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

A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic, #1)A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Love, love, love this book and can’t wait for the next in the series.

I had somehow never heard of this until it was voted book of the month in one of my groups. I wasn’t planning on reading it but then I saw some good reviews and couldn’t resist even though it meant breaking my no book buying new years resolution. I am so happy to have broken my resolution for this book. It was totally worth it.

Synopsis (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.


I haven’t been this excited about a series since Throne of Glass. The writing and world building are first class and the author has somehow managed to get the balance between descriptions and action just right.

The characters are very likeable for the most part. Reluctant hero Kell comes across a bit arrogant, bored and aloof at the start but once he is shaken up a bit we get to see a much nicer, funnier and insecure young man trying to do what’s right despite the temptation to just give up. I kind of want to adopt him or even just give him a big hug.

Lila, I thought was hilarious and brilliant. She’s a thief and wannabe pirate who likes to pretend she’s a man. She’ll try to steal pretty much anything that’s not nailed down (and probably things that are) and seems to actively seek out trouble. However although she tries to seem badass and uncaring you see the odd chink in her armour and get the impression that while she’s out for herself she does have morals and there are a few people she cares about despite her best efforts.

When she teams up with Kell their relationship is electric. I absolutely loved the banter between them and how their partnership develops from an uneasy arrangement to a kind of mutual respect and trust. Although it does seem like someone needs to bang their heads together so they can see what’s in front of them.

The other characters in the book are also well executed. The bad guys are truly creepy from their very first scene and always made me feel uneasy and uncomfortable. There are actually quite a few scenes which are quite dark and sinister and even the setting at times is unsettling.

While it should be confusing having four different Londons, they are well described and very distinct so I had a clear picture of each. From Kell’s home in Red London which seems almost too perfect, to Lila’s grey London which feels drab and miserable, to White London where there is an air of desperation, danger and evil lurking at all times, all were unique and you always knew exactly where you were.

The story itself is pretty fast paced and there is a lot of action which I loved. At times I was bouncing on my seat as I was reading, desperate to know what would happen next but afraid to read it. There were a few occasions where I would read a bit, get too wound up and have to stop so I could walk about the room a bit before going back and reading the next bit. Even now writing this review and thinking about it has me a little hyped up. I’m not sure how I’m going to take the wait till the next one is released.

I should say that while this is the first book in a series it does work on it’s own and a lot of the story is concluded. There are no horrible cliffhangers to watch out for. There are however a few things which have only been hinted at and definitely have potential to be expanded on and developed in future books.

It’s a little early to be saying this but I think this could be one of my top reads of 2016.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

  1. I’m so glad you liked this book! I actually was very reluctant to read it at first because there didn’t appear to be much romance. Silly but I LOVE ROMANCE SO MUCH. But once I started reading I was sucked in instantly. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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