Modern Fantasy · Review

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. SchwabSeries: Shades of Magic, #1

Publisher: Tor

Pub. Date: 2015

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 400

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

In this amazing fantasy, there are four dimensions that each have a London. Only Antari, blood mages, can travel to these Londons. Kell is one of the only Antari left who is charged with exchanging mail between the rulers of the Londons, but he has a nasty habit of smuggling more than mail between worlds. He trades objects from other worlds for the right price, and that’s been going well until one object brings trouble with it. Now he is on the run. He meets Delilah Bard, a thief from Grey London with dreams of adventure, who robs him and forces him to take her to another world. V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic takes you to different lands with different types of magic and sinister people.

I think I found a new favorite. This was another book that I felt like reading, so I ran to the library to get it. It is awesome, and I wanted to read A Gathering of Shadows, its sequel, immediately after. It’s been a while since I’ve wanted to immediately dive into the sequel, and I’m excited to start it.

This book is written with multiple perspectives, but the two primary perspectives are the protagonists: Kell and Lila Bard. Kell is an Antari who has been raised by the royal family of Red London. While he loves his family, he doesn’t quite feel like family, but he would die for his brother. He also doesn’t care for the way people bow and treat him differently because of his royal status. With awesome blood magic, he likes to smuggle items (illegally) between the worlds, but his brother has warned him to stop. Although Kell already knows quite a bit about the cultures of the three standing Londons, he is forced to learn that he doesn’t know everything. Lila is mostly trying to survive, but she dreams of adventure on a pirate ship. She also has a special fondness for knives. Lila finds someone to worry about other than herself. After she picks Kell’s pockets, they have to help each other escape those who want the item Kell should not have smuggled. This adventure happens over only a couple of days! I admit that it’s hard to tell if the characters develop a lot during the novel, but the rest of it makes up for any lacking change in the characters. Some clues are dropped about some interesting secrets to Lila.

The magic and worlds are explained so well. There are four Londons, though Antari can only travel to three of them. Grey London is almost entirely without magic and resembles our 19th century London. Red London is full of magic and people worship it. Magic is abundant, and things can change on a whim. White London is home to the power hungry and cruel. Black London, the London that self-destructed from the rampant, corrupting use of black magic, features prominently in here too. The characters never go there, but it’s threat is real.

I like that after a point that we’re expected to know what each spell means because we’ve seen them enough times on the page. That hasn’t been unique in the fantasy I read, but it’s interesting to me because each London speaks several different languages. The settings were also described in good detail.

If you like fantasy with different kinds of magic, you will like A Darker Shade of Magic. If you like books with lots of action, give it a shot.

15 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

    1. I haven’t read any of her other books, either, but I’m going to be on the lookout for them now – after I read the rest of this trilogy. I hope you like it.


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