A Darker Shade of Magic, from #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab
Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.
Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.
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.
After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and 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.
"A Darker Shade of Magic has all the hallmarks of a classic work of fantasy. Schwab has given us a gem of a tale...This is a book to treasure."—Deborah Harkeness, New York Times bestselling author of the All Souls trilogy
Shades of Magic series
1. A Darker Shade of Magic
2. A Gathering of Shadows
3. A Conjuring of Light
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
About the Author
V. E. Schwab's first adult novel, Vicious, debuted to critical praise and reader accolades. Schwab is the author of YA novels The Near Witch, The Archived, and The Unbound. She is also currently writing a fantasy middle grade series with Scholastic.
V. E. Schwab is the author of The Near Witch and The Archived. The product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing, Schwab has a penchant for tea and BBC shows, and a serious and well-documented case of wanderlust. Vicious is her first adult book.
Read an Excerpt
A Darker Shade of Magic
By V. E. Schwab, Miriam Weinberg
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 Victoria Schwab
All rights reserved.
Kell wore a very peculiar coat.
It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.
The first thing he did whenever he stepped out of one London and into another was take off the coat and turn it inside out once or twice (or even three times) until he found the side he needed. Not all of them were fashionable, but they each served a purpose. There were ones that blended in and ones that stood out, and one that served no purpose but of which he was just particularly fond.
So when Kell passed through the palace wall and into the anteroom, he took a moment to steady himself—it took its toll, moving between worlds—and then shrugged out of his red, high-collared coat and turned it inside out from right to left so that it became a simple black jacket. Well, a simple black jacket elegantly lined with silver thread and adorned with two gleaming columns of silver buttons. Just because he adopted a more modest palette when he was abroad (wishing neither to offend the local royalty nor to draw attention) didn't mean he had to sacrifice style.
Oh, kings, thought Kell as he fastened the buttons on the coat. He was starting to think like Rhy.
On the wall behind him, he could just make out the ghosted symbol made by his passage. Like a footprint in sand, already fading.
He'd never bothered to mark the door from this side, simply because he never went back this way. Windsor's distance from London was terribly inconvenient considering the fact that, when traveling between worlds, Kell could only move between a place in one and the same exact place in another. Which was a problem because there was no Windsor Castle a day's journey from Red London. In fact, Kell had just come through the stone wall of a courtyard belonging to a wealthy gentleman in a town called Disan. Disan was, on the whole, a very pleasant place.
Windsor was not.
Impressive, to be sure. But not pleasant.
A marble counter ran against the wall, and on it a basin of water waited for him, as it always did. He rinsed his bloody hand, as well as the silver crown he'd used for passage, then slipped the cord it hung on over his head, and tucked the coin back beneath his collar. In the hall beyond, he could hear the shuffle of feet, the low murmur of servants and guards. He'd chosen the anteroom specifically to avoid them. He knew very well how little the Prince Regent liked him being here, and the last thing Kell wanted was an audience, a cluster of ears and eyes and mouths reporting the details of his visit back to the throne.
Above the counter and the basin hung a mirror in a gilded frame, and Kell checked his reflection quickly—his hair, a reddish brown, swept down across one eye, and he did not fix it, though he did take a moment to smooth the shoulders of his coat—before passing through a set of doors to meet his host.
The room was stiflingly warm—the windows latched despite what looked like a lovely October day—and a fire raged oppressively in the hearth.
George III sat beside it, a robe dwarfing his withered frame and a tea tray untouched before his knees. When Kell came in, the king gripped the edges of his chair.
"Who's there?" he called out without turning. "Robbers? Ghosts?"
"I don't believe ghosts would answer, Your Majesty," said Kell, announcing himself.
The ailing king broke into a rotting grin. "Master Kell," he said. "You've kept me waiting."
"No more than a month," he said, stepping forward.
King George squinted his blind eyes. "It's been longer, I'm sure."
"I promise, it hasn't."
"Maybe not for you," said the king. "But time isn't the same for the mad and the blind."
Kell smiled. The king was in good form today. It wasn't always so. He was never sure what state he'd find his majesty in. Perhaps it had seemed like more than a month because the last time Kell visited, the king had been in one of his moods, and Kell had barely been able to calm his fraying nerves long enough to deliver his message.
"Maybe it's the year that has changed," continued the king, "and not the month."
"Ah, but the year is the same."
"And what year is that?"
Kell's brow furrowed. "Eighteen nineteen," he said.
