A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
GENRE: Fantasy | PAGES: 400
My rating: ★★★
A Darker Shade of Magic has such a promising and intriguing premise. Parallel magical versions of the city of London? A mysterious magician of sorts who can walk between these worlds? Sign me up!
I went into this book expecting nothing but the highest form of original storytelling and while, to an extent, that is what I got, I couldn’t help feeling just a little disappointed.
A Darker Shade of Magic is, without a doubt, creative and original, but there was something about the story itself that, for me, lagged in more than a few places. While the concept of it is compelling, I found myself trudging through passages, waiting for everything to begin. Don’t misunderstand me—it is a very well-written book, but a lot of what we learn, particularly in the first half of the novel, feels like backstory. So much of it felt like a history lesson rather than a direct link to the characters in that present time and because of this, it lacked tension and suspense.
That said, once these stones of history have been laid, the magic of the story finally filters through. We finally get to see real connections between the characters—and those characters are well-drawn. I love Kell’s sense of family-oriented duty along with that undercurrent of curiosity and longing for who and what he really is. I love Lila’s strength and the subtle but defining change she undergoes as she aids him. But Holland is by far the most intriguing character for me. His complexity and grey morality make him the most interesting character in the book and I hope (can almost predict) that there’s more of him to come in future books.
The many mysterious details of the world are beguiling, rivalling the likes of the Harry Potter world, albeit on a smaller scale. And the distinctive feeling conjured up within each separate London is brilliantly executed, as is the description of magic.
Still, I just couldn’t fully connect with the book. While I enjoyed it and can appreciate certain elements, there was something about it that kept me removed from the story despite wanting the opposite. Perhaps book two and three will resonate with me a little better, having already set up the worlds in which Kell lives in book one.