In the new book by V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic, Kell has a very rare skill. Using the magic of his blood, he is able to travel between worlds and from time to time bring back small items with him. Clothed in a coat that can be turned inside out for seemingly countless clothing options, he travels sometimes to deliver messages and sometimes for the sheer thrill of being able to do so. There were once Four Londons; Red, Grey, White and Black. Red is a realm of magic where Kell belongs, living as an adopted member of the royal family. Grey London is terrestrial, with very little magic and an aura of humanity. White London is a brutal land of magic, violence and a dull look from the joy being sucked away. Black is gone, but tendrils of its powerful and dark magic still find their ways in from time to time. After being duped on a visit to White London, Kell finds himself stuck with a piece of this dangerous magic. Accompanying him on his trip is Lila, a street thief who dreams not of ballgowns and beauty, but being a real pirate and showing her fierceness. With nothing left to lose, she seeks adventure and to save both her and Kell’s worlds.
Until reading A Darker Shade of Magic, I had not yet read a book by V.E. Schwab; I have been missing out. With a delicate prose style filled with detailed images and brutal action A Darker Shade of Magic is imaginative and anything but boring. As someone who has been desperately looking for a book to partially fill the void left by J.K. Rowling, I found myself devouring the pages of Schwab’s book. Kell and Lila act on equal footing; Kell may have more magic, but Lila is less afraid to fight or pull the trigger. The descriptions of Red London made me wish desperately for my own skills to travel through different worlds. The characters have a sense of longing and frustration that are easily recognizable.
What did surprise me was the Young Adult label on this book. The action is at times morbidly violent and the magic not all light and airy. Sensitive readers may have a hard time handling the world of White London and its dangerous Twin rulers. I’m an adult reader and I will tell you flat out that I would recommend this book for anyone into dark fantasy with a magic edge.
A Darker Shade of Magic is available February 24, 2015 from Tor Books. Do yourself a favor and read it before handing it off to someone you want to enjoy their reading time.