My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Author: Victoria Schwab
In the year and a half I've been on Instagram I've heard so many things about Victoria Schwab's writing. I never really thought to pick up the book or check out the synopsis. I just thought 'that's a nice cover'. I got an ARC of the second book last fall and it had been sitting on my shelf since. This summer I wanted to kill some of the books on my TBR shelf so I picked up the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic. My life will never be the same.
Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.
Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that 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 take her with him for her proper adventure.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.
First off the setting. I love London. I've never been but in every story I've ever read with London it has been perfect. In this story there are not one BUT three (technically four) London's. Grey, Red, White, (and black) London. I loved all of them. I loved how each London had it's own feel. It's own set of rules. You would think having Four London's in a story would be confusing but it worked so well. Each place was cutthroat and amazing in it's own way. Except grey London. It was just cutthroat.
The magic. This story has got such a unique take on magic. In this book magic is not something that is in everyone. It's a living thing. There is no language for magic it is a give and take relationship. It's like a person and it must be commanded or you will be consumed by it. In red London magic is like breathing. In Grey it simply doesn't exist. In White the people fight it. In Black the magic has consumed everything. Now there's magic and then there's Antari. Kell is one of the last two Antari's to exist. Antari's can perform all the forms of magic including blood magic which allows you to travel between worlds.
Let me just take a moment to fangirl over my new favorite female character. OH MY GOSH! LILA WAS AMAZING! She was so tough and didn't need anyone but at the same time she could be vulnerable. Her character development throughout the story was perfect. She went from someone who felt nothing for anyone to someone who would fight for her friends. So in some stories your female dresses in pants and acts all weird and strong and it just feels so unnatural. Not this story. Lila may not wear a dress and she may be able to handle a knife like no one else but she's also got style. She's sleek and graceful, smart and quick on her feet. She knows when to give in and when it's time to push back. She's now one of my top five female characters. Victoria Schwab did an amazing job writing her.
Everything in this story just flowed together so well. Kell and Lila's friendship. The way the magic worked as more of a living thing than a spell you cast. The way the story builds up and leaves you with so much anticipation. Victoria Schwab writes so well. She can drop hints and clues like Marvel: you don't get it till after it happens. There's no holes in this story. No moments of utter confusion as you try to keep up with all the information and different worlds. Everything just works together so perfectly and *cries*
I LOVED this story. I was left with this perfect contentment and a craving for more (as contradictory as that sounds). I'm recommending this story to anyone who loves magic, quirky characters, and lots of sword fights. Now excuse me while I go start the second book.