Sunday , May 19 2024
V E Schwab A Darker Shade of Magic

Book Review: ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’ By V.E. Schwab

In A Darker Shade of Magic (the first book in “The Shades of Magic” series) V. E. Schwab has created a complex and intriguing world. Well, it would be probably more accurate to say worlds and to say the city (or cities) of London England. Not since Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere has this ancient city be so turned on its ear.

Instead of merely one London, there are four existing in parallel: Red, Grey, White, and Black. Each colour denotes a particular London’s relationship to magic. While in Red London magic is a given, in Grey it has ceased to exist and in White it is a commodity used to obtain power. Black is black because it no longer exists: the people of that London allowed magic to take over and destroy them.

Now, these designations are only known to a few; those ruling each city and the ever rarer Antari – those who have the ability to travel between Red, White and Grey. Kell is one of the last of these magicians and his primary responsibility is shuttling messages back and forth between the three sets of monarchies who rule in the respective cities. However, Kell has developed a side line – he smuggles items of power from world to world – on order for collectors. 

While he doesn’t achieve any real gain from these transactions – save little trinkets from the other world – he loves wind up music boxes – never the less he enjoys the thrill these transactions supply. Up until now the thrill has just been the pleasure of accomplishing something slightly illegal. Now he has stumbled into something dangerous with the potential of destroying all the worlds.

Kell was duped into transporting an artifact from Black London. The small stone might look innocuous but it allows practitioners to tap into their magic at will and do things they never thought possible. On the negative side, it does seem to want to drain them of their live force.

Kell is joined on his adventure by a sneak thief, Delilah Bard, whom he meets after she steals the stone and then saves his life. Together the two of them must track down who planted the stone on Kell and avoid whomever is hunting them.

Schwab has created a beautiful and grand vision of the world. While it seems to be set in the Georgian period – George lll is on the throne in White London and as crazy in that world as he was in ours – nothing is quite as it seems, as if we’re looking at it through a distorted lens.

Schwab’s characters are as beguiling as the setting she has created for them to move through. From Kell and Delilah to the people they meet along the way and the various members of the royal families, they are all, in spite of various degrees of magical ability, quite believable. Some of them might be incredibly nasty and dangerous, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting.

A Darker Shade of Magic is a wonderful and fantastical read. Schwab has done a remarkable job of world and character creation and leaves you wanting more. Thankfully there are more books in the series so that won’t be a problem.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to Qantara.de and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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