Monday, January 19, 2015

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


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Book One of the A Darker Shade of Magic series
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the author

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once 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 royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her '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 — trickier than they hoped. 

What I Liked:

My first Schwab read! I know this is a hugely prolific author and her work is very popular, but I just never got around to reading any of the novels. Schwab sent me an ARC of A Darker Shade of Magic, but please keep in mind that Schwab's sending me a copy has nothing to do with my opinion of the novel. My opinion is in no way influenced by Schwab's generosity (thank you though!).

To be completely honest, I was going to let this one fly under my radar. I mean, I could see how popular the author is, and how many people were/are really excited for this new book/series, but I wasn't all that interested. Had I actually read the synopsis, I probably would have been more excited - because this book is fantasy!

Kell is one of two last Travelers left. He hails from Red London, a seemingly perfect London, and he lives with the royal family (like a son, but also, a resource/tool). He travels to Grey London and White London, and there is also Black London, but no one goes there. On a trip in Grey London, Kell is given a mysterious rock with certain magical properties. Then he is almost killed for it. Then a pickpocket - Lila - steals the rock. Kell is at her mercy, until he gets the rock back. But nothing is as it seems anymore, and it might not just be the rock.

I liked Kell a lot. He's intelligent, quiet, refined, reserved, gentlemanly... very posh. I liked him from the start, but I really liked him after getting his background story, after seeing him defend a random stranger who pick-pocketed him (Lila), liked him after seeing him do anything to help his non-blood brother (the prince).

Lila really doesn't come into play until a portion into the book. I'm going to be honest - I didn't like Lila at all, especially after meeting Kell. She barges her way into everything, marches into matters in which she does not belong and has no business. This continues throughout the book, but she definitely proves her wit and usefulness, saving Kell in several sticky situations.

Both characters experience heavy pain and loss. Both characters are sucked into a madness and darkness for which they did not ask. Both characters rely on each other - though not quite at first - and work well together. There is no serious trace of romance in this novel, but I can see one manifesting in later books, between these two characters.

The world-building is superb. We really get a feel for each London (even Black London, which Kell doesn't visit). There are plenty of unique things about each one - especially the secondary characters. Athos and Astrid are the brother/sister rulers of White London, and they are the villains of the story. The second Traveler, Holland, is one of their minions. I love how Schwab crafts Holland as a villain, because I really feel bad for him. In the end, not as much, but Schwab makes him almost likable.

The story is quite intriguing, though it definitely takes a while to build. At first I wondered where Schwab was going with the plot, because I couldn't figure out where the story was going. But then the rock was introduced, and I could see the seeds planted from the beginning starting to grow.

The ending is satisfying, but I definitely want more. I'm so glad to see that this book is part of a trilogy. I think I will be looking for the sequel, whenever it arrives!

What I Did Not Like:

Mmm, I don't think I had too many complaints, so this is an example of me giving this book four stars because it *feels* like a four-star read, and not because I have enumerated a list of dislikes. I think the beginning of the book was very slow, but Schwab made up for this because of the strong world-building and characterization. Overall, I think this book is solid.

Would I Recommend It:

I know there is a huge Schwab fanbase, so for any of you Schwab fans, definitely get after this one (most of you already are, anyway). It's an adult one (though the content isn't necessarily Rated R or anything), and it's a good one. Definitely don't miss it if you're a fantasy fan, or fiction reader.

Rating:

4 stars. I know Vicious (Schwab's first adult book) did really well, and I expected this new book will follow suit!


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

20 comments:

  1. I am the hugest Schwab fan! I read this preview and the fact that I couldn't finish literally killed a small part of my soul. Thank goodness there is only a lil over a month before my beautiful baby come to me. I can't wait! I'm so happy to see those of you lucky duckies who have read it loved it...but of course it's Victoria! Great review! I ❤️Kell!
    ❤️Britt

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    1. OMG! I hope you love it, Britt! As you said, it's Victoria - I've heard so much about her novels, all good things.

      Thank you!

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    2. Now this book I would sell my soul for!

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    3. Aww! Well, hopefully you won't have to go to such extreme measures!

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  2. I still haven't read anything by Victoria Schwab but I do plan to devour both Vicious and this one!! I read the sampler of it and LOVED it so I cannot wait to get my hands on the full book!
    Happy to hear you enjoyed it loads and it's a 4 stars for you!

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    1. You and I were in the same boat then, Pili! But I remember you reading the sampler, and liking it, so I hope you love the real deal! :D

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  3. I keep hearing lots of great things about this one! I'm such a romance girl, and I know this only *hints* at something that MAY come, so that doesn't make me want to immediately go out and grab it... but all the strong reviews have me curious. I've never read anything by her either.
    Great review, Alyssa!

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    1. I know what you mean - honestly, I'm a bit the same. Except that this one is a fantasy novel, and I love fantasy more than anything!

      Thank you, Danielle!

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  4. Aw, yay :D Amazing review Alyssa. <3 I'm so glad you decided to give this book a try and that you ended up enjoying it a lot :D I cannot wait to read it. Though I'm unsure if I will like it or not. Hmph. No romance? :( Sad face. But the rest do sound interesting ;p I ended up pre-ordering the UK paperback, as the US hardcover is CRAZY EXPENSIVE on bookdepo o.O Not worth paying THAT much money for a book, in my opinion :p Anyway. I'm excited about getting it anyway :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts sweetie. <3

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    1. Ooo, I hope you love it! The romance is very secondary, to the plot. I think you'll like it. Better than a love triangle, right?! And omg I know what you mean about the money - adult books are usually some dollars more expensive! But anyway. Thank you!

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  5. I'm on part four! And waiting for Kelly to start it so we can binge read it together BUT I LOVE KELL SO FAR. AND RHY IS INTRIGUING. Athos and Astrid, at the moment, really creep me out. They're badass but so evil. Kinda wish we had their story. White London though O.O AND YES THE WORLD IS FANTASTICCCC SO FAR. The no romance sounds sad tho. I neeeeed my romance. BUT IT'S SCHWAB AND I WILL READ ANYTHING BY HER

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    1. The groundwork for the romance is there, so I'm sure it will be more of a thing in the next books. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book, Nikki!

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  6. I haven't read any books by this author either. Everyone is raving about A Darker Side and since it's fantasy I will probably give it a try :) Great review!

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    1. Right?! That's what I told myself! I hope you enjoy it if/when you read it, Liza. Thank you so much!

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  7. I still haven't read a Schwab book (though I am determined to get to Vicious before this one comes out), but I love the sound of this synopsis. I'm glad you liked it and am definitely looking forward to seeing these parallel Londons. :)

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    1. This was my first! I hope you enjoy Vicious, Kel :D

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  8. Ha ha, up until a couple of days ago, I thought she was a debut author! I have seen nothing but glowing reviews for this book. I will still probably still get it from the library because she is new to me. Although, I do have the sampler. Thanks for the review. :)

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    1. I have yet to see a negative review for this book, which is crazy awesome! I hope you enjoy this one when you read it, Linda ^_^

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  9. I was able to read the sample and it was AMAZING. (first 30%) I read that her books often start slow, but I enjoyed the world building at the beginning. I didn't really like Lila based on my first impression so I was worried about that. I'm sorry that she didn't get any better. I think Kell more than makes up for her though. Nice review! I so want to read this now! :)

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    1. I'm glad you loved the sampler! I hope you love the entire book ;D Thank you, Molly!

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