A cloud passed across King George's face, and then he simply shook his head and said, "Time," as if that one word could be to blame for everything. "Sit, sit," he added, gesturing at the room. "There must be another chair here somewhere."
There wasn't. The room was shockingly sparse, and Kell was certain the doors in the hall were locked and unlocked from without, not within.
The king held out a gnarled hand. They'd taken away his rings, to keep him from hurting himself, and his nails were cut to nothing.
"My letter," he said, and for an instant Kell saw a glimmer of George as he once was. Regal.
Kell patted the pockets of his coat and realized he'd forgotten to take the notes out before changing. He shrugged out of the jacket and returned it for a moment to its red self, digging through its folds until he found the envelope. When he pressed it into the king's hand, the latter fondled it and caressed the wax seal—the red throne's emblem, a chalice with a rising sun—then brought the paper to his nose and inhaled.
"Roses," he said wistfully.
He meant the magic. Kell never noticed the faint aromatic scent of Red London clinging to his clothes, but whenever he traveled, someone invariably told him that he smelled like freshly cut flowers. Some said tulips. Others stargazers. Chrysanthemums. Peonies. To the king of England, it was always roses. Kell was glad to know it was a pleasant scent, even if he couldn't smell it. He could smell Grey London (smoke) and White London (blood), but to him, Red London simply smelled like home.
"Open it for me," instructed the king. "But don't mar the seal."
Kell did as he was told, and withdrew the contents. For once, he was grateful the king could no longer see, so he could not know how brief the letter was. Three short lines. A courtesy paid to an ailing figurehead, but nothing more.
"It's from my queen," explained Kell.
The king nodded. "Go on," he commanded, affecting a stately countenance that warred with his fragile form and his faltering voice. "Go on."
Kell swallowed. "'Greetings to his majesty, King George III,'" he read, "'from a neighboring throne.'"
The queen did not refer to it as the red throne, or send greetings from Red London (even though the city was in fact quite crimson, thanks to the rich, pervasive light of the river), because she did not think of it that way. To her, and to everyone else who inhabited only one London, there was little need to differentiate among them. When the rulers of one conversed with those of another, they simply called them others, or neighbors, or on occasion (and particularly in regard to White London) less flattering terms.
Only those few who could move among the Londons needed a way to keep them straight. And so Kell—inspired by the lost city known to all as Black London—had given each remaining capital a color.
Grey for the magic-less city.
Red, for the healthy empire.
White, for the starving world.
In truth, the cities themselves bore little resemblance to one another (and the countries around and beyond bore even less). The fact they were all called London was its own mystery, though the prevailing theory was that one of the cities had taken the name long ago, before the doors were all sealed and the only things allowed through were letters between kings and queens. As to which city had first laid claim to the name, none could agree.
"'We hope to learn that you are well,'" continued the queen's letter, "'and that the season is as fair in your city as it is in ours.'"
Kell paused. There was nothing more, save a signature. King George wrung his hands.
"Is that all it says?" he asked.
Kell hesitated. "No," he said, folding the letter. "That's only the beginning."
He cleared his throat and began to pace as he pulled his thoughts together and put them into the queen's voice. "Thank you for asking after our family, she says. The King and I are well. Prince Rhy, on the other hand, continues to impress and infuriate in equal measure, but has at least gone the month without breaking his neck or taking an unsuitable bride. Thanks be to Kell alone for keeping him from doing either, or both."
Kell had every intention of letting the queen linger on his own merits, but just then the clock on the wall chimed five, and Kell swore under his breath. He was running late.
"Until my next letter," he finished hurriedly, "stay happy and stay well. With fondness. Her Highness Emira, Queen of Arnes."
Kell waited for the king to say something, but his blind eyes had a steady, faraway look, and Kell feared he had lost him. He set the folded note on the tea tray and was halfway to the wall when the king spoke up.
"I don't have a letter for her," he murmured.
"That's all right," said Kell softly. The king hadn't been able to write one for years. Some months he tried, dragging the quill haphazardly across the parchment, and some months he insisted on having Kell transcribe, but most months he simply told Kell the message and Kell promised to remember.
"You see, I didn't have the time," added the king, trying to salvage a vestige of his dignity. Kell let him have it.
"I understand," he said. "I'll give the royal family your regards."
Kell turned again to go, and again the old king called out to stop him.
"Wait, wait," he said. "Come back."
