Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for Irene Title: A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Published: February 24th, 2015 by Tor Books
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5 stars

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Synopsis: 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.


“He occupied himself by drumming his finger on the edge of the gilded table. Each time he made it from pinky to forefinger, one of the room’s many candles went out. “Must be a draft”, he said absently while the Prince Regent’s grip tightened on his quill.”

“Blood was magic made manifest. There it thrived. And there it poisoned.”

“Lila Bard lived by a simple rule: if a thing was worth having, it was worth taking.”


I honestly don’t know where to start on this one. This is the first V.E. Schwab/Victoria Schwab book I have read, and I immediately want to go out and buy every single thing she has ever written. This book was absolutely incredible! On the one hand, I can’t believe I didn’t read this as soon as it was released. On the other hand I’m a bit sad I read it already, because I will have to wait so long for the next one!

The writing in this book is incredible! As I said, this was my first V.E. Schwab book, but I will definitely read more. I know I’ll probably end up loving them for the writing alone.


The world building is one of the most important parts of a fantasy novel in my opinion. And A Darker Shade of Magic is definitely not lacking in that point. So in this world, there are 4 different worlds -yet they all have the same base. They all center around a city called London, even though the different Londons look nothing alike. Kell has named each of the four cities a color, so it is easier for him to tell them apart. There is Grey London, which has barely any magic. So unfortunately, that’s where we would live. Then there is Red London -where Kell is from- and in that world, magic is rejoiced. Then we have White London, where magic is power -and everyone will kill to get it. Lastly, there is Black London where magic was so powerful it ruined the entire world.

The world building in this book is fantastic! I can’t even explain it properly to you. I’m usually not a person for different dimensions that connect together but in this case, it was just magical. I could imagine all of the worlds and the places Kell describes. But more importantly, I wanted to be there. Well, in Red London that is -the others don’t sound as appealing. 


The story line of this book is incredible as well. Kell smuggles artifacts between the different worlds, which is strictly forbidden -for very important reasons- and one day, that gets him into serious trouble. Even an Antari -like Kell- can’t fix everything. An Antari is a person that can travel between the worlds. It’s pretty much an action-packed story between the different Londons. I was so into this story, I could not put it down! It was like a movie playing in my head, that’s how imaginative this story feels.


Again, an aspect in which this novel shines. All of the characters are wonderful. Yes, they have their flaws -but let’s be honest, who doesn’t? And they don’t make dumb decisions constantly. I hate it when characters feel like “it’s the only option I have, I’m doing the right thing, bla bla bla” when everyone -including them- knows that they are just too stubborn to either ask for help or think things through more thoroughly. These characters did none of that.

First up, Kell. My Antari -yes, you read it, mine. So powerful and unique, but he still tries to do right by everyone. Even though he has enough power to overthrow kingdoms and rule, he is loyal to his friends and doesn’t seek that kind of power. I love his little rebellious streak though, as a smuggler. 

And then there is Lila. Now, I love Lila. She wants more out of life, and in fact, she wants to be a pirate. Which sounds pretty cool to me! Like I said before, she makes smart decisions -most of the time. She knows what she wants and will do pretty much anything to get it, but she is neither cold nor heartless. I just love that mix.

I’m going to stop rambling about the characters now, but I could go on forever. There are many VERY interesting ones in this story, like Holland, the Danes, Rhy and so on. But I won’t have the time to do them justice.


If you hadn’t noticed already, I highly recommend this book. To anyone. It has an incredible and magical world, interesting and fun characters and the writing is absolutely gorgeous. I would give this 10 out of 5 stars if I could.


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25, reader, blogger, feminist, INFJ

13 thoughts on “Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab”

  1. I have seen so many great reviews! I read the Archived by Victoria Schwab and I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but I’ve seen better things about her books published as VE Schwab. I’m thinking about starting with this one when I get a chance.


  2. This sounds amazing. Those colors (red, black, and white) are very much associated with power and the four worlds thing sounds like it might be a reference to the Qabalah/Tree of Life. Definitely adding this to my Goodreads list!


  3. I’ve heard only good things about this book. I’m glad you liked it – the good streak didn’t end. I love magic and good well-rounded characters so I definitely think I will like this book. I can’t wait to read it now. 🙂


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