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A Darker Shade Of Magic: Parallel Worlds and Unparalleled World Building

Author: V.E. Schwab

Year published: 2015

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

Wow…
This was awesome.

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

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

  • ‘Grey London’ smells of smoke and has no magic. It’s basically our world.
  • ‘Red London’ smells of flowers and is in the prosperous empire of Arnes. It is full of magic and the river (that’s the Arnes equivalent of the Thames) is red because it’s a powerful source of magic.
  • ‘White London’ smells of blood and is a world that used to have magic but lost it. It is bleached of colour and rife with crime. A new king/queen never lasts long before someone tries to kill them and everyone is power hungry.
  • ‘Black London’ is 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’s quite mysterious and we don’t know much about it apart from no one goes there anymore.

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

In the book, Kell is one of the last known Antaris and he was taken in by the royal family of Arnes as a boy. He doesn’t know who his real parents are. He serves as an ‘ambassador’ between the world conveying letters between the rulers of the various Londons (except Black London). He also smuggles magical objects between worlds which is illegal but he does it anyway as a form of rebellion. I found him to be an incredibly three-dimensional character. He cares 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 feels as if he doesn’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 is the boisterous crown prince of Arnes and sees Kell as his brother. Their relationship is so sweet and it is evident that they care about each other so much, it just melted my poor heart.

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

Holland is another Antari who lives 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’s 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.