Kell paused. His eyes went to the clock. Late, and getting later. He pictured the Prince Regent sitting at his table in St. James, gripping his chair and quietly stewing. The thought made Kell smile, so he turned back toward the king as the latter pulled something from his robe with fumbling fingers.
It was a coin.
"It's fading," said the king, cupping the metal in his weathered hands as if it were precious and fragile. "I can't feel the magic anymore. Can't smell it."
"A coin is a coin, Your Majesty."
"Not so and you know it," grumbled the old king. "Turn out your pockets."
Kell sighed. "You'll get me in trouble."
"Come, come," said the king. "Our little secret."
Kell dug his hand into his pocket. The first time he had visited the king of England, he'd given him a coin as proof of who he was and where he came from. The story of the other Londons was entrusted to the crown and handed down heir to heir, but it had been years since a traveler had come. King George had taken one look at the sliver of a boy and squinted and held out his meaty hand, and Kell had set the coin in his palm. It was a simple lin, much like a grey shilling, only marked with a red star instead of a royal face. The king closed his fist over the coin and brought it to his nose, inhaling its scent. And then he'd smiled, and tucked the coin into his coat, and welcomed Kell inside.
From that day on, every time Kell paid his visit, the king would insist the magic had worn off the coin, and make him trade it for another, one new and pocket-warm. Every time Kell would say it was forbidden (it was, expressly), and every time the king would insist that it could be their little secret, and Kell would sigh and fetch a fresh bit of metal from his coat.
Now he plucked the old lin out of the king's palm and replaced it with a new one, folding George's gnarled fingers gently over it.
"Yes, yes," cooed the ailing king to the coin in his palm.
"Take care," said Kell as he turned to go.
"Yes, yes," said the king, his focus fading until he was lost to the world, and to his guest.
Curtains gathered in the corner of the room, and Kell pulled the heavy material aside to reveal a mark on the patterned wallpaper. A simple circle, bisected by a line, drawn in blood a month ago. On another wall in another room in another palace, the same mark stood. They were as handles on opposite sides of the same door.
Kell's blood, when paired with the token, allowed him to move between the worlds. He needn't specify a place because wherever he was, that's where he'd be. But to make a door within a world, both sides had to be marked by the same exact symbol. Close wasn't close enough. Kell had learned that the hard way.
The symbol on the wall was still clear from his last visit, the edges only slightly smeared, but it didn't matter. It had to be redone.
He rolled up his sleeve and freed the knife he kept strapped to the inside of his forearm. It was a lovely thing, that knife, a work of art, silver from tip to hilt and monogrammed with the letters K and L.
The only relic from another life.
A life he didn't know. Or at least, didn't remember.
Kell brought the blade to the back of his forearm. He'd already carved one line today, for the door that brought him this far. Now he carved a second. His blood, a rich ruby red, welled up and over, and he returned the knife to its sheath and touched his fingers to the cut and then to the wall, redrawing the circle and the line that ran through it. Kell guided his sleeve down over the wound—he'd treat all the cuts once he was home—and cast a last glance back at the babbling king before pressing his palm flat to the mark on the wall.
It hummed with magic.
"As Tascen," he said. Transfer.
The patterned paper rippled and softened and gave way under his touc h, and Kell stepped forward and through.CHAPTER 2
Between one stride and the next, dreary Windsor became elegant St. James. The stuffy cell of a room gave way to bright tapestries and polished silver, and the mad king's mumblings were replaced by a heavy quiet and a man sitting at the head of an ornate table, gripping a goblet of wine and looking thoroughly put out.
"You're late," observed the Prince Regent.
"Apologies," said Kell with a too-short bow. "I had an errand."
The Prince Regent set down his cup. "I thought I was your errand, Master Kell."
Kell straightened. "My orders, Your Highness, are to see to the king first."
"I wish you wouldn't indulge him," said the Prince Regent, whose name was also George (Kell found the Grey London habit of sons taking father's names both redundant and confusing) with a dismissive wave of his hand. "It gets his spirits up."
"Is that a bad thing?" asked Kell.
"For him, yes. He'll be in a frenzy later. Dancing on the tables talking of magic and other Londons. What trick did you do for him this time? Convince him he could fly?"
Kell had only made that mistake once. He learned on his next visit that the King of England had nearly walked out a window. On the third floor. "I assure you I gave no demonstrations."
Prince George pinched the bridge of his nose. "He cannot hold his tongue the way he used to. It's why he is confined to quarters."
