Whenever I am about to start a very hyped series I always feel anxious. Especially with A Darker Shade of Magic because I have so much fandom merch from it. The stakes were even higher because so many of my friends like ADSOM, but I shouldn’t have been so worried!
Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.
Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.
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.
After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.
I want to start off by saying I want all of their clothes. Schwab features some amazing fashion in A Darker Shade of Magic and I’d like to wear these clothes forever, thank you. That brings me to the world building which was fantastic. You’d think for a world with multiple versions of itself that it would be a feat. And I’m sure it was. But it reads wonderfully descriptive and effortlessly. Not to mention each of the side characters blended perfectly into the London’s in which they lived. This is another example of a great world that I know I’d die in, basically from the beginning.
Another piece of world building I loved is that magic has a price. A very steep one. Magic that has a price has to be one of my favorite elements, when done right, because it makes sense. Not everyone has magic in this book and what I loved is that we got to see different pictures of characters with varying levels of magic. Whether we abuse the magic we have, how we use the magic, and what we will do for magic.
At the characters are wonderful. There’s something for everyone. If you want a precious cinnamon boy who loves parties, a broody self-sacrificing hero, an anti-hero who you can’t figure out if you hate or feel bad for, or a witty thief whose dream is to be a pirate. Seriously. Predictably, I love Lila the most. She just wants to be free, to have adventure, and a boat. Don’t we all want that Lila? There’s tons of snark and Lila has to be responsible for almost all of it. It doesn’t hurt that our names are similar.
I haven’t jumped straight into the second because then I would only do nothing but read. Anyway, how do I sum up A Darker Shade of Magic? Fantastic world building, clever banter, morally ambiguous characters, wrapped up in a story about loyalty, family, and love. Throughout we are asked what we will do for people. Whether it’s people we are just met, our family, or the world, what will we sacrifice?