Review: 'A Darker Shade Of Magic' (preview), V.E. Schwab

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

A Darker Shade Of Magic // V.E. Schwab
• Expected publication: February 24th 2015 by Tor Books

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'.

Why did I read this book? I'm going to be painfully honest. The cover. I was casually hanging around NetGalley when my eyes zeroed in on that wonder of art and design, and I couldn't not click. Click that too, it's about the cover. Just do it.

But less cover talk, more book talk. I've mentioned a couple of times that I am a tough reader to sway - if I hate your first 50 pages, chances are I'll hate your entire book. This preview is 150 pages long. I loved every single page. Do you see what I'm getting at?

V.E. Schwab won me over right on the first page, with her flawless description of Kell's multiple-sided, dimension-hopping, magical coat. Think Hermione Granger's purse, but red, and on the book cover.

As we follow Kell on one of his mail runs between Londons, I couldn't help but be charmed by the book's glorious worldbuilding - a series of parallel cities in constant communication through a select group of dimension-hopping magicians, sealed off from each other because of a vaguely apocalyptical Noodle Incident that is obviously not explained in the preview otherwise we wouldn't have to read the entire book. Red London stands as our prosperous HQ, a city of light and love and a troupe of royals who act part adoptive family part captor mob to our protagonist, Kell. Grey London is... our London, pretty much, ruled by a very real, very ill George III, whose characterisation is so endearingly on point that I wish we could have spent the entire preview talking to him. We also visit White London, a magical wasteland home to a vicious (ah!) set of twins I wouldn't want to cross on a bad day, and... we speak of Black London, though we never truly drop by.

I understand that my job here is to give you reasons why you should read this book, but I am remarkable bad at selling things to the masses so let me just say this - all I know is I spent 150 pages thinking to myself "I'm not quite sure of what's going on but I am enjoying it and I will therefore follow Kell into the dark, hopefully the literal dark, hopefully Black London". My faith in this book is the best thing I can give you, with a side of my faith in this author - because I have since read, recommended, and fangirled over Vicious, and let me tell you... you're in great hands here.

Do something nice for your soul this week, friends, and pre-order A Darker Shade Of Magic at your favourite place where books are exchanged for money. I'm not even getting paid to say this. Just do it.


NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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