Prince George ran his hand along the table's gilded edge. "Windsor is a perfectly respectable place to be kept."
A respectable prison is still a prison, thought Kell, withdrawing a second letter from his coat pocket. "Your correspondence."
The prince forced him to stand there as he read the note (he never commented on the way it smelled of flowers), and then as he withdrew a half-finished reply from the inside pocket of his coat and completed it. He was clearly taking his time in an effort to spite Kell, but Kell didn't mind. He occupied himself by drumming his fingers on the edge of the gilded table. Each time he made it from pinky to forefinger, one of the room's many candles went out.
"Must be a draft," he said absently while the Prince Regent's grip tightened on his quill. By the time he finished the note, he'd broken two and was in a bad mood, while Kell found his own disposition greatly improved.
Excerpted from A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, Miriam Weinberg. Copyright © 2015 Victoria Schwab. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
One: The Traveler,
Two: Red Royal,
Three: Grey Thief,
Four: White Throne,
Five: Black Stone,
Six: Thieves Meet,
Seven: The Follower,
Eight: An Arrangement,
Nine: Festival & Fire,
Ten: One White Rook,
Twelve: Sanctuary & Sacrifice,
Thirteen: The Waiting King,
Fourteen: The Final Door,
About the Author,
Tor Books by V. E. Schwab,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As with most high fantasy, A Darker Shade of Magic starts slow and quiet, building a world that is like ours, and not like ours, brick by brick. We meet Kell, a mysterious wanderer in a fabulous coat, who travels between worlds as easily as stepping from one room to another. There is Grey London, which plays like a straight historical fiction of our world, Red London, Kell’s home, which is rich and teeming with magic, and White London, which has been all but burned up by magic and treachery. And then there is Black London, which no one travels to anymore, not even Kell. The world of each London is established subtly but confidently, and through Kell’s eyes, the rules of each overlapping London gradually become clear and distinct. Once we’ve gained our footing in the magic of Kell’s world and have a sense of the difficulties he faces in each London, we meet Lila, a cunning thief from Grey London with a quick hand and a taste for adventure. It takes a while for all the building blocks of the story to fall into place, but there are plenty of rewards for the patient reader, from the lush details of the worlds to the charming characters to Schwab’s signature poetic prose. Then, once Lila and Kell inevitably cross paths, the story takes off, plunging both protagonists into a London-jumping whirlpool of courtly intrigue and deception while playing up the conflict between Lila’s lack of magic and Kell’s abundance of it to maximum, satisfying effect. What V.E. Schwab did so well in Vicious, and what she does again here, is establish each of her characters, from heroes to villains, as fully realized, fleshed-out individuals. While Lila and Kell are both brave and charismatic, they are also criminals, and while the main antagonists – the terrifying sibling rulers of White London – are undeniably sinister, the people they use to carry out their dark deeds are in many ways conflicted and sympathetic. Blurring that line between hero and villain is a tricky game, but Schwab accomplishes it masterfully. As I said before, the first half of the book may be a slow burn, but it’s a delicious one. Readers shouldn’t expect to plunge straight into adventure and murder and intrigue, but there is plenty to enjoy along the road to chaos. And once the book hits its stride, there are payoffs aplenty as the story builds in intensity all the way through to its twisting, bloody conclusion. A Darker Shade of Magic will have a sequel, but this first installment ends on a perfectly satisfying note. I can’t wait to join Kell and Lila on their next London-hopping adventure, but I was utterly sated with the ending of this book. There are no cliffhangers here, only the graceful bow of one adventure while another waits in the wings, peeking around the corner. If you’re in the mood for a refreshingly unique spin on alternate universes, magic, and devastatingly gorgeous coats – or if you just want a beautifully crafted story told in a mesmerizing, lovely, and occasionally creepy voice, then you should move A Darker Shade of Magic to the top of your list.
