A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab — Review

A Darker Shade final for IreneSummary:

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

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.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then 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.

Review: 3 Stars

Schwab’s books have been sitting on my TBR for years. This series has been recommended to me over and over and now I’ve finally read the first book. I had some pretty high expectations for this series and I’m sad to share that A Darker Shade of Magic missed the mark for me. I just expected more from a book that is so highly and widely praised. Maybe my disappointment is due to my high expectations, but I feel that even without those high expectations I still wouldn’t have been blown away by this book.

A Darker Shade of Magic has all the correct pieces to be truly incredible, but the execution falls short. One of the main characters, Lila, is a thief, which typically means that I will become obsessed with her. But she had very little personality and her character arc hardly even touches on morality. I also found Kell’s character to be lackluster as well. It just felt as if these characters are cardboard cut outs that could star in any run of the mill YA fantasy novel. I was not emotionally attached to either of them and I just couldn’t bring myself to really care what happened to them.

The world building sounded really cool, but it can be summarized very quickly. There are four Londons and Kell and one other Antari can travel from one London to the other. That was pretty much it. The contrast between the different Londons were described well and made the setting feel more three dimensional than the characters. When I read reviews that promised original world building I expected more than merely what I read in the blurb.

The plot didn’t really grab me either. I was just kind of bored and the thinly veiled purpose for the entire book just didn’t keep the story afloat for me. Honestly, I’m really surprised this book got as much praise as it did. Between the cardboard cut out characters and a plot that failed to grab me you might be wondering if I enjoyed this book at all. It was a decent fluff read that entertained me at times, but really failed to miss the mark. I expected more from Schwab, who’s books are beloved by the YA fantasy community. A Darker Shade of Magic was okay, but it certainly wasn’t anything special.

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