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

a-darker-shade-of-magicAuthor: V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 398

Rating: ★★★★☆

“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”  


Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. 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.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, 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.


Greeted by a quirky red head, dawning a coat with many different sides, I was whisked away to a world full of multiple Londons. Wait, what? Yep! I finally am jumping on the Shades of Magic train, and I just recently finished A Darker Shade of Magic. And I totally loved it.

This is by far one of the most unique concepts I’ve read. It’s not just one new world like a typical fantasy, it’s three (sort of four). Gray London, which magic has long since died out in, slightly resembles our mundane world. Red London, where magic thrives and is celebrated, is Kell’s home. White London, where magic has overtaken and is slowly leeching out the life of the city, is where the twisted siblings rule. Then there’s Black London, which magic long since over powered and destroyed. So what happens when you give an antari (a person who can travel between the worlds) a relic from Black London that should’ve been destroyed? Shenanigans!

For me, Kell is such a wonderful protagonist. He’s an awkward human who is just trying to find where he belongs. The book does a wonderful job of showing many different sides of his personality, and highlighting both his strengths and his flaws. Kell is very talented with his control over his magic, and yet this magic stone from Black London threatens to tip him over to the *whispers* dark side.

The we have our other main character, Delilah Bard, who is a gift to this world. Lila is a wanna-be pirate, a thief, extremely stubborn, and wonderfully sassy. I found her easily relatable, and I actually liked her a little better than Kell. Speaking of Kell, him and Lila have the best banter ever. Right from the beginning of their story together, I could tell that they were going to become the best of friends. The story is filled with other characters to love, and characters that you love to hate… but I’ll let you meet them for yourself!

I also quite enjoyed Schwab’s writing style. It was lyrical and enchanting, but not so over the top that I had to go back and reread paragraphs/sentences. It was perfectly simple. The way that the book is broken down into smallish sections, with two or three chapters inside each section allowed me to FLY through the book. I applaud Schwab for being able to write such a dark and heavy fantasy, while keeping the writing itself light and whimsical.

The only problem I encountered while reading was a slow middle section. At some point in the middle of the book, I lost what the main goal was. I had to stop and think about what the plot was trying to accomplish, but it was relatively easy to get back on track. However, the ending was phenomenal, so this wasn’t too much of an issue for me.

Overall, A Darker Shade of Magic drew me in quickly with its multitude of beautiful worlds. The book is full of so many fun characters who you will grow to love, and I also enjoyed seeing the politics between three different worlds, some with magic and some with not. If you haven’t started this series yet, I highly recommend it especially because the last book in the series comes out this month!


19 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab | Book Review

  1. I just read this in a sitting yesterday and have similar thoughts !! Although I didn’t really find it slow, but I think that’s because I was so captivated and had nothing else to do so I just lowed through it, but I agree it was so unique, and the characters were on point 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The chemistry and banter between Lila and Kell was a realy highlight for me! Their partnership was fantastic and it helps that they are awesome characters on their own.

    I’m totally with you about the slow middle though. I think you could cut out some pages and it would be a much stronger read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad you ended up loving this one! I have it on my shelves and I’ve been meaning to read it these past few weeks but I’ve gotten distracted by the ToG series and A List of Cages (which is phenomenal, so far). It’s so encouraging to hear about all the wonderful aspects of this story. I’m really excited to get to it! The characters seem so cool. Can’t wait to meet them myself! Great review, McKenzie! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Azia! You should totally read this series, I just finished the second and it was even better than the first. The characters are absolutely amazing. Although ToG is a good thing to be distracted by. I haven’t heard of A List of Cages, perhaps we’ll see a review sometime soon?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s really encouraging to hear. Hopefully I’ll start on ADSOM sometime this week or the next! And yes it is. I didn’t like ToG but Crown of Midnight was so much better than the first. I’m hooked! And you most certainly will! Maybe next week hopefully 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s hood to hear! And I think I did read your review. 😂 I saw a couple of rants like that for EoS. That’s why I was really hesitant to con’t the series haha

        Liked by 1 person

      3. LOL, but isn’t there only one more book in the series left? You got this! But I’ll definitely go in cautious. I’ve heard too many bad things to go in with high expectations haha

        Liked by 1 person

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