A Darker Shade of Magic — V.E. Schwab

July 6, 2017

“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London. See? I’m a fast learner.”

Despite the fact that the four Londons share a name, they have little else in common; one is brimming with life, one is held captive by wicked rulers, one has no magic at all, and one is dead. While there used to be traversing between the Londons, now the doors have been sealed to all except the Antari: magicians with the ability to command blood itself, allowing them to travel between the parallels.

One of the last two remaining Antari in the world, Kell, is the unofficial carrier of messages between the three living Londons, but his entire world comes crumbling down around him when he is tricked into taking a magical object that has enemies hunting him down from one city to the next. When Lila, a young thief and aspiring pirate, is drawn into the middle of his adventure, Kell must learn that the boundaries between good and evil magic aren’t as defined as he once thought they were, and he must straddles those boundaries to right what has been made wrong.

This book was my first ever Schwab read, and I went into it a little bit apprehensive, because she is so widely loved that I wondered if this series would live up to the expectations I had for it. I picked it up for the Life & Lit June group read, and ended up putting it off until the last possible minute because I was so wary, but my nervousness was entirely unfounded. This book was phenomenal!

What can I even say? Kell is one of the most lovable male MCs I’ve seen in a really long time. He’s so loving and protective, despite his ongoing self-identity crises regarding his family. He loves his brother Rhy with a fierceness that I couldn’t get enough of, and he’s just so genuinely good in his heart that I couldn’t help but root for him. He’s one of those MCs that makes me afraid to continue the series because I can’t handle anything terrible happening to him.

I didn’t really know what to make of Lila at first, because to be frank, her excuses for thievery kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Like… you’re just going to steal from all of these people because you can? I wouldn’t have minded so much if she just stole food or whatever, but trinkets? (I revisited this annoyance a few times later in the book, too.) Overall, though, I really enjoyed her sassy attitude and the way she refused to let anyone tell her what to do or hold her down. I loved that she insisted on going on an adventure, even if it meant risking her life, and her interactions with Kell were just adorable.

RHY ➳➳
Adorable. Absolutely adorable. He actually made me cry a few times because he just is so pure and innocent and golden.

Holland honestly gave me the sketchiest vibes ever from the beginning, but I think he’s a fantastic character and I pitied him more often than not. I know some shit went down, but I really hope we get to learn more about him later in the series.

I thought the plot, as well as the world-building, were absolutely incredible. I loved the idea of these parallel cities that the Antari could travel between, and I thought the magic system was beautifully built up. Too many books ignore the foundation for their magic systems and you’re kind of left just going, “oh, well, it’s magic and that’s that,” but Schwab didn’t do that at all in this book. The idea of theseAntari being sort of the chosen ones who could control blood was just badass as hell, and I really hope that Kell and Holland aren’t actually the only ones left.

Like I said, this was my first time ever reading anything by Victoria Schwab, so I had no idea what to expect. My very first impression from the opening segment,


Kell wore a very peculiar coat.

It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.


was that her writing reminded me a great deal of Tolkien, circa The Hobbit. As I got further into the book, I did find that Victoria’s voice is very much her own, but I enjoyed it to no end. It was the perfect balance of straightforward and flowery prose, and it painted a splendid picture while never wasting too much time on the details.

Overall, I thought this book was a fantastic beginning to a series and I cannot wait to continue with book #2. I gave this an easy 5/5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes three-dimensional high fantasy read, full of a delightful set of characters and a terrifically intriguing world.

More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. I’m glad you liked this so much! I’ve had it on my TBR list, I’ll have to pick it up soon. 🙂

    1. I enjoyed this too! This was also my first V.E Schwab book. When I got done reading, I still don’t know how I felt about Lila. There was just so much that bugged me about her. I need to reread this though before I continue with the series. Maybe I’ll like her more. Haha.

    1. Great review and I’m so glad to see how much you loved this! I just finished the series and as of this moment, it’s my all time favorite fantasy series.

        1. It really does just keep getting better and better with each book so I can’t wait to see what you think as you continue through the series. 🙂

    1. I really need to read this book soon I have heard only good things about the author. I am not sure how much I can afford to miss out on this awesomeness!

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