking a forbidden object from the long dead Black London first into Red London before getting attacked and escaping to Grey London. This object should not exist and it’s magic is not only powerful but dangerous. We also meet Lila who is a cross-dressing pirate without a ship, thieves to live, and has the continuous urge to live life on the edge. When she becomes involved with Kell and the new world of magic she never dreamed existed, she may very well come to regret her urge to push her limits. But together can they send the stone where it belongs and be alive at the end of it?
I have to say that I cannot name my favourite part of these books… Is it the different Londons that are completely different yet lie on top of each other and are cut off from one another? Is it the absolute beauty of the magic? Is it the characters? Is it the element of danger? Is it the greatness of the world building? Yes to all! It’s all my favourite bit. The concept is fantastic and really visual. V. E. Scwab is really good at writing in an understated, relatable way in worlds that are way beyond our experience.
The characters are absolutely incredible. I am going to admit to something that may come back to haunt me but… Lila is one my favourite female characters of all time. She is just epic. Independent, fierce, strong-headed, stubborn, strong, and sassy. And she’s a pirate! What more can I say? I love her relationship with Kell and I really appreciated the fact that Schwab didn’t force any romantic attentions on them from the beginning. That isn’t the main part of the story and she didn’t remove the focus from the actual story.
The different Londons and the different stages of magic really came to life and the way it’s explained (using mostly analogies and metaphors) really fit with me and helped me GET the worlds.
I also love the ending of the first book. The last page really gets me and sticks with me. I cannot tell you how excited I was to get the second one into my hands… And this is where, if you have not read or don’t want to know ANYTHING then you had better pick this baby up soon!
A Gathering of Shadows
As I just mentioned, I was so excited to read this and just to stare at it for a while! The return of Kell and Lila seemed so right and natural. They don’t meet again until quite a way into the book and I loved this. I adored reading about how they lived their own lives apart and got into their own adventures before seeing each other again. I also loved the new characters (both the brand new and the new insights into an older character) I thought this was a really refreshing change for the second book in a series and I adored both characters just as much as I do Kell (maybe not quite up to Lila’s level, but nothing much is) and their relationship is soooo good. It was actually my favourite bit of the whole thing!! If you have read it then you know the little twist I’m talking about. Such a surprise but was amaze-balls. Yes. I did just use that in a real sentence…
OK, I’m going to calm down now and basically summarise what I thought/think of the whole thing. I adore it, if it isn’t obvious! The characters really make it for me and they are incredible. I would read this series over and over and over. And I will. My new favourite series (along with The Name of the Wind, please see previous post here:). But if you have not begun this series yet, you really are missing out. I’m just gutted that I have to wait so long for the next one…
I have attached both the US and the UK covers of both titles here as well and boy don’t they look fab!
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab