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.
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.
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.
A friend of mine loves Victoria Schwab and recommended I read this book, since she was reading it for book club. I have struggled with reading much of anything of late, as I’m finding certain genres just aren’t holding my attention like they used to. So I bought the e-book of A Darker Shade of Magic and I’m so glad I did.
The first part of the book sets up the characters and the three variations of London in which they live or travel between. The build up is slow but it allows the reader to become immersed in Kell’s three worlds, work out who the main characters are in each, setup the story problem, and allow the reader to fall in love with Kell. He is intriguing as a royal adoptee, and Lila is excellent as his fiesty travelling companion.
The magic and the way it works here is also well established. In addition to shaping the way each London works, along with the characters views, connections, and control over it, the magic itself is a character.
The villains in this story are setup clearly in the beginning. Holland made for a great counterpart to Kell, and was one of the better written villains as you could understand why he acted the way he did and sympathise with his struggles.
A Darker Shade of Magic is excellent at exploring the possibilities of alternate worlds defined by the presence or absence of magic. It is an intriguing story and I’m looking forward to reading the next two books in the Shades of Magic series.
Victoria Schwab in Conversation with Garth Nix
On the 9th of April, not long after I finished reading this book, I had the pleasure of hearing Victoria talk with Australian writer Garth Nix, author of The Old Kingdom Series. It was great to hear about her writing process, how she chose to live in Edinburgh, her pets, how she copes with anxiety, and what she’s planning on releasing next. The talk was held at one of my favourite book stores in Sydney – Kinokinuya. And look, I even caught Victoria smiling 😉