A Darker Shade of Magic: Review

March 2, 2015 4 star books, adult crossover, fantasy, Kim, victoria schwab 50 ★★★★

A Darker Shade of Magic: ReviewA Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1
Published by Tor Books on February 24, 2015
Genres: adult, fantasy
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonIndieboundBarnes & NobleGoodreads
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.

Hello! Do you like humorously told fantasies, unique magic, complex heroes, heroic villains, parallel worlds, and London(s)? Of course you do. You are a person of quality and good taste. So, great news! This book has all of those things.

I mean, honestly, it had me at “parallel Londons!” Each London is distinct and wondrous in its own way. I loved being able to follow the characters through to the different worlds. Even our own dreary, magic-less* Grey London is a joy to visit. Red London is vibrant, opulent, and full of life. White London is gorgeously dark, creepy, and dangerous. Atmospheric, beautifully detailed, and rich in the character of its worlds; Schwab writes in such a way that I felt like I could step off from the main story and wander around in her various Londons exploring for days. This is world building done right.

And give me a book with uniquely done magic any day. This is a sentient, creeping magic that runs as a lifeblood through the story. It can be wielded for good or for ill but also maybe sometimes has a will of its own. It is practically a character in its own right. There is a sense of epicness to the story. I suppose little things like living magic and breath taking battles with ruthless Viking-like rulers can do that. The writing is so strong, the magic so real, so different, and so whimsical that to describe this book is kind of like trying to describe a dream.

“What do you think you’re doing?” The question was directed at Lila.

“Just having a bit of fun,” she said.

“You can’t go around making people.”

“Obviously I can,” she said.

The text is infused with Schwab’s trademark humor. This is mostly evident in any/all things to do with Delilah Bard. Oh, Lila, Lila, Lila. A cross dressing thief, and pirate-to-be, from Grey London, Lila has enough spark and will to power a sun. Kell is a perfectly serviceable and loveably decent hero. No, really, he’s wonderful and I adored him. It’s just that Lila shines. Delightfully mischievous, and an adventure seeker, her pure want to seize as much of life as she can climbed right off of the page and snagged on my heart.

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”

“Seen what?”

Her smile widened. “Everything.”

The character work was my favorite aspect of the book. Kell and Lila’s partnership, their banter and camaraderie, Kell’s exasperation and Lila’s impish charm, all combine to make them a fantastic duo and just plain fun to read about. Prince Rhy, Kell’s adopted brother of a sort, is charming and flirtatious and I am nothing if not essentially a professional bromance appreciator.

And then we have the villains of the piece, both of the deliciously evil and delightfully complex varieties. The ruthless Dane twins rule over White London, that which is slowly but surely leaching of all magic and life.

“The bodies in my floor all trusted someone. Now I walk on them to tea.”

That sort of quote just puts a huge, creepy smile on my face. I’m not even a little bit sorry for my dark, twisted heart.

Holland, the White Traveller, is their servant, and certainly no friend to our heroes. But Schwab so convincingly creates sympathy for this character. You can’t help but want to root for him. And let’s also not forget the magic itself which may or may not have its own agenda. Hmmm.

”But, Kim,” you ask. “What about the romance? Surely if you enjoyed a book this much there must be an epic ship!” Actually no! There is no romance in this book. So what I did instead was basically ship everyone with everyone.  Kell and Lila? That would be delightful! I know Rhy and Kell are basically brothers so that’d be weird, but they had some great chemistry. Kell and Holland? Oh, there were feels there. They’re the last two of their kind. Come on.
With its political machinations, uniquely creepy/beautiful worlds, sentient magic, fun, and humor, this is one to reach for when you’re tired of the same old formulaic fantasy story. I closed the book with a sense of soaring, wondrous adventure in my heart. I cannot wait to return to this world.


* It is said in the book that,”No London is truly without magic.” True story! Be sure to come back on Thursday for our stop on the ADSOM tour!


An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.


kim teal








50 Responses to “A Darker Shade of Magic: Review”

  1. Elim Ren

    My absolute favourite genre is fantasy, and the premise of this book sounds sort of similar to Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which I loved. I’ve also adored anything to do with parallel universes after reading Diana Wynne Jones (who may be my number one favourite author of all time).

  2. Erin

    I cannot wait to read this book! Everything about it sounds so intriguing and I just need it ASAP!!

  3. Sarah S.

    Great review! I’m so excited to read this. I loved Vicious, so I was expecting to love this anyway, but your review makes me even more sure. I’m most excited to read about Lila (cross dressing pirate? That sounds like the most amazing thing ever).

  4. Dinky

    Before reading your review I knew that I´m excited about this book and can´t wait to read it, but after reading this article I really can´t wait to get this book to my hands! But to say the truth, I feel little disappointed that in the book isn´t any romance. I like the quotes you´d chose and I´m glad that in the book are funny passages too.

