I am kicking myself over how long it took me to start this series, and I am so glad that I was able to discuss this book with a group of friends, all of us reading and racing toward the end together. “A Darker Shade of Magic” follows Kell, one of the last Antari, a type of magic wielder that can travel between the 4—now 3—different London’s. Kell’s London (Red) is vibrant and thriving, magic is embraced and enjoyed, Kell revered as the adopted brother to Prince Rhy (who is adorable and I love him). Whereas the other MC, Lila Bard, comes from Grey London, where magic has disappeared completely, and then there’s Creepy—I mean White London, whose ruthless rulers enslave magic and drink blood, as one does. The different London’s magic system, the sharp steel of Lila Bard paired with Kell’s steady cool made for an amazing first book in this trilogy, and while it’s a complete story, there are still so many mysteries left to uncover.
Each of Schwab’s characters, from the main to the side, to the one’s you meet for a scene or two and that’s it, are all well rounded and whole characters. They all feel distinct from one another, all behave in a way that makes sense for that character, and it made this book so easy to get swept up in, even if at times I wanted more from Lila beyond a drive for adventure. Holland is a tragic figure that you’re never really sure if you can like him, trust him, if you’re allowed to hate him. What are his TRUE motivations? Even now at the end of the book when I KNOW what happens I am wary of that character, and I love that! Even the pure evil Dane twins, who were perhaps the simplest of Schwab’s detailed characters, were just so wonderful and fun to HATE. They were my favorite brand of creepy, so I loved each time they were involved in the story. And, just like her characters, each London felt so uniquely different that some were barely London at all, only sharing the city name. By about 40% into the book, it was hard to stop, hard to keep on pace with my reading buddies, so much so that we all finished this book a week earlier than anticipated just so we could all hurry up and discuss our theories as soon as the book ended. And trust me, I have lots of theories I won’t share because they can be spoiler-y.
That’s the thing with this book, it IS a complete story. The thing Kell finds himself in possession of, the thing he has to do that Lila helps with, has a wonderful conclusion with no cliffhanger. Even if Lila felt a little shallow to me at times, I loved her sass and attitude and how she followed up with every one of her threats far too much to ever hold that against her, and I adored the love that Kell and Rhy share for one another. If this series never continued and ended here, it would be fine. But if that happened, I’d give this book a whole star less simply because there are so many small (but might be large?) mysteries that get teased throughout the book that don’t get addressed in this story. Like where did Kell come from before he is adopted by the royal family, and why does it feel slightly nefarious? What’s up with Lila and why is she able to keep up with Kell when she comes from Grey London? And Holland! Just all the teases about Holland. Knowing there are more books where these mysteries will be addressed, will be unfolded one little bit at a time, makes me so excited to continue on with this series!
Schwab has a beautiful way of writing, of crafting stories where you get swept away in a tide that is first gentle, before you suddenly find yourself pulled in a riptide out to sea. Honestly, a lot of her style and vibe in this book reminded me so much of Six of Crows (one of my favorites, and that I read before this book) that it’s no surprise that this gets 5 stars from me. I have complete trust and faith in Schwab to answer my questions, to take me on a magical ride, to rip my heart out, and to leave me satisfied at the end of it all. I have a feeling this will be one of the rare series that I start and finish all in the same year… As Travars!
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