Review - A Darker Shade of Magic

For my 2015 Reading Challenge, I had to read a book written by someone under 30. Finding a writer in that age bracket, it turns out, was incredibly easy on Twitter. Within minutes of asking for recommendations, I had a flood of tweets coming in. But when someone told me I should read A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, I was sold.

I've followed her for quite some time on Twitter and she's easy to talk to, funny, and generous with her time. To me, this is proof that while social media itself doesn't sell books, authors being on social media is a good idea. All the other recommendations I got sounded good, but I knew I wanted to buy V.E. Schwab's book because I had chatted with her. I felt like I knew her. It made me want to support her work.

Aspiring authors who aren't sure whether they should spend any time on social media: take note.




A Darker Shade of Magictakes place in a universe that is split into four worlds: Grey London, Red London, White London, and the lost city of Black London. Kell is a magical being known as an Antari, and he and those like him are the only ones who are able to travel between the different Londons.

Red London is filled with beautiful and pure magic, while White London uses its magic to snatch power and Grey London has no magic at all. Strict rules are enforced because the rise of dark magic is what swallowed Black London and made the other three close the door on it permanently.

But Kell can't help himself and his natural curiosity, and he consistently breaks one of the most important rules: he isn't to bring talismans from one world to the next. The trinkets are harmless and stored away in a private room. His adoptive brother -- and the prince of Red London -- is the only one who knows they exist. It all seems innocent enough.

But one day, a talisman he carries between the worlds turns out to be one of dark and powerful magic, and he is forced to accept the help of a would-be pirate Delilah Bard in order to destroy it.

Schwab lays out an intelligently designed, well thought-out world in this novel. I generally don't read much fantasy anymore, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one for a few reasons:

  1. The things that were different from our world were different on purpose. Schwab had a reason for everything she did with her characters and her unique world, and I was drawn in from the beginning.

  2. While she didn't shy away from violence or death, she also didn't shy away from comedy and genuine human relationships. Those are the things that make a fantasy seem real, no matter how extraordinary the alternate universe is.

  3. She created awesome characters that I liked and wanted to spend time with. For anyone who regularly reads my book reviews, that is my number one priority. If I don't like spending time with the characters, I probably won't like the book, no matter how well written it is.

If you enjoy richly developed worlds with a power-hungry king and queen, an arrogant but lovable prince, a fiercely brave pirate girl, and a curious and compassionate magical being -- look no further than A Darker Shade of Magic.

Featured image credit: Buzzfeed