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Parallel Worlds and Unparalleled World Building: Review of A Darker Shade of Magic

Book: A Darker Shade of Magic


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.

Author: V.E. Schwab

Year published: 2015

  • Plot: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Overall: 5/5

This was awesome.

In  A Darker Shade Of Magic there were 4 parallel worlds and in each world there was a ‘London’.

“Grey for the magic-less city. Red, for the healthy empire. White, for the starving world.”

  • ‘Grey London’ smelled of smoke and had no magic. It was basically our world.
  • ‘Red London’ smelled of flowers and was in the prosperous empire of Arnes. It was full of magic and the river (that’s the Arnes equivalent of the Thames) was red because it was a powerful source of magic.
  • ‘White London’ smelled of blood and was a world that used to have magic but lost it. It was bleached of colour and rife with crime. A new king/queen never lasted long before someone tried to kill them and everyone was power hungry.
  • ‘Black London’ was a dead world (and we don’t know its smell). It used to have people who wielded magic but they misused it and it took over. It was quite mysterious and we don’t know much about it apart from the fact that no one goes there anymore.

The magic system was based on elements and we don’t really learn much about how it works, apart from the existence of Antari. Antari were blood magicians that could wield all of the elements and travel between worlds by making doors. They were identified by having one eye that is completely black.

In the book, Kell was one of the last known Antaris and he was taken in by the royal family of Arnes as a boy. He didn’t know who his real parents were. He served as an ‘ambassador’ between the world conveying letters between the rulers of the various Londons (except Black London). He also smuggled magical objects between worlds which is illegal but he did it anyway as a form of rebellion. I found him to be an incredibly three-dimensional character. He cared about the royal family, especially the crown prince Rhy (who I adore and who Kell treats as a brother), but at the same time he felt as if he didn’t belong and that he is almost ‘owned’ by the king despite the fact that they welcomed him into their family. He was portrayed as likeable but also flawed. Also, he has the most amazing magical coat!

Rhy was the boisterous crown prince of Arnes and saw Kell as his brother. Their relationship was so sweet and it was evident that they cared about each other so much, it just melted my poor heart.

Lila was a poor Grey London girl who was a wanted thief and pickpocket, her greatest wish was to become a pirate (#lifegoals). She was cocky, terrifying and awesome and had a weird obsession with collecting knives. I liked her but at times I wish she’d open up to people more. She was scared to care about people because she saw it as a weakness that left her vulnerable to getting hurt.

Holland was another Antari who lived in White London, enslaved to the evil Dane twins who rule there. I felt really bad for him because I think that he’s not such a bad person he’s just unlucky to end up bound to such terrible people. Yes, he’d done terrible things but in a world like White London, many people do and I got the feeling that he didn’t want hurt anyone but was forced. I think he deserved more ‘screen time’. We get it. The Danes are sadistic villains. What would have been interesting is getting to see more of Holland’s thoughts about them and how he feels doing their bidding against his will (and how he ended up enslaved in the first place).

This was such a fun, captivating read with excellent world building and creativity. I recommend to all fantasy fans looking for something a bit different but also enjoyable.

What do think think of A Darker Shade of Magic? Who is your favourite character? Let me know in the comments!

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