“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”
Kell is a magician with the ability to travel between parallel universes, which all have a city named London, though that’s all they share in common. He travels as an ambassador, being one of the last of the Antari, and smuggles trinkets when it suits him. But when Kell finds himself in possession of a trinket coated in bad magic he must destroy it before it devours the London’s and himself entirely in A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.
*Review may contain spoilers*
I wasn’t looking for a new series to read, having just finished The Angel of Darkness, while The Mapmaker’s War series stares me down from the bookshelf, but I couldn’t pass this one up. After all the hype I’ve heard, with the third installment coming out earlier this year, I just thought why not jump on the bandwagon and get it out of the way?
V.E. Schwab has written mostly YA and it’s made clear throughout this book, but it didn’t hinder the book too much (more elaboration on certain things would have been nice, but not entirely necessary.) The pace is quick and the information is gradually learned, helping the characters and story ease into life. Schwab also takes care to keep focus solely on Kell and Lila. In a way, it reminded me of the Chronicles of Narnia with the light tone and just ‘matter of fact’ attitude toward the magic in the world.
A favorite aspect of mine was that Kell put a personal touch on ‘naming’ the different London’s (Grey, Red, White, and Black) and didn’t complicate things by trying to dive too deep into the political and magical aspects of each place allowing me to understand each London’s mindset in a matter of pages.
Kell. Sweet, idiotic, Kell.
There were times I wanted to hug the life out of that boy and other when I wanted to slap some sense into him. He was smart for the most part, I’ll give him that, but sometimes, and especially when he faced Holland multiple times, I was amazed at how naïve he was. Holland wants to kill you, sweetheart, not have tea in the garden and talk about how hard being an Antari is.
Which is why Lila came in handy. Though she has her own issues, like attacking every person she sees and tiptoeing into the ‘badass, orphan/pirate chick’ cliché, her abilities and attitude compliment Kell’s so well, which allowed for neither to get under my skin for too long.
The one character I wish was more involved was Rhy. I understand why he was left on the sidelines, but from what little we got I laughed every time. He’s definitely the highlight of Red London.
And, I’m embarrassed to admit this; until we discovered he and Kell were related I hyped myself up thinking they would be a same-sex couple and was so up for it that when the relation was revealed it was the same awkwardness when I watched A New Hope for the first time and thought Luke and Leia would make a good couple.
One thing I wish we’d gotten more of, and coming from me this is really weird, was the politics of both Red and White London. I know that White is a blood feast mess and Red is supposed to be this accepting, magic loving place, but I wanted more about the rulers.
I don’t know if this is because of A Song of Ice and Fire and all the information I can get about Westeros in a quick Google search, but I wanted more than ‘these are the good guys’ and ‘these are the bad guys.’ It might have made me care more at the end to know something when the shit storm began.
I’m so excited to read the next one and see what will become of Kell, Lila, and Rhy that I’ve begun re-reading ADSOM just to sedate my ridiculousness. It’s safe to say I’ve sold my soul to this series and won’t be looking back anytime soon.