"Magic bent the world. Pulled it into shape. There were fixed points. Most of the time they were places." Kell is one of the last Travelers, a magician with the coveted and closely guarded ability to travel between worlds. Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler working for the crown of Red London to dispatch correspondence between the different cities that share the same name. Kell's work brings him to Grey London--a dingy, dull place ruled by the increasingly mad King George III where industrialization has all but stamped out magic. There is also White London--a ruthless city where people struggle to control magic as it drains more and more from the city. There used to be Black London. No one talks about that. Kell's official position in the magically balanced Red London also allows him to pursue less official activities as a smuggler supplying magical artifacts to Collectors and Enthusiasts in all three Londons. Meanwhile, Grey Londoner Delilah Bard knows that she is meant to be a pirate. Even if she is currently without a ship and reduced to working as a cut-purse for the time being. When she crosses paths with Kell, Lila knows that she has found something she never realized was missing from her life. But magic, even small magic smuggled across borders, is a dangerous business where nothing is free. Drawn into a deadly web of magic and conspiracy, Kell and Lila will have to wok together if they want to save any of the Londons in A Darker Shade of Magic (2015) by V. E. Schwab. A Darker Shade of Magic is Schwab's second book written for an adult audience. (She has numerous, equally wonderful YA titles published under the name Victoria Schwab.) It is also the start of her new fantasy trilogy. A Darker Shade of Magic is an evocative fantasy novel with not one but three well-developed worlds that include historical details and logical magic conventions. For all of the characters, perhaps most literally for Kell, magic comes at a cost--one that is quite dear for some--a theme that Schwab skillfully explores throughout the novel. Despite the dangers and dark elements to be found here, A Darker Shade of Magic is also imbued with a sense of wonder for both magic and exploration as new worlds open before Kell and Lila's eyes. Kell and Lila are reckless characters who are dangerously charming. They are also shrewd and often jaded, particularly Lila. These traits make it all the sweeter to read about their evolving bond and to see this unlikely pair work together against some very dangerous enemies. Witty banter throughout is an added bonus in this story filled with sharp observations and vivid prose. A Darker Shade of Magic strikes the perfect balance between urgency and introspection with a fast-paced plot and characters who often operate in the grey areas of morality. Seeing the story from both Kell and Lila's perspectives adds another element to this intricate story that hints at marvelous things to come in the rest of the series. Highly recommended for fans of both urban and high fantasy. Possible Pairings: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
I loved Lila and how they made her personality. She is a girl with a rough start be does not lean on it. There are a lot of holes in her story and can not wait to read the next one to find out what happens.
I loved this book! It made me think of Neil Gaimans neverwhere! Can't wait till the sequel comes out!!
THIS BOOK <3 This book captivated me from the first page with this amazing character in Kell and beautiful prose, and carried me on an adventure through four very different London's, each as vibrant as the next. I loved Lilah and Rhy, the magic system, the worlds, the writing, the mysteries, and the VOICE. The voice <3. A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC has effortlessly become one of my favorite books, and easily my top fantasy read this year-- possibly of the last couple years! I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel!
WOW! This is fantasy at it's finest! I was in such a reading slump until V.E. Schwab yanked me right out with A Darker Shade of Magic! It was everything I needed and more. The Londons are scary, beautiful, heartbreaking, and just plain AMAZING! Characters? BRILLIANT! I either loved-to-love or loved-to-hate every single character in ADSOM. Kell is amazing in every possible way...I can't imagine anyone not falling in love with him. He is powerful, smart, cool, funny, and has a certain "swagger" that you will only understand after reading the book. As with all of Victoria's books, the writing is lyrical and just plain gorgeous. There was so much to discover between these pages and I loved getting lost inside of them! This is a wholly unique,pitch-perfect, and fast-paced romp through one of the coolest worlds I've ever read! I have to add that though this is "technically" an adult book, I found it to be PERFECT for YA lovers as well! I read mostly YA, and I flew through ADSOM in one night! Grab a copy of this one NOW guys...I promise you won't regret it! Scratch that! BUY THIS BOOK NOW, as I cannot imagine my not having had the immense pleasure of reading it, and I don't want anyone to miss out on the sheer awesomeness! Victoria, you have done it again...
This book is so...cool! And you know what I really loved about it? A handful of times, as the plot thickened, I would think "Oh jeez, this is going to happen" or "Is the character not going to realize [fill in the blank]!?" and every single time, the opposite happened and/or the character realized! Schwab writes such intelligent characters that the entire novel comes across as refreshing because she doesn't waste time using tired plot devices to tell her story. I loved that! I highly recommend this book. So so so so much fun!
It made me a little annoyed at the end. I thought a few scenes were the same sort of scenes, but acted out by different characters.
