Preview Thoughts: A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for IreneSummary:

From V.E. Schwab, the critically acclaimed author of Vicious, comes a new universe of daring adventure, thrilling power, and parallel Londons, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic.

Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, 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 the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, who first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.

Quickie Thoughts:

First and foremost: I lied when I said I’d read Arcana first. I’m weak and have no willpower. Moving along.

Note that these thoughts are on a sample, because assholes who pirate eARCs make it so the rest of can’t have nice things.

Plus side:

  • The world building is great. The concept of the multiple Londons (Black, White, Gray and Red) is a great one, and each one has a very distinct personality.
  • The magic is pretty interesting too, with elemental versus blood, the Antari, the way that the different worlds have differing levels of magic.

Minus side:

  • The book feels like a bit of a slow burn. The action only started to pick up in the last pages of the sample. Given that this is a full third of the book, that’s kind of problematic. The publisher apparently gave Schwab the choice to end the sample 50 pages sooner. I’m glad that she didn’t, because I need to see that something was going to happen.
  • The characters aren’t grabbing me as much as they did in Vicious. Lila in particular holds little interest for me. She’s a street-rat-turned-expert-cut-purse and we haven’t seen much more of her than that. It’s nothing to write home about. Kell is a bit more interesting, but these two just don’t grab me the way Victor and Eli (let alone some of the side characters) did.

Overall, I do think my enthusiasm is a bit dampened for this book. Both Vicious and the The Archived prove that she can do great characters. Slow burns can be okay, but it really depends on the book. It worked in The Archived because it was a book as much about emotion as action. This is definitely meant to be more of an adventure, so a quicker pace might have been nice. I’ll still read the rest – she’s certainly a strong enough author that I have faith in – but it might not be quite the “must get it on day one” book that I might have otherwise been.

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