A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for IreneA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #1 (1/3)
Published by Tor on February 24, 2015
Genres: [Adult] Fantasy
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Buddy Read With: Carolyn at A Hundred Thousand Stories

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books a Million

4 Stars, Completed August 18, 2015

– read the bold text to avoid SPOILERS –

Okay. I’m not sure why it took me two months to gather my thoughts to write this book review, but it did. With a lot of time to contemplate on how I should appropriately start this, I can now easily say that this book is

For the ones that dream of stranger worlds.

A Darker Shade of Magic opens up a world where readers learn of four Londons, where Kell, an Antari and one of the last Travelers, is a rare magician that is able to travel across these parallel universes. He’s also the adopted Prince of Red London and an ambassador that helps the rulers of each London keep in contact. The people from each kingdom admire but also fear Kell for the rarity and power of his race. What his royal family does not know is that he’s also a smuggler off the clock. But then his dangerous hobby leads him to an accidental treason and he flees to Grey London, where he meets Delilah “Lila” Bard, a stealthy and sharp-tongued thief and wannabe pirate that is addicted to risk and adventure. At first she steals from him but ends up later saving his life, and they decide to embark on a dangerous journey to save the Londons but first they must stay alive.

So Kell-inspired by the lost city known to all as Black London-had given each remaining capital a color.
Grey for the magic-less city.
Red, for the healthy empire.
White, for the starving world.

I’m going to express the same thing every other reader has said about this book: the idea of the parallel Londons is uber cool and original. I really loved that each London had its own distinct qualities, some of them a lot more dingier and grotesque than others. Schwab certainly did not disappoint me in the  world building department. Everything was illustrated in an appropriately evocative manner and not at all tedious. However, the beginning section did give me some time to warm up to. I think I spent a week trying to get through the first couple of chapters, but I also was experiencing a pretty bad reading slump and I think my mood for the fantasy genre was waning as I was reading this (hence why after this book I read a string of ya contemporaries).

As for the characters, before picking this up I heard from a lot of readers that the lack of connection toward the characters was the main reason why this wasn’t a five star read for them. And I’m partially in agreement with this.

“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”

Usually, I’m drawn towards the cheeky, sarcastic characters but I was slow to warm towards Lila. I think this was because her background remained unclear and mysterious throughout the story.

“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” he asked Lila now.
She looked at him as if it were a strange question. And then she shook her head. “Death comes for everyone,” she said simply. “I’m not afraid of dying. But I am afraid of dying here.” She swept her hand over the room, the tavern, the city. “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

But one thing that I really, really enjoyed about her personality was the sense of adventure, which is perfect since she’s an aspiring pirate and all (haha, that just sounds silly, I know). I’m just really hoping that Schwab decides to focus on her a little more in the next installment.

As for Kell, for lack of better words, he was just okay. I enjoyed his narrative a little more than Lila’s but that was pretty much it. There were moments I felt for him, but most times I couldn’t really understand him. And his relationship with Prince Rhy… I wasn’t too invested in it, so at the end when I was supposed to be emotional, I wasn’t. On the other hand, Holland, the only other Antari, was the character that I was greatly intrigued by. This is no surprise though. You guys know how the lonely characters just pull at my heartstrings… but he was eventually killed off. Now that scene made a wave of intense sadness wash over me.

But going back to my earlier statement of being partially in agreement with the lack of connection towards the characters… I think what readers fail to realize is that this is only the first installment. For characters like Lila I think it takes some time and more development before the reader can fully understand her. So the characters, though they were underdeveloped and still in a somewhat cardboard stage, have plenty of room to grow in the next books.

“Where did you get this?” he asked.
“In a pocket in your coat,” said Lila, stretching. “By the way, did you know that your coat is more than one coat? I’m pretty sure I went though five or six to find that.”
Kell stared at her, slack-jawed.
“What?” she asked.
“How did you know what it was for?”
Lila shrugged. “I didn’t.”
“What if it had been poison?” he snapped.
“There’s really no winning with you.”

