Thursday, 23 June 2016

When One London Just Isn't Enough - A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab


'"What sons our parents have," said Kell gently, "Between the two of us, we'll tear the whole world down."' - V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic, page 380

A Darker Shade of Magic is a tale of four Londons. The plot passes through all four, smuggling a magical artifact, a hero, and a heroine along with it. There's Red London, where magic runs freely through everyone's veins, Grey London, where George IV rules as regent king, White London, where magic corrupts and people kill, and Black London, which is dead. Incidentally, this Buzzfeed Quiz decided that I am a resident of Black London. God knows what this means for my health.   

Kell is an Antari, a person who can travel between worlds. He's considered a member of Red London's royal family, however, he's not a real member, and feels excluded as a result. Kell is a dynamic, sarcastic anti-hero. And he angsts a lot.

(So he's the best kind of anti-hero?)

Exactly. I love an angsty hero. Half of the conflict stems from his own stupid decisions, and the other half stems from his loyalty to Prince Rhy, his adoptive brother. After the first page, I didn't think that it was possible for me to like a character more than I liked Kell. I was wrong. Rhy is brilliant. Kell might say that he's more responsible than Rhy, but I honestly felt like they kept tossing the title of most responsible sibling back and forth between them. 

Of course, there has to be a heroine, and A Darker Shade of Magic has Delilah, or Lila, Bard. At first, I didn't like her at all, but she grew on me. By the end of the novel, I kind of wanted to be her. Lila is a street thief, a capable fighter, and a wannabe pirate. She's from our London - Grey London - and all she wants is freedom.

The world-building is brilliant. You can't mix the Londons up. They might share a name, but the people, magic, and culture are completely different. The story doesn't get bogged down in exposition, with Kell's initial trips to Grey and White London both setting up important plot points. 

Believe the hype. There's a good reason why this seems to be the fantasy series of the year. 

Have you read A Darker Shade of Magic? And don't forget to take the quiz and tell me which London you belong in.