  5. Erica

    I really am loving your reviews, Kim! And I love the fact that you address whether there is romance in the books you review. I adore Victoria’s storytelling, she is one of my favorite writers ever, and this review makes me even more eager to read ADSOM.
    Erica recently posted…First Frost (Waverley Family #2)

    • Kim

      Oh thank you so much, Erica! <3 That's so lovely of you to say. I do worry sometimes that my constant addressing of the romance angle gets tired or old? But thank you for affirming that it is helpful for some people! I just know that for me I always want to know the potential romance level in any book I'm reading because it's one of the most important aspects of a story for me. I live for swoons! I hope you'll end up loving this one just as much as I did! Since you're already a fan of her writing I am sure you will!
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Tour Stop + Giveaway (international)

  6. Maca

    Your review is really very engaging. It makes me want to read it as soon as I can. You seemed to really enjoyed reading A Darker Shade Of Magic. <3
    Maca recently posted…The History Of Love

  7. Hilary

    Wonderful review, Kim! I love Schwab’s writing and dark humour.
    But what you say, NO ROMANCE? Impossible! This book must be terrible then!
    I joke. I really do love books that don’t have romance not because I’m a romance hater but I’ve been reading way too much of them and it’s starting to blend into the same stereotypical romances.
    Hilary recently posted…Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

    • Kim

      Hahaha I know. I often knee jerk away-“No romance! What! Impossible for me to like it!” But, you know, that’s not really true. It just feels that way sometimes. :p I totally understand being burnt out on romances and just wanting to reach for something that doesn’t have nay (though this has yet to happen to me! haha). But I do understand! I love fantasy so, so much, but sometimes it feels like I’m just reading the same thing over and over and I have to step away from it for awhile. So yeah, I get you!
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Tour Stop + Giveaway (international)

    • Kim

      Oh yes!! So much humor. I think this is definitely the most *Victoria* of all the books she’s published. If you follow her twitter account you’ll see the sort of delightfully weird humor she has? You should never doubt Lila, though. No no. She is 100% delightful. And so bantery! Honestly this book will fly by and you won’t even realize it!
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Tour Stop + Giveaway (international)

  8. Thais Pampado

    Great review! It made me want to read this book even more.
    I love books that have great world buildings because it helps me feel immersed in the story. I’m glad to hear that there’s no romance too. I’m the kind of person who always ships the most unlikely to happen ship so maybe in this case I can let my hopes up a little bit lol

    • Kim

      Oh yay!! I don’t think you will be led astray by my recommendation! This is truly immersive world building and just delightful storytelling. And if you don’t want romance then that should be the cherry on top here. Truly, there are no established couples at all but lots of space for imaginations to wander! :p I think this is a perfect book for you!
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Tour Stop + Giveaway (international)

  9. Wendy Darling

    Why, I DO like all those things, as a matter of fact! :D I’m really enjoying this book so far (and only skimmed your review since it’s so fresh), but I can see why you have been so jazzed up by it. I’ve only read THE ARCHIVED by this author before, but her writing is really lovely. Also, the title! I love the title, and I’m so glad we get to give a copy away to our readers tomorrow.

    • Kim

      Oh my goodness, Wendy. I enjoyed it so much! And am so glad that you’re enjoying so far too. :)

      It might be weird but I seem to prefer the adult novels by this author. For whatever reason THE ARCHIVED didn’t really grab me. But I enjoyed VICIOUS so much and now this one. Hm. Well! I am actually very eager to see her next YA foray. But in the meantime this series will more than carry me over. Especially if *any* of these ships ever come to fruition!
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Tour Stop + Giveaway (international)

  10. J. Oh

    Thank you for this lovely review! I first heard of this book from the Shelf Awareness newsletter and was intrigued, but this review cemented my interest. I’m so excited for this book, even though I don’t often read adult books :)

    (And I admit that sometimes I like shipping characters when there is no clear romance in a book. I actually prefer more subtle romances anyway, but if there’s really nothing, I just take my little hints and enjoy those.)

    • Kim

      Oh, you are so welcome! I am always happy to hope I can potentially match a book with its reader! And yes it is an adult book but is pretty much the definition of “adult crossover.” The protags are 18-20ish and the style is very approachable for YA readers.