Despite my iffiness towards the characters, I have to admit Kell and Lila’s easy banter was superb. The pair had a pretty rocky start but by the end since they went to hell (or scary White London) and back, I began to really like the idea of them being together. Something about the comaderie between couples is what gets me.

He would see her again. He knew he would. Magic bent the world. Pulled it into shape. There were fixed points. Most of the time they were places. But sometimes, rarely, they were people. For someone who never stood still, Lila felt like a pin in Kell’s world. One he was sure to snag on.

But there really wasn’t that much romance in this. But I think this slow burn attraction-not really romance-type of development was perfect. I’m anticipating more dynamics with the romance arc of this as the series progresses. No full fledge sexy times type of stuff though.

So, overall, I thought A Darker Shade of Magic did its job with setting a foundation and piquing everyone’s anticipation for the sequel. I was a little let down by the character development, but didn’t find it a huge deal breaker since this is only book one. Schwab really makes up for it with the exquisite writing and the marvelous world building. Honestly, the only thing I was majorly down by was the plot. Now with two months of retrospection, I really can see that the plot was more on the meh to simple side. I was expecting a more intricately crafted complex plot, so I was sort of greatly dismayed by finding this more easy one.

Anyway, although I wasn’t that fond with a few things, overall, this is definitely a strong start to a series I know I’ll grow to love. The writing is captivating; Victoria Schwab is definitely on my radar now. I’m really anticipating A Gathering of Shadows, and I have a feeling Vicious (that’s my next Schwab read hopefully) will be wicked!


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57 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

  1. Samantha Reed says:

    You’re blog is so beautiful ❤ I absolutely love how you do the small banners above the image of the book cover. Also, this is a wonderful review : D I’ve heard of V.E Schwab before, but I’ve never tried any of Schwab’s work before – but now I’m going to go give it a shot!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lois says:

    This remains to be one of my favourite books of 2015. As the first installment, I think it does a good job at setting the scene for things to come. I get why some people would struggle with connecting to the characters but I think as the series progresses we’ll get more character development.
    I hope you enjoy Vicious. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      Thank you, Lois. I hope so too! I actually just received my UK edition of Vicious (all the covers to her books are gorgeous) and can’t wait to start it sometime soon. The premise with that one actually appealed to me more so I have a feeling I’m going to love that one quite a lot since I enjoyed this one so much. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anette says:

    I skimmed your review because I’m only halfway through this book so I’m avoiding spoilers, but this far I agree with you about the characters. I’m only really intrigued by Holland. I want more of him!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. SERIESous Book Reviews says:

    I really enjoyed this one but I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. Parts of it were slower (I still think this book could have been shorter page length wise) but I think that is part of the draw-backs with an adventure-esque story–lots of buildup at a slower pace.

    I tried reading this before I went to bed so it took me a while to get into too because I was SO tired!

    I’m really looking forward to what happens next. Like you said, this is just the first book and a lot of roots have to be put down before things get more intricate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      Ahh, I thought it was difficult to get into because I was trying to get out a reading slump. But you’re right, most adventure-like stories aren’t very fast paced and therefore not really suitable cures for slumps (so I found out). And I didn’t mention it in my review, but yes!! I’m so glad I’m not the only that thought this could’ve been on the shorter side as well! I think A Gathering of Shadows is supposed to be an even longer installment; fingers crossed it’ll be a bit more fast paced with the foundation and story building already grounded with this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. RedHeadedBookLover says:

    I’ve just checked out your blog and it is so awesome! It is safe to say I love it (: but what I was going to say was that I really enjoyed this blog post and thought it was amazing (:
    Don’t stop writing anytime soon! I enjoy your posts too much! (:

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

    Yes I am in total agreement about everything. I also didn’t particularly like Lila. I thought she was kind of annoying to begin with but I guess she grew on me. I did really like Kell but some of his decisions are just ugh facepalm I did really like his super cool coat though. I liked the partnership between Kell and Lila and I think I would have preferred it if there was no romance at all…but we’ll see what the next book brings.

    I’m also convinced that Holland will be back in Book 2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      Interesting! With your choice of Alina/Mal and now the no romance in ADSoM, I’m starting to think we have different tastes in the romance arcs of books. 😛 But I don’t think you’re the only one that wished for the no romance in this one; I read a lot of reviews before I started reading this book that mentioned the same hope. And me too! Even though he didn’t make that many appearances, I loved him (Holland) so much! He’s one of my favorite I’m-sometimes-nice/I’m-lonely-I-just-need-to-be-loved villains along with Severus Snape and the Darkling!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

        I don’t know if I ship Alina and Mal… it’s more that I don’t hate him like most people seem to. I don’t think he’s that bad. But I don’t really ship Alina with anyone else either… except maybe the Darkling but that’s never going to happen… right? I feel like Mal is endgame.. but I might prefer her with Nikolai. (At the end of S&S, I was hoping that the Darkling went through a purge like Jonathan/Sebastian… but that wasn’t the case bawls)

        I don’t know about Lila and Kell though… they’re such a great partnership that I’m worried it’ll get ruined by romance. Plus I still don’t really like her.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Summer @ Xingsings says:

          ONLY READ THIS COMMENT IF YOU’VE FINISHED R&R, JENNA. You’re in the same boat as me then! I shipped her with the Darkling but, yeah, he’s the villain so unless he turns over a new leaf… (I was always secretly hoping for that purge as well.) But the Darkling’s last scene made me so sad. Not exactly CP2 intense depression sad but sigh. TT_TT

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

            I FINISHED! But okay… I kind of liked Malina in R&R. Like the romance didn’t turn me off or anything! And I LOVED the epilogue!

            The Darkling just reminded me too much of Jonathan. There’s the almost-purge thing at the end of S&S that we’ve already discussed. But there’s also the fact that he’s super obsessed with Alina (at least they’re not siblings though). And the semi-sad Aleksander scene that reminded me of CoHF Jonathan at the end… It did make me tear up though.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Summer @ Xingsings says:

              Ahh, you’re so right. There are a lot of similarities between the two. I never really recognized them though because I loved the Darkling so much-especially as Alina’s love interest even though he is a pretty unhealthy companion being evil and obsessive and all. 😄 But I’m glad you liked the Malina epilogue (if I remember correctly, it’s the one where they’re just a boy and a girl again)! 😀 I can’t wait to read your review for R&R. Even though I liked the Aleksander scene… everything, overall, was tied up to neatly so it was the lowest rated book in the series for me.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. fiddlerblue says:

    Hi Summer! I found your blog today and I love how you write your reviews 🙂 anyway, I skimmed through this one because I haven’t finished ADSOM, but I agree with what you said about the romance, a slow-burn type of attraction is my favourite. I also definitely enjoyed the setting of this novel, it’s quite engaging 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      Hi Joan! Thank you so much, that really means a lot! ❤ I absolutely agree with you, I think the setting was what really made me enjoy this so much. It’s so refreshing and original. There are so many fantasies out there, but the world building was what stood out for me with this (and Schwab’s effortlessly brilliant writing). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Vane @ Books With Chemistry says:

    I love the final image you used! Did you take that picture yourself? It’s so pretty! I’m really excited to start this book, but I’m sad to see the characters are not so well developed. Have you read Vicious by this same author? I thought it was very good, and the characters were all complex.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      Thank you, Vane! In fact, I did take that photo! I guess I started to become more active on Instagram and thought I’d start including some photos from there on here. 🙂 And I actually haven’t read Vicious yet, but I did order and receive it in the mail last week. The premise for that one actually appealed to me more between the two. I can’t wait to read it! Like you mentioned, everyone has been raving how wonderful that one is.

