A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab is a gem of a fantasy in a sea of over-hyped books with the same used and reused tropes and unrealistic characters. Schwab’s fantasy is none of this, and it shines with its brilliancy and gives this reader a much needed breath of fresh air.
The characters are original—from spoiled yet brave Kell to ruthless, cunning and funny Lila—the setting is so rich that it’s quite easy to suspend your belief and get lost in this tale of the four Londons, and the plot and pacing moves ahead with breathtaking speed. This story has tight writing, entertaining plot, and engaging action from the beginning to the end. I would have liked some scenes to be more drawn out, but no matter. I can forgive this. The plot must move on.
Kell, the main character, is to die for. I don’t think I’ve read a book with a male main character that is just the right degrees of tough and soft, the right balance between cutthroat and sensible, and spoiled yet deeply realistic. The bond he has with his brother, Rhy, the Prince of Red London, is also just the right amount of touching without bordering on being cheesy. Kell is an immensely likeable character, one of those characters that the reader can’t help but love, like Harry Potter, or Gandalf. Only Kell is neither a boy nor an ancient wizard, but a man in the prime of his life.
But that is not all. Lila, the girl in the story, steals the show. What with her dreams of adventures and being a pirate, this cutthroat girl is a little more “fringe”, or a-lot more “fringe”, than Kell, and the story is made all the brighter for it. She is not afraid to fight, she is not afraid to kill, and she listens to her gut, even if her gut impels her to walk right into the most dangerous setting she has ever encountered in her life. Reading her and following her around in the story was an absolute treat.
I recommend this book to any fantasy reader out there. Really, any of you, whether you enjoy epic fantasy, urban fantasy, high or low fantasy, just fantasy in general. It will not disappoint. I am very much looking forward to reading the second and third installment of this series.
Previous review: HUNTED by Meagan Spooner
Coming up: THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen