Blurb from Goodreads:
“Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.
Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.“
THIS BOOK, YOU GUYS, THIS BOOK! I’ve kind of been in a little reading rut recently, what with uni work piling up and finishing yet another draft of my current WIP, but this book has completely and utterly destroyed the rut. It’s gone. Now all I want to do is read about magic, and wannabe pirates and London’s.
I’ve read one of Victoria Schwab’s books before, The Archived, which is about libraries where the dead rest (and occasionally get out), and I loved it. I immediately decided I had to read everything she’d ever written, and ordered Vicious and The Unbound. Both books have been sitting on my TBR shelve for a while now, but I now realise I NEED to read them.
A Darker Shade of Magic is the literary equivalent of eating the best chocolate cake you’ve ever had. The world(s) are so richly built, the cultures and peoples so unique and distinct. In that respect, it kind of reminded me of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but believe me, ADSOM is wholly original.
My favourite character is Lila, mainly because she is the most immoral female character I’ve read in a long time. I often find that with female characters, there has to be an element of ‘goodness’ to them, and I love that Lila is out for herself and unapologetic about it. The other thing that I enjoyed about Lila was how three dimensional she was – I could completely see her roaming around London pickpocketing as she went. She was a joy to read and such a kick-ass character.
Our main character, Kell is, like Lila, a complex and believable character. I really like that he wasn’t completely defined by his magical abilities and again, I liked his sometimes questionable morality. His committed and yet fraught relationship with his brother Rhy’s was handled beautifully and I also really enjoyed seeing his interactions with Holland, who really is the only other person who knows what Kell is going through.
The first point I want to make about the plot of ADSOM is that NO ONE IS SAFE. I loved this element, mainly because in a lot of books you kind of can guess the fate of certain characters from the outset, in ADSOM I was taken aback by some deaths, and this kept me on the edge of my seat as the conclusion of the book drew nearer. Secondly, the plot is coherent, action packed and really, really fun. There are no dull moments, nothing that could have been taken out and I never wanted to put the book down because I was bored. Equally, the plot wasn’t rushed – it developed naturally and organically. Thirdly, AHHH THIS PLOT IS SO GOOD. There are bloodthirsty royal siblings, thieves, a wannabe pirate that won’t take no for an answer, a really terrifying villain and MAGIC – what more could you ask for in a fantasy book? And, as a fantasy-book lover, this is a damn good fantasy book that takes all the cliche’s and stereotypes and turns them on their head.
The magic system is also sublime. It’s detailed and intricately developed without hindering the story. Victoria’s writing style is just gorgeous; every sentence is beautiful and the imagery really brings each London to life. This book is 400 pages long and I read it in two sittings; it was un-put-down-able and in summary, you pretty much need to read it now.
Also, ADSOM is the first of a trilogy and I CANNOT WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON THE NEXT BOOK.