Book Review – A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab

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Facts:

Book: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy
Year of Release: 2015
Read 400-page hardcover edition in February 2017.

Book Description:

This fantasy novel, which opens a new series by V.E. Schwab, tells the story of four London’s, who all exist in parallel to each other. Only some citizens are aware of the different London’s and can travel across them. One such person is Kell, who officially is an Ambassador for the King and Queen of Red London, but unofficially also likes to trade magical items with people who do not have access to them, despite the fact this is illegal.

When Kell ends up getting into some serious trouble , and has to fight for his life, he is joined by a surprising ally, Delilah Bard, who agrees to help him despite her usual approach of staying alone as she pickpockets her way through life. These unlikely allies have to work together to keep the London’s safe, and stop some dangerous and powerful people from causing destruction with a powerful magical object.

 

Book Review:

Schwab definitely has a talent for writing interesting urban fantasy, and using fresh and new ideas to tell stories. This novel, and opening of a new series, was no different, with a mix of interesting characters with magical abilities, unique settings with 4 very different London’s overlaid on each other, and even a mix of swords, guns, and ships all battling for attention. Schwab does have a great imagination, and it shows in her setup of this new universe.

That being said, a couple of things that were unfortunate in this novel was that the characters themselves, and even the setting to a lesser degree, felt underwhelming and under-utilized throughout the plot. I was left at the end wondering about how these various London’s worked, and wondering more about the feeling in the various London’s. I felt the plot and story that was told didn’t give me as much of an insight into them as I would have liked. Furthermore, I often felt that the characters in the novel were not very complex and as developed in their relationships with each other as I would have liked. Many of them felt a little bit flat, such as one of our magical arch enemies in the novel, whose character felt under-explored, and his nebulous relationship with our main character Kell was left too under-stated.

One thing that was clear about this novel was it was the opening of a series. As such, there was a lot of “set up” in the novel, setting up characters and plot points that would be covered in later books. This led to a slow start in the novel, and the novel felt slow in some parts, almost as if we were watching the stage being set for later novels in the series. Thus, this first novel of the series did indeed suffer for that.

Although there was a lot to be interested about in this novel, and the idea of multiple London’s in an urban fantasy tale is a great premise, there was much about this novel that felt sadly undeveloped.

Overall: 2.5 stars out of 5 stars

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