A Darker Shade of Magic - V E Schwab
ISBN - 9781783295401
Publisher - Titan Books
Release date - February 27 2015
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.
I've been wanting to read something by V E (Victoria) Schwab for a while, I have a couple of her YA books on my shelves but as soon as I read the synopsis for A Darker Shade of Magic I knew her second novel for adults was going to be the first book by Victoria that I read. Imagine if you can lots of different versions of the same place, some great, some okay and some not doing so well. Where would you stay? Would you risk everything and maybe end up somewhere where surviving was a daily battle?
Kell is one of the last surviving Antari, those born with magic, and living in Red London. Red London is one of three alternate London's, not all in Great Britain but all in the same place layered upon top of each other. Only accessible by blood magic and using a talisman from the London you want to visit Kell moves between the three, legitimately as an envoy of sorts, delivering and collecting letters from monarchs and sovereigns but also as a smuggler, bringing items back to his London with little or no worth, hoarding them at great risk to himself. Only, his adopted brother Rhy knows exactly what he is doing and begs him to stop, knowing what the penalty might be and not only to Kell.
If only Kell had listened... What follows is a riveting tale of heartbreak, betrayal and friendship all deftly woven together beautifully by Ms Schwab's wonderful prose. Red London, so called for the river that runs red through the city, is wealthy, healthy, oppulent but without much magic. Grey London is our London, around 1819 apparently where there's no magic and White London is the creepiest version of London. Everything and everyone is washed out, there's no color and the people are constantly fighting with/against the magic still there. Thrown in the sadistic Dane twins who rule as King and Queen and you have somewhere you definitely don't want to live.
A motley collection of extraordinary characters come together for what is probably one of the best books I'm going to read this year. Kell is not your typical hero but he is loyal and loves his adopted family even though he feels more like a possession sometimes rather than a son. Bitter and charming, a dangerous combination, Kell travels between worlds using the magic of the Antari, one of only two left (Holland being the other, working for Astrid & Athos in White London, and if you check out the Pinterest board for ADSoM you would have to agree with the inspiration for the character!). Sure enough though his smuggling habits get him into trouble which is where Delilah 'Lila' Bard comes in. Resident in Grey London, the thief is the most wanted man in London and the fact that she's actually a woman is probably the one thing that's stopped her from getting caught. Lila is desperate to get away though and, seriously contemplating piracy as a career move, sets off on an incredible journey after making it obvious Kell can't do this by himself any more and she's going along with him.
Throw in Rhy, the Crown Prince of Red London, a playboy fiercely loyal to Kell but also envious of his magic, probably my favorite character although with such a great bunch it's almost impossible to have just one! Rhy intrigued me, I'm certain that there is more going on there so I'm hoping we get to see a lot more of him in the second book of the trilogy. I want to see if my hunch about a possible love interest is right although I'm really hoping there is no love triangle. My other favorite was Holland but I really can't say much about him or his part in the story except to say that Mads would be the perfect actor to play him in a television adaptation! The different Londons, Grey, Red & White, were all characters in their own right. The way they were so vividly written it was easy to build up a picture of them, and to imagine that any one of them could be your London. I loved the tavern in each city, in the same place every time but with different names
A Darker Shade of Magic was everything I wanted it to be and more, definitely worthy of my top rating as I was awake until 5am reading it then had to get up at 7am to entertain 2 five year olds... I laughed, I cried, there are parts where you hold your breath, there are parts where you are thinking there is no way that just happened. Chances are it probably did, Victoria's writing pulls you right in and then throws the perfect right hook leaving you totally bewildered - just like our main characters. Then, just when you think you're going to make it through without becoming a wreck the story ends. No cliffhangers, mostly resolved (no more details otherwise this becomes a spoiler zone) but leaving you dismayed about the fact that there's probably a year or more to wait for the second book. There are a couple of mysteries that I would like solved now, one involving Kell and where he actually came from before being adopted by the Royal family, and the other involving Lila and a mystery all her own.
If you want to read a beautifully written book with great action, magic, friendship, intrigue, mystery and more then you should definitely pick up a copy of A Darker Shade of Magic. You will not be disappointed. I'm now impatiently waiting for payday later this week so I can buy Victoria Schwab's first adult book, Vicious, and if it's half as good as this one then it will be fantastic. I think I've just found a new favorite author and as another of my favorites, Marie Brennan, called ADSoM a 'compelling tale of enchantment and adventure' I'm inclined to stick with that opinion.
I'm feeling generous so you could be in with a chance of winning a copy of A Darker Shade of Magic! I'll send it via Book Depository so the giveaway is open internationally, check out the list of countries they ship to first. The giveaway is open until midnight on February 28, just fill out the rafflecopter :)
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