      Also this sounds more and more like this is a book for you! There isn’t an explicit romance but there are some tantalizing hints, here and there, of what might be to come. This would be one that would allow your imagination to roam wild, I think. You should seek it out!
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Tour Stop + Giveaway (international)

  11. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Why, yes. I do like humorously told fantasies, unique magic, complex heroes, heroic villains, parallel worlds, and London(s). So, in that, we both have good taste! Guess this means that I need to add another book to my TBR list so, yeah, thanks for that. (heh)
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Top Off Tuesday: The One With the Smolder

  12. Eileen

    Wonderful review!! My favourite thing about ADSOM was definitely Kell and Lila and what I like to think as their beautiful partnership ;) They’re so awesome~~ I’m a hardcore romance addict but I absolutely didn’t mind that there wasn’t any in this book. I like to think that there was a hint of it ;D Also, the world blew me away! Loved it so much! I don’t know how I’m going to survive until the next book :S
    Eileen recently posted…Last List Blog Hop – Book Spotlight & Giveaway: The Eternity Key (Into the Dark #2) by Bree Despain

    • Kim

      Ah, a beautiful partnership! That they are indeed! And I’m the same as you. I always, always want romance in my books but I was so pleasantly surprised to see I didn’t need it here. Still, there are hints…maybe…that there could be something in the future. And I would welcome it! But we shall see.

      I too loved the worlds and the writing a lot. I am very glad to see that this will be a trilogy. I’m already smirking just thinking of Lila’s future. Can’t wait to find out! :D
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Tour Stop + Giveaway (international)

  13. Carina Olsen

    Amazing review Kim :D I’m so glad you enjoyed this book. <3 Yay for world building being amazing :D And the characters too. <3 I'm so curious about this book. Everyone is loving it, hah :) I want to love it too. Sigh. But I'm worried. NO ROMANCE, you say? Ahhh. I'm unsure about that, hih. But hoping I'll love it even so, since you did :D Thank you for sharing your thoughts sweetie. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #174

    • Kim

      If you’re curious you should at least give it a tryyyyyyy. Trust me, I am always all about the romance. So if I can enjoy a book with only the barest hints of romance, anyone can. Give it a try. I think it’ll swoop you right into its magical vortex.
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Review

  14. Katie @ Bookish Illuminations

    I’m so excited about the world building in this one! There has been a lot of tweeting about how fabulous this book is, and I have a copy coming my way in the mail. Since I consider London one of my second homes, a book with parallel Londons is definitely one I’ll be exploring. Like you, Kim, I think I was sold once I read that in the description. It’s a little refreshing to know there’s no love triangles, etc. and of course, complex characters are a must! Thanks for this post, Kim!
    Katie @ Bookish Illuminations recently posted…#LastListEgmont Cuddlebuggery Blog Hop & Giveaway: The Lost City (Jaguar Stones) by J&P Voelkel

    • Kim

      Oh good thing this is on its way to you already! It’s so delightful. And I knew you’d just love London too! It is also one of my very favorite places to be. I was fortunate enough that I got to study abroad in London my junior year of college. I haven’t been back since, though, and it honestly hurts my heart. It was a distressingly long time ago. :( But, anyway. I’m certain you’ll adore this one like I did. :)
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Review

  15. Alisa @ Papercuttts

    I got the sneak preview and I am in line at the library for an ecopy! I can’t wait to finish this book!

    Aaaalllsssooo, I read a brief mention about film rights already given, but I can’t find any news about which company is going to back it. Does anyone in the blogging world have some clues??
    Alisa @ Papercuttts recently posted…‘Orhan’s Inheritance’ Knits Wounds Closed

    • Kim

      Yayyayya! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Londons! Dark magic! Pirate wannabes! It looks like you’re already hooked. :)

      And oh I have no idea about the movie rights. I hadn’t heard that this one was optioned already. I know that her other adult book, Vicious, was acquired by Ridley Scott’s production company. Not sure about this one! It is definitely one of those books that you can so easily envision as a film, though. It has that cinematic quality.
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Review

  16. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    Oh boy!! I’m so excited for this one!! I read the sampler and loved it and I caved in and completely ignored my book buying ban and got myself a signed copy that will be shipping from Edinburgh!!

    And no romance?? Well, now that’s even more ideal for me!!

    Brilliant review Kim, I cannot wait till I can read it and I might be tweeting at you some of the feels! ;)
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Mark This Book Monday: ARC Review of Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop!!!

    • Kim

      Oh, I can’t blame you one bit for caving on the book buying ban! This one had me instantly in its grip also.

      And you don’t want romance? I thought you loved romance Pili! Have I been tragically wrong all this time? I mean, if it’s more ideal for you than yay! It’s just funny, because it’s usually such a negative thing for me, but the rest of the book is so delightful and fun that I didn’t really mind (much)!
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Review

    • Kim

      Then you are in luck here, Joy! This one is chock full of humor and wit. If you follow Victoria on Twitter you get a taste for her delightfully weird humor! You can expect more of same in this book. And, really, a myriad other awesome things. *whispers* sentient magic */end whisper* Trust me, you’re right to have this one on your most coveted list!
      Kim recently posted…A Darker Shade of Magic: Review

  1. a darker shade of magic tour and giveaway

    […] visit from V.E. Schwab as part of the official blog tour! The book was just released this week and reviewed by Kim–I’m in the middle of the book myself and I can see why she lavished it such glowing […]