A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I know, I know. I’m late to the ADSOM party. Almost a year late. That’s…actually not a bad thing, since it means I have less time to wait before book number 2, A Gathering of Shadows, hits the bookstores in February.

Yes, book number 2, for which there will be much pre-ordering, and undignified excitable ‘squeeing’, and release-day in-store pickup, which is a little tradition I reserve for certain favorites like the latest Myke Cole or Rick Riordan.

As you’ve probably noticed (if you made it through all the squeeing), I loved A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab (writing as V. E. Schwab). In fact, it’s been a while since I fell absolutely head-over-heels in adoration for a novel like I did with this one. I think the last time I was this smitten was with Tom Pollock’s fabulous Skyscraper Throne trilogy (see my Gushy-McGusherson review here).

ADSOM, to use the in-vogue abbreviation, is primarily the tale of Kell, one of the last Traveler-magicians able to move between the parallel Londons that exist in three different alternate universes. There’s Red London, Kell’s home, where magic flourishes, considered an intrinsic part of life. There’s dark and dangerous White London, where people fight to control and dominate magic, and magic fights back. And then there’s the Grey London of King George III, dull and devoid of magic. Once upon a time there was also a Black London. But no one speaks of the missing world.

While in Grey London, Kell – ambassador for Red London – crosses paths with wily street thief Delilah. Their stories tangle as they’re forced to flee together, first into Red London and then later into the White realm, in order to save the worlds and stay alive.

So what was so special about this novel? This was my first time reading anything by Schwab, and I was blown out of the water by her smart, clean prose. She writes in a concise and unadorned manner, painting a vivid picture without too much unnecessary fluff.

Victoria deserves praise for her worldbuilding and plot, which are certainly unique. But, ultimately, what hooked me were her delicious characters: a nice mixture of dark and light, with a healthy dash of the cheeky wink. If you haven’t read this yet, and want something fun and beautifully written to dive into over the holidays, you really can’t go wrong with A Darker Shade of Magic.

 

Just look at those covers!

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