Despite the accolades and generally very positive reviews this series has received, I found myself uninspired by this first entry, and unmotivated to continue. There isn't a glaring reason why - the characters have reasonable depth, but perhaps are too close to familiar conventions (internally conflicted hero, woman compatriot with mysterious past, neither recognizing their growing attraction). The are no gaps in the plot, which moves at a comfortable pace. But while the magic is creative, it seems discordant that guns are also present - both a revolver and a shotgun - without other reference to similar technology and for no discernible reason. Not quite deus ex machina, but off-putting. I'm usually committed to following through to the end of a series (all 14 volumes of the Wheel of Time series, thank you very much), but not this time.
4.5/5 Stars This review MAY contain spoilers. Read at your own risk. I really don't know how to put my thoughts into words right now. This book was amazing! I'd be lying if I said that I didn't have high expectations going into this one, what with all the hype surrounding this series. There is such high praise for it, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I think that the hype, in the end, kind of tainted my expectations a bit. Don't get me wrong because I loved this book. But I feel that without all the heightened expectations I may have enjoyed this book more. Expectations aside, this is one fantasy world that you won't want to miss out on experiencing, that's for sure. The world building in this is phenomenal! It was so atmospheric and complex. The magic system in this book is very distinct and alive and interesting. I am still in awe of Schwab's flawless, imaginative world. I very much loved the way that fantasy was woven into history to create this unbelievable world. I think that the area where I had the only disconnect was with the characters. Which is odd for me to say because I loved the characters. I loved them, yet I felt very detached from them at the same time. I don't even know how that is possible, but that is how I felt while reading this. I think that the characters were very real. They had flaws, problems of their own, and they could stand on their own in terms of the story. I think that what made them feel so isolated from me was the way they interact. I think that if there were more emotion between the characters then I would have felt more invested in them. The relationship between the two main characters just felt underdeveloped. Though, the author must have done something right because they are also extremely likable. The plot was convincing enough as a whole. There were many moments that I felt compelled to know what happened next, but there were also moments that I wasn't. The story didn't exactly stand still though. It kept moving and the pace was adequate. There were definitely plot twists that I didn't expect, so things stayed interesting. I felt that the ending could have used more fire behind it. It felt like it just stopped at the end without any reason to go on to the next book. Overall, this is definitely a book to be experienced! Despite my personal disconnect with the characters, I highly recommend this read. Even with that disconnect, I absolutely loved this book! Schwab is a remarkable storyteller and a skillful weaver of worlds. I am excited to continue this series and experience more worlds by this author!
This novel is has great energy that makes the 416 pages go by quickly. It is easy to love the characters and the worlds they live in.
pooled ink Reviews: 4.5 Stars I’ve heard so many steady and fantastic reviews that it’s been on my TBR list for a while and at last I’ve found the time to read it and I must say I was not disappointed! The world-building is absolutely gorgeously crafted, it was stunningly unique and wisely simplistic and somehow it felt true and familiar. From the very first page I was transported into this world of magic, blood, and adventure, following Kell as his life falls off a cliff. The world of this series won me over completely as did its characters, pacing, and plot. If you’re in search for a fantasy book that will lure you in with a world sung like a lullaby, thrum in your veins with a plot thick with darkness, and halt your breath as each page escalates and excites, then A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC should be on your list. Incredible world-building, characters that feel true, and stakes that rise higher with every twist, this is a series you can’t miss. **Read the full review on Wordpress: Pooled Ink
I absolutely loved this book. Engaging and magical read.
This story was so original and creative. I wish it had gone deeper into to some of the characters. I am sure the reason it didn't is just because it was a series but I hate that rushed feeling that sometimes comes with the first book in a series. I will definitely read more of this series though. I loved Lila and Kell and I ship them already. Favorite Quotes "clever was more dangerous than bad any day of the week." "Had Lila been a man, and the ships fair maidens building up their skirts, she could not have wanted them more. Hang the fine dresses, she thought. I'll take a ship." "Love doesn't keep us from freezing to death, Kell," she continued, "or starving, or being knifed for the coins in our pocket. Love doesn't buy us anything, so be glad for what you have and who you have because you may want for things but you need for nothing."
At times the book was slow, but the last third was really good.
I’ve been wanting to read ADSOM for a while, and I’ve only heard good things about it, which I can definitely say are all true! I absolutely loved the worlds that Schwab created in the novel; everything was so vivid and interesting that it really added a lot to the novel. The plot, writing, and characters were all really great and original; can’t wait to read the sequel! See more reviews on my blog! http://areadingredsox.blogspot.com
Immersing and filled with lovely characters. Humor and seriousness blend well throughout the pages. A must read.
