I didn’t like this book but you might: A Darker Shade of Magic

Image courtesy of Icey Books. 

Image courtesy of Icey Books. 

Mikayla Spicer reads in between the lines of V.E. Schwab’s novel, ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’, the first in a trilogy about magic and too many Londons.

A Darker Shade of Magic is a fun tale about a world where there are four Londons, with very few citizens able to travel in between them, and the journey of two citizens whose paths intersect. The four Londons can be broken down as such: Grey London - where there is no magic but there is a mad king; Red London - the home of our protagonist, Kell, where magic is ultra cool and accepted; White London - ruled by two crazy twins, where magic fights back against those who try to control it; and Black London - which we don’t talk about.

You with me? Awesome.

I enjoyed reading this book because it’s a totally original idea. However, I had issues with the characters and the world itself.

The main two characters are:

  • Kell, one of two known magicians in this book universe, and he’s just totally boring. He was raised as a member of the royal family of Red London, and he has mad powers. I like the idea of Kell in theory, but I didn’t get a real sense of personality as I was reading.
  • Lila, an inhabitant of Grey London, who pickpockets for a living. She’s cool but being angry was engrained into her personality, which became tiring to read. Schwab didn't provide her backstory so she ruined the book for me because she was doing things that I didn't understand the context of, nor enjoy. However, I totally appreciated that she is a legitimately strong female character with interesting motivations.

The excitement starts when Lila steals a powerful magic stone from Kell, and they end up travelling together, albeit a bit reluctantly at first because you know, she stole from him and that's not cool, but it's interesting because they have great chemistry.

Now you know what the main premise is, here’s why you should read it.

V.E Schwab’s writing is excellent and engaging. She is really good at world building and writing interesting characters. Although I had issues with both main characters, they were original. The overlapping four Londons is just amazing and sucks you in. Each world has a distinct vibe and personality.

Here’s a few quotes so you can get a feel for the writing style.

Aren’t you afraid of dying?” he asked Lila now. She looked at him as if it were a strange question. And then she shook her head. “Death comes for everyone,” she said simply. “I’m not afraid of dying. But I am afraid of dying here.” She swept her hand over the room, the tavern, the city. “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.

How inspirational. Schwab is amazing. The book isn't my favourite, but I love her style.

Kell managed an echo of her smile, and [Lila] gasped. “What’s that on your face?”

The smile vanished. “What?”

”Never mind,” she said, laughing. “It’s gone.

The book is full off sassy moments like these.

The vivid glamour of the world outside paled in comparison to the world within. It was a palace of vaulting glass and shimmering tapestry and, woven through it all like light, magic. The air was alive with it. Not the secret, seductive magic of the stone, but a loud, bright, encompassing thing.

Sigh. Isn't that beautiful?

The side characters are sick. There’s Rhys, Kell’s ‘brother’, heir to the throne of Red London. He’s not really given a big role but is still written as a character with heaps of potential for the sequels. Holland, the other magician who can travel in between Londons, was probably my favourite character because he’s angry and complex - think Severus Snape but young and hot. And last, the crazy twins Astrid and Athos, who rule White London. They’re creepy with a mean set of powers, but they have more substance than Kell and Lila in my opinion. 

If you want to pick this up, you should know that A Darker Shade of Magic is now a completed trilogy. I haven’t read the others, but I’ve heard they get really good so get keen.

Also, if you like this genre but feel as though I’ve kinda turned you off this book with my negativity, try The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern because it’s brilliant, or read V. E. Schwab’s Vicious, which provides interesting commentary on heroes and villains and is more coherent than A Darker Shade of Magic.

Mikayla Spicer is a third-year Journalism and BCII student who likes historical fiction novels, dogs and green tea.