Young Adult Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Series: (A Darker Shade of Magic #1)
Author: V.E. Schwab aka Victoria Schwab
Genre Type: Fantasy, Magic, Alternate Worlds
Publication Date: February 24th 2015
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Tor Books

SUMMARY 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.


A Darker Shade of Magic is AMAZING!  This is my first read by Victoria Schwab and she completely swept me away with her new universe of alternate Londons. There's dark magic. Epic battles. Thievery and duels. Some very evil villains and villains that turn out to be not-so-evil. Political intrigue. And four AWESOME settings for all of you fans of world building. Each London is SO different according to the magic or lack of in each. The cast of characters is fantastic, and Kell and Lila will easily win you over. This is a not to be missed book!

What makes A Darker Shade Of Magic come alive and such a treat for fantasy fans is the incredible worldbuilding in its fantastic settings. It's not too often readers are treated to such fine details in not just one, but four different alternate Londons. Here's a quick breakdown to get you started and give you a sense of what's in store.

The Alternate Londons

"It glittered like a jewel, lit from within, a ribbon of constant light unravelling through Red London."

Red London: "Power in Balance. Balance in Power." In Kell's world, the people believed magic should be used with care and not abused, wielded with reverence and caution. Here magic is an integral part of everyday society. Ruled by the royal House of Maresh, Red London is verdant living in harmony with the magic and coveted by others. Famous for the red river that runs through it thought to be a source of power and magic.

 "The only reason your London still exists is because it was cut off. It learned to forget. You do not want it to remember."

Grey London: Here magic is nearly forgotten. Ruled by the Prince Regent while his father King George is locked away, rumoured to be going mad, Grey London is a place of little magic, having lost it and is little more than a rumour or dream. Rather it boasts  a lively alternate London where pirates, pubs, duels and shady deals are to be had. Where danger and adventure are just around the corner. Grey London also happens t be the home to our heroine Delilah (Lila) Bard, a cutpurse with dreams of becoming a grand pirate and sailing to distant seas only rumoured about.

"Here, magic was not seen as equal. It was seen as something to be conquered. Enslaved. Controlled."

White London: By trying to bind the power, the people of White London drove the magic underground. The magic rebelled and withdrew leaving the city of White London devoid of its life, warmth and color and leaving it covered in a sickening ash, starving the people of its wonders. Rule by the twisted, bloodthirsty and vicious twins Astrid and Athos Dane, White London is the most dangerous besides the long, lost Black London.

"Everyone-at least everyone in Red London and White, and those few in Grey who knew anything at all-know the legend of Black London. It was a bedtime story. A fairy tale. A warning. Of the city-and the world-that wasn't, anymore."

Black London: Rumored to have been corrupted by magic, its doors are sealed, leaving it isolated from Red, Grey and White Londons. Now it is only a dark fairy tale.

Now, let's talk about characters!

Kell is the star of the show. With his endless changing coat, he travels across the various Londons as the Red Traveler. As the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, he carries the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. How he travels and why he is considered a rare magician is one of the fascinating hooks that kept me tied to this story. He also has a penchant for conveniently taking items across the various Londons which is a big no-no and in the end, causes him to be thrown into some very dangerous situations and crosses his path with our cutpurse heroine Lila! With a sort of dry sense of humor and underlying feel of dark magic, Kell is an awesome force to reckon with. Though fallible and imperfect which Lila, of course, loves to point out once they meet up.

Lila Bard is, of course, a pick-pocket both brash and bold! "Lila Bard lived by a simple rule: if a thing was worth having, it was worth taking." A thief with no calms of taking your last dollar. She hails from Grey London and dreams of owning her own ship and becoming a pirate, exploring unknown territories. I loved the fact that she is nearly a complete opposite to Kell, which brilliantly plays to only illuminate them both. Daring, spontaneous - she demands Kell take her on an adventure after helping him out of some very dangerous waters. She has no idea just what an adventure she's in for. 

Astrid and Athos Dane are two villains that you will love to hate! As current rulers of White London, they rule by vicious, bloodthirsty, and cunning means. Brother and sister twins, they use what power they can harness from magic to control, possess or even bind others body and mind. Be afraid! These two are some of my most recent top villains!

In the End ...

I loved just about every facet of this story and am now a new and excited fan of  Victoria Schwab. The plot, pace, worldbuilding and characters are all done with an expert pen and I want more. A Darker Shade of Magic got all the elements right and should not be missed by fantasy fans.

My Rating: 5 Stars! I LOVED It!

PLEASE NOTE: A courtesy review copy of this book was provided by Tor Books in exchange for my fair review. Thank you, Tor Books for the review opportunity!