My Experience: I started reading A Darker Shade of Magic on 4/24/17 and finished it on 5/8/17 at 12:18AM. I love the fantasy and the writing in this book! I like that it’s unlike any other fantasy I have read. The blood magic, to be honest, makes me cringe every time it is being used, but it’s different and I welcome the change! I do like the world building and I absolutely love the humor in this book! “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” In this book, readers will follow the point of views of Kell, a magician who can travel between worlds and Lila (Delilah) Bard, a cutthroat and a thief who is looking for freedom. The world building is a bit complicated at first, but as the story progressed, it became clearer. There are 4 Londons: Grey, Red, White, and Black. It’s in a row where Black London has dark magic and Grey London is lacked of magic. Kell is mysterious in this book because he doesn’t know his birth parents. He likes to trade and collect forbidden objects with collectors seeking objects from other Londons and at one point, he ended up with a dangerous magic that he must take it upon himself to get rid of. The mission is nearly impossible to achieve because powerful bad guys are after him for this dark magic and he has to die trying to prevent it from getting into the wrong hands. At the same time, the dark magic is calling to him, and at times, he is cornered to utilizing the magic himself in order to stay alive. This dark magic, however, is looking for a host and Kell has to fight against the magic before it controls him. It’s intense reading this book because it seems like Kell is at a dead end. “I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.” “I apologize for shooting you in the leg.” said Lila. “I was myself entirely.” I love the two main characters in this book, Kell and Lila. I enjoy their bickering a lot! I really like Lila because she’s so independent and badass. I like her positive attitudes, confidence, and self-reliant. She lives alone and has to be a thief to survive. She lives in Grey London but always wanted something more. For whatever reasons, she ended up crossing paths with Kell and it brought her the adventures she’s least expected but fully embraced. It’s really awesome following her train of thoughts. There may be no romance in this book but the fun banter makes up for it. I also enjoy Parrish and Gen’s third person point of views of the happenings out on the town when the black magic was spreading. I am so excited to read the next book and find out what Lila is up to. I highly recommend this book to everyone! Pro: mystery, suspense, humor, intense, adrenaline rush, magic, fantasy, page turner, fast paced, action packed Con: a bit complicated in the beginning I rate it 5 stars! ***Disclaimer: I borrowed this book from my local public library and my opinions are honest. xoxo, Jasmine at howusefulitis dot wordpress dot com
WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! Why did I wait so long to read this book. It has been sitting on my Nook for over 2 years. VE Schwab is an amazing author. I first read Vicious which was fantastic. Her characters are so well written. Every action is appropriate to the character. The settings are so beautifully rendered that you feel like you are walking next to the characters as they perambulate. The plot is moving so quickly that you just want to keep turning pages. Non-spoilery Plot summary - There are four versions of London and they are closed off from one another. However, there are a very few people who can move between them. Kell is one of those people. While in Grey London his pocket is picked by Lila (Delilah Bard) and he has to track her to get the item back. He ends up taking her back to Red London and the adventure begins.
How do I even begin to describe A Darker Shade of Magic. The world - it's so imaginative, the concept of four interlocking universes, with magic flowing between them, and special magicians called Travelers able to pass between them. And the magic itself is created in such a way, that it lends itself to the danger in the world and one of the prime obstacles of the plot, which makes the setting unique for the story - something I like in fantasy books. Also, there are two kinds of magic - elemental and blood, which is an interesting combination in that they are both commanded differently and react differently. Kell, an Antari, can command both, and is basically a very powerful person in his world, but his existence is a lonely one. Lila, a thief, is seemingly normal but gets caught up in his story when she picks his pocket. The thing I liked about their partnership is how they complement each other - Kell is the cautious tender-hearted one and Lila is the fierce storm living for adventure. Also, I loved the fact that this book focused on the worlds and their developing partnership, rather than any romance. If there is to be any, I feel it will be a slow burn, but I am very interested in how their story plays out further. The ending of this book felt very complete, but of course, the possibilities are myriad. There is still Black London to be explored, and Lila's future aspirations to be a pirate, as well as Kell's fate. I am just to excited to read the next book.
