Book Review Time: A Darker Shade of Magic | V.E. Schwab


My Rating: ⭐  ⭐  ⭐  ⭐  1/2

Book Details

Series: Shades of Magic (Book 1)

Paperback: 416 pages

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication Date: February 24th 2015

Goodreads Synopsis

Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city. 

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand…more


After hearing all the hype surrounding  A Darker Shade of Magic, I was expecting a fantastic read filled with action, adventure, magic, intriguing characters, and extreme world-building. Did I get what I asked for?

Why yes, yes I did. V.E. Schwab’s first installment to her Shades of Magic series is an exciting adventure that is filled to the brim with well-developed characters and powerful world-building.

Kell, a powerful magician that acts as both prince and loyal servant (prisoner?) to the crown, is a visibly flawed character who makes a good many mistakes but has the decency to own up to them. He realizes his mistakes and strives to correct them as well as he can, even if it means putting his own life at risk. Kell is a magician who understands the limitations of his own rare abilities and when the occasion calls for it, he is willing to go beyond those bounds to save his home and those whom he loves and cares for, namely his brother, Rhy (who I’ll gush about later), and Lila Bard.

Lila Bard is a character I did not connect with initially, only because I believed her to be ridiculously selfish and self-confident for no apparent reason, but I soon learned what type of character she is meant to be. She is a cunning thief who is willing to go to great lengths in order to get what she wants, even if that means killing. Lila is a strong, independent female protagonist who rejects traditional feminine fashion and behaviors in favor for a persona that is much more rough around the edges. She is likable in her ambition and resourcefulness, both of which add up to a charm tinted by sarcasm and frankness. In the end, I found her to be one of the best female characters I’ve read about in a while!

The best part about these characters is that they lack perfection and definitive roles in many different ways. While there are the concrete, irredeemable characters (i.e. The Dane Twins), there are also characters that don’t fit into a black and white context. Lila is one, but there is also Holland, the only other Antari known to the Londons. He is both a villain and a tortured soul, and I wasn’t sure whether to hate him or pity him, which is fantastic writing on Schwab’s part.

Prince Rhy is another character that I see as flawed since he has a huge hand in the unfortunate events that play out. Although we don’t get a chance to see his reflection on his decisions in this book, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that he, too, would contemplate his actions and try to atone for them. Even though I loved the brotherly dynamic he had with Kell, I almost felt as if he was used a bit too often as a plot device. Which basically means I wanted to see more of him, mostly because he’s such a charming character. Hopefully, I’ll get to see him take on a larger role in the next book.

As for the world-building, Schwab swept me off my feet with her differing visions among the four Londons. The cities all live up to their name, and Red London, in particular, offers something spectacular in its glittering landscapes, differing dialects, and magical atmosphere. There is a lot of care given to the way the author feeds us the ins and outs of her world. Instead of dumping all the info into one explanatory section, Schwab constantly constructs her world by educating us here and there about the languages, the cultural traditions and customs, as well as the rules of magic throughout the entirety of the novel.

Some parts seemed slow but they were few and far in-between. And also, I was a bit bothered by how Lila is portrayed in relation to the other feminine characters. Too often Lila looks down on the women who adopt “traditional” female behaviors. Not all strong female protagonists need to act like a man in order to be seen as strong. But this is a discussion best saved for another day. Besides that, there’s not much I can complain about in this book. It is fantastically written with potent world-building, complex characters, and suspenseful action sequences. There is also romance, though subtle, and humor that will coax a genuine laugh out of you.

So, if you’re in need of a great fantasy with action, adventure, atmosphere and romance, this book, and probably this series, is most certainly one you would enjoy. I can’t recommend this book enough.

