Friday, May 8, 2015

[Review] A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic
V.E. Schwab
[A Darker Shade of Magic #1]
Adult Fantasy
Published: February 2015 (Tor Books)
Format: Ebook
Pages: 400
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5 of 5
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.

Warning: Spoilers!

Alrighty, let's start this review!

In the long run, I really liked the concept that this book was trying to convey. The idea of 4 different worlds very, very different from each other, like blocks placed next to each other. Something out of the ordinary to me. Which is a great thing! There's Red London, a world enamored in magic. Magic is the way of life, really. Then there is Grey London, and like the name suggests, they have a duller way of life. (aka the way we are) The magic has gone and become something of myths and legends. On the other hand (how many hands do humans have again?), White London is bleeding itself dry over magic. They want more and will do anything to have it. And of course, there is Black London. A place nobody ventures since the doors to it are sealed, and probably wouldn't even if they could. The magic there became corrupt and took over. Not exactly a friendly place.

As for the characters, there are our MCs, Kell and Lila. Let's make it clear at the start, Kell was wonderful to me and Lila was...lacking. Kell has a depth of emotion and this was made clear during his chapters. And Lila, although she has the potential, she felt very boring to me. I understand that her life was hard and she never complained about it. In a way, she embraced it and loathed those with more than her that took it for granted. There were moments I liked her and what she stood for. But there were other moments (far more numerous) when I disliked her. She's headstrong and strong willed, but for being a thief --someone that has to think of their every action-- she didn't think of what she was doing and frankly I don't know how she survived as long as she did.

As for Kell, besides the overused trope of how blatantly special he is, I liked him. I may just have a bias for male MCs, but I preferred his chapters as I begrudgingly read through Lila's. He has compassion and loyalty, even with his doubts and feelings of being an object to the crown. His feelings towards his brother, Rhy, were very strong and he would do anything for him, I'm sure. In my mind, his love potential towards Rhy is far above that of his with Lila, if there is going to be any at all. I don't think I'm imagining it and I really hope that I'm not. I'd love to see him struggle through the process of his feelings for his step-brother far more than I'd like to see him fall for Lila. Anywho, that aside, Kell was willing to sacrifice his life for his world. He didn't think of how to get around this, he simply accepted that it would be the easiest way of saving them. Very noble of him. I'd have liked to be able to feel where his loyalty towards his world came from, but I guess when you know what the other options are, you'd want Red London over anything else.

I suppose since I mentioned him Rhy should be on here as well. He is the prince of Red London and a very likable and charming person. It's made very clear that he has a wide taste in his sexual life. He wasn't seen that much, and if I have one gripe, it would be that I'd like to see more character relations. I was merely told that Kell and Rhy have a strong relationship, but I didn't see it. I'd love to develop a stronger sense of their bonds.

The main villains of this book were bland to me. They seemed ambitious and mean for no reason other than power. And while I'm sure that there are people like that (I'm looking at you GoT), I'd still like depth. Background. Something! For instance, what was done with Holland, who seemed to suffer through his entrapment and made me pity him. He wasn't flat. He had character, and though his motives were hard to understand that made him all the more enticing to read about.

The world building is lovely and enticing. I loved the sharp contrasts between the worlds and their people. Although it took me a while to wrap my head around the different worlds, I understood by the time I needed to. Schwab has a wondrous way with words and I applaud her. I also like how the different worlds have their own languages. It helps deepen the lore. I was left guessing at the cultural influences used for each world, but I can't quite figure it out. I assumed some sort of Scandinavian for White London, though. The plot was fast paced and so much happened! It would be hard for me to explain all the different points in a few words. A big thing for me was that the romance was left to a minimal. It was barely there and it wasn't lingered over. And that means so much to me.

Something else lacking for me was the fight scene between the villains and our MCs. It felt like it was over far too quickly and easily.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed ADSoM! There were some elements missing, but not many. I try to not critic a book too harshly, as many times, there is no flawless book. I base a lot of my review on how the book made me feel and this one was easy to get lost in. Also, I haven't mentioned, but look at that cover! It's fantastic!

Final Rating: 4.5 of 5