This book was so much different than any book that I have ever read. I love that this book is set in four, really three London's because one of them fell. Each London is different from the other. There's Grey, Red, Black and White London. I would definitely consider Grey London to be normal, meaning we are more familiar with it. Red London is where the main character Kell is from, and he can use magic. In this book, not everybody is able to use magic, which I thought was a unique aspect. White London is ruled by these ruthless, evil twins. Black London is existent but non-existent at the same because it fell. Black London still exists because it can still be traveled too, it is non-existent because there is nothing left to it. I think Black London was the most intriguing, just because of the circumstances and mystery that surrounded it. As for the characters, I loved Kell, Rhy, the King and Queen of Red London. I felt that they were well-rounded and really cared for each other. Lila grew on me, and it took me a while to like her. What I grew to love about Lila is that she didn't want to stay in Grey London, she wanted to see and experience the other Londons, even though they were places where she didn't necessarily belong. This book was such an adventure, fast-paced and magical. I really can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy and see what happens to the characters.
I am officially calling myself a fan. I thought A Darker Shade of Magic was even more of a page turner than Vicious. I was instantly sucked into Schwab's world of multiple Londons. Keep in mind, that although this one city shares the same name, the worlds are very different. I've always been fascinated with the idea of mutli-verses/different dimensions, so Schwab's creation is similar to that concept. Only, what makes it unique (well, one of the things) is that people - not everyone, but a lot - know about these different Londons. There was a time when the worlds were open to each other and people could cross freely. That changed because of certain dangers involving magic and war and whatnot. Another note in terms of setting: the author doesn't come right out and say the time period, but George III is mentioned as the king of Grey London, so I assume late 1700's / early 1800's. Kell, who is my favorite character of the series (so far, at least), is one of two people who can travel between the worlds. You get the sense that he is intelligent and powerful, but flawed - as the best characters often are. He's not supposed to smuggle things between worlds, but he does. As a result, he ends up smuggling something he shouldn't, which kick starts the plot. While talking about Kell, it is a necessity to mention his coat. It is a fascinating creation that can be turned inside-out again and again and again to show different looks. It allows him to blend in during his travels. It also helps him hide things. The way the author describes and utilizes the coat throughout the novel is fascinating. Speaking of outfits, the other major protagonist is a cross-dressing thief/pirate named Lila (Delilah Bard). She comes from Grey London, which is the London without magic - essentially the world we know. She dresses as a man for multiple reasons, partly to conceal her identity when performing her illegal feats, partly because of how she is viewed as a woman within the culture, and partly because she seems to prefer the clothes. She quickly proves that she is not a character to be taken lightly. Lila may not have magic at her disposal, but she still manages to pull some fast ones on Kell (and other magic users). She is confident, sharp-tongued, and a skilled fighter. By the end of the novel, I found myself enjoying her almost as much as Kell. Almost. Holland, the other traveler, is pretty much the opposite of Kell. He's a punk. That said, I also felt kind of sorry for him. As for the antagonists of the story... it's kind of complex, because there's people, but magic itself is also an antagonistic entity. I'm not going to get specific, but let's just say, the opposing forces are scary. Not in a horror movie kind of way, but they are powerful and vile. They present a real threat to Kell and Lila. You can feel the dread when the final confrontation approaches. Well, I think that's about all I'm going to say about this book, because - as usual - I don't want to spoil anything. I really enjoyed it, even more than Vicious, which is quite a feet, since that was my favorite read of 2016. I know I've only read 2 of Schwab's books, but I find myself comparing her style to Neil Gaiman's, who has been one of my favorite authors for about 15 years. I think I even read a similar comparison somewhere. Anyway, I highly recommend this one.
Victoria Schwab is a madwoman in a fantastic coat with short chopped hair. Wait. That’s not quite right. Lila Bard is a madwoman in a fantastic coat with short chopped hair. Where “madwoman” means delightful being who happens to be an excellent thief and has an even better penchant for adventure. Where “fantastic coat” means she has a cool jacket, but if you think that’s cool you haven’t seen Kell’s. Where “short chopped hair” means...well, short hair. Kell’s jacket though? I mean, dang, where can I get me one of those? (Seriously though). Alternate dimensions. Magic. Bloodlines. Royalty (and accompanying royal plots and schemes and drama). Pirates. Pickpockets. Princes. A secret magic language. Our very own London--and three others. We have Rhy our charming prince, and Kell our solemn magician, and Lila our eager thief. There’s love and blood and underhanded ventures and strict kings and deadly kings and corrupt kings and dashing young men and caring young barkeeps. I honestly can’t think of a single thing this book is missing. Except maybe you--have you read it? Because you should. You don’t want to be missing out, not on this.