19 thoughts on “Book Review Time: A Darker Shade of Magic | V.E. Schwab

  1. This is so so perfect and accurate. This series is literally one of my absolute favourites?!!? The world building, the characters, all of it was so perfect. I didn’t connect immediately with Lila either though! The first time reading this book I wasn’t her biggest fan, but as I went through the series she definitely grew on me and now I love her so much ahah. ❤ I hope you enjoy the rest of the series!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! Thanks so much! 😊 It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite series too. It was done so well! And I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt that way about Lila! But I read AGOS and she’s definitely growing on me even more! Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review for this book Azia, and I am so so glad to see you enjoyed it as well! 😀
    The world building in this whole series was actually my favourite part. When it comes to things like this I don’t think there’s another author who can compare to Schwab. There was a lot of information to get through but she wrote it into the story really well.
    Oh it’s a shame it took you a little while to warm up to Lila but I’m glad you liked her character more by the end. Also I felt the same way about Rhy after reading the first book. I wanted to see more of him and his relationship to Kell, but there was a lot more of the two of them in the second book so I think you’ll be pleased with that one!
    Again great review for this book Azia, have you started the second one yet? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Beth! ❤ Schwab is definitely one very talented author. She’s quickly becoming a favorite.
      And yeah, Lila is still growing on me but I like her much more now, after having finished AGOS. And glad you felt that way about Rhy, too. He’s a fantastic character. I’m glad I got to see much more of him in the second book! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right! 😀 ❤ I guess if you read a few more of her books she'll be your favourite author sooner rather than later. 🙂
        Oh that's good to hear. Maybe by the end of ACOL she'll be one of your favourite characters. Rhy is one of my favourite characters. He's just amazing in the third book as well! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. YAY YOUR REVIEW! 😁 I’ve been looking forward to reading this and fangirling over ADSOM with you even more than we already have been, Azia! I pretty much agree with everything you said in this. The world building has been my favorite part of the Shades of Magic books so far. And I’ve loved how V.E. Schwab sneaks in her bits of information and really weaves in every facet of the world without it ever feeling like she’s dumping a ton of information on you at once. And I had the same feelings about Rhy, I wanted to see more of him. I’m so glad there has been a lot more of him in AGOS. Although, I do think the second book for me has dragged a bit more at times whereas with the first book I didn’t notice the parts where it slowed. Then again that might just be me being impatient to find out how it ends. 😂 Anyway! Great review as always! Can’t wait to talk with you about the second one once I finish it! 😁♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Took me long enough, huh? 😂😂 The world-building is excellent. I’m so happy Schwab knows how to introduce a world to her readers without overwhelming us with the ways in which her world functions. I hate data dumps and so it’s nice to read a series where all the info is spread out across the pages! I love Rhy so much and I’m glad that he’s gotten a much larger role in the second book! I agree that some parts are really dragging though. I found myself skimming a couple paragraphs haha. And the cat and mouse game with Kell and Lila seemed to last far too long. Or maybe I was just impatient to see them reunite 😂
      Thanks so much, Melissa! Excited to hear more of your thoughts on AGOS! 💕😄

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same? When information is dumped on me all at once it can make me walk away from a bad. I remember being worried that would happen before I read ADSOM but then she really surprised me. 😊
        I ended up looking ahead a lot while reading AGOS. But then I forced myself to stop because at one point I nearly looked at the ending LOL. And the cat and mouse game Kell and Lila played (more so Lila) definitely went on too long. Though it was hilarious when she realized who Kell was pretending to be for the Essen Tasch and then when they went up against each other and Kell realized it was Lila. Perfect way to reunite them in my opinion! 😂
        You’re welcome, Azia!! 😁♥


  4. Oh yay I’m so glad you loved it!! I agree about Holland hey! I really didn’t know how to feel about him, but I decided that I love him because he was just used as a pawn. Lila is my favourite, I love her sooooo much. And I also love how the characters have flaws…they aren’t all perfect like what you see in other books. Schwab is a brilliant writer, I will read EVERYTHING she writes now. Wonderful review!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I decided liked Holland in the end. He’s such a great character. And yes! Schwab is definitely becoming one of my favorite authors. I’ll have to read Vicious and This Savage Song soon! Thanks so much 😊 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this series so, so much – glad to hear you enjoyed this one just as well! The world-building is fantastic and the characters – I just fell in love with them all more and more with every book 🙂 Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you love the series, too! The characters are fantastic and very easy to love. I’m reading the third book now and am absolutely loving it.
      Thanks so much! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome review Azia! I’m loving this book and Lila! I just read it this month. I like your description of the characters. Yeah, I don’t know what to feel for Holand either. I think Rhy could be charming too because he made Lila blush. And Kell, such a sweetheart! He’s powerful yet afraid and I like that Lila is opposite reeks with confidence and control 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jasmine! I’m so glad you love this book too! I thought it was a fantastic read with fantastic covers. And Holland kind of wiggles his way into my heart in the later installments. Maybe he will for you too! And I absolutely love charming Rhy and Kell, who is just so adorable haha. I really hope you like the second one too! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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