      Like

  9. Nicola says:

    You’ve hit upon why this book wasn’t a 5-star read for me. I really enjoyed it, and I liked the characters, but I didn’t quite connect with the book, and it’s for the same reason as you: I just didn’t quite connect with the characters. That said, I’m looking forward to A Gathering of Shadows, because I often find that when the first book in a series is enjoyable, but not amazing, the second one is fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      I think a lot of readers felt the same way as we did, which is too bad. However, you’re right! That means there’s room for growth in the next installments and hopefully A Gathering of Shadows will further explain the characters and wow us all! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. cwreads says:

    I haven’t read the book so I read the bold text, but from what I can tell, sounds like an interesting book! I like slow burn romances, so that sits well with me!
    Ah, I shall discuss this with you when I read the book! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lydia Tewkesbury says:

    I haven’t read this one. There has been a lot of instalove going around lately though, so I like the idea of a slow burner for once. It always get way more invested that way.

    Hopefully you’ll find that Schwab builds on the groundwork she set for these characters in the second novel. It sounds like they might have just been a bit neglected in the face of all the epic world building.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Carolyn says:

    I still haven’t figured out if I want to read the sequel..Let me know if you liked it more than the first one and I’ll consider it :p
    And your pictures are always on point hehe. My favorite part of the book was probably the worldbuilding too; it could have been really confusing and tedious but it wasn’t like you said o:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Summer @ Xingsings says:

      OTL I so forgot that you’d receive a pingback if I linked you through your about page… LOL. I was editing this post because I think I’ll be doing more buddy reads in the future (I need to make a dent in my TBR). By the way, we should buddy read something together again!! Any ideas? And AGoS is infinitely better already, Carolyn! There’s more character depth and the Kell/Lila ship has sailed… Thank you ^.^

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carolyn says:

        LOL I don’t know how I didn’t comment on it the first time you posted it… Ahhhhh! I might just have to read it now but it’s going at the bottom of my TBR. We should! I loved buddy reading with you ❤ Are there books on your TBR that you’ve meaning to get to that I haven’t read?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Summer @ Xingsings says:

          Ah, it’s okay! I feel like most of all our posts gets lost in the blogosphere anyway. I literally only follow 60 blogs but my feeder is an endless abyss. Shows the dedication in our book blogging community, I guess! AND YAYAYYAYAY! ❤ …you know it’s probably easier if you list the books you want to read seeing as I think you have more read books than I do! 😉

          Liked by 1 person

            • Summer @ Xingsings says:

              YOU STILL HAVEN’T READ SIMON OR WOLF BY WOLF?? (And you need to take A Whole New World off. If I gave that book 1 star, you’d probably give it a 0, lol.) From a glance we have these in common: White Cat (Holly Black), Firsts (Laurie Elizabeth Flynn), The Glittering Court (Richelle Mead), A Study in Charlotte (Brittany Cavallaro), The Chimes (Anna Smaill), The Tenant of Windfell Hall (Anne Bronte), Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), The Paper Magician (Charley Holmberg), All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven), The Martian (Andy Weir), ACoTaR (Sarah J. Maas), The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett)-this one has been on my TBR forever-or we could read Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace) and be confused together, lollll. Of these, I think I’m especially interested in The Glittering Court, ACoTaR (I’ve never read any Maas yet), The Tenant of Windfall Hall, and The Martian.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Carolyn says:

                I’ve “read” Simon! But I kind of DNF’ed it cause I got bored and I also DNF’ed the Martian too LOL
                Mmm, of the three you were most interested in, I’m most interested in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, that one’s been on my TBR for a while now..

                Liked by 1 person

                • Summer @ Xingsings says:

                  LOL. I totally forgot you skimmed Simon and DNFed Martian… :3 But that’s okay! Umm, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is my next classic I want to read but I don’t have a copy yet. But I really want to read White Cat, The Paper Magician, and The Color of Magic. (Invisible Man is, admittedly, on back burner for now-I tried starting it for summer reading in high school and couldn’t get into it.) Do you want try White Cat sometime in March?

                  Liked by 1 person

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