Elise (TheBookishActress)'s Reviews > A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
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“I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”
“I apologize for shooting you in the leg,” said Lila. “I was myself entirely.”

Actual Rating: 4 1/2 Stars, but honestly every time I round this down I end up putting it back up a day later. So you may notice this book is kind of polarizing within the adult sff community; a little bit And for me personally it is.... such a fave. I keep returning to this world and these characters and I doubt I’ll ever stop.

For the approximately five people who don’t know, A Darker Shade of Magic is about a world with four parallel worlds, all very different but sharing the same London. There’s Grey London, aka our world. Red London, a land of magic and peace. White London, a land of turmoil and war and an overuse of magic. And Black London, the land where magic went wrong and burnt out. Only a few people can travel between worlds, and when one of the only two left, Kell, discovers a magic stone that could destroy his world, he and non-magical Lila go on a journey to put it back.

Let's get the problems out of the way - the plotting is a mixed bag. Pro: fast-paced and never boring. This book is a 400-page wild ride. Con: literally no driving force behind the plot. The characters don't even have a quest until around page 200, and it makes the entire book feel just a bit messy. This is a problem Victoria Schwab tends to have a lot [she’s my favorite author so I’m allowed to say this], where her characters just meander around in search of an end goal. This.... kills her series conclusions. Like, it’s killed both of the series enders I’ve read by her for me personally, and this is coming from the bitch who has five starred every single other book I’ve read by her. But it doesn’t really hurt the plot that much here, so it’s fine, and we’ll just address that more in the ACOL review.
“What are you?” she asked.
“A monster,” said Kell hoarsely. “You'd better let me go.”
The girl gave a small, mocking laugh. “Monsters don't faint in the presence of ladies.”
“Ladies don't dress like men and pick pockets,” retorted Kell.
Her smile only sharpened. “What are you really?”
“Tied to your bed," said Kell matter-of-factly.
“And?”
His brow furrowed. “And in trouble.”

The main thing I always come back to about this book is that it is deeply, deeply magical . It was nigh-impossible for me to not be engaged in this story. The writing style is SO GOOD, lyrical and gorgeous and with a really nice flow to it; one of my good blogger friends discussed her sentence structure, and it is so fantastic. The worldbuilding is creative and intriguing and perhaps best of all, makes a surprising amount of sense for such a wild concept.

Also, I would die for these characters. Oddly, they didn't totally grow on me until like... 2/3 of the way into the book? While I could recognize from the beginning that the leads were well-developed and interesting, it took me a while to feel as if I had a concrete concept of who they are. And then we got to the ending and I was screaming in agony at the thought of these characters dying, and I was like "oh shit" and realized how much I love Kell and Lila and Rhy and how much I care about their relationships. V.E. Schwab does a lot of showing, not telling, which makes the character development a bit more subtle; these characters are based off their motivations perhaps even more than their actual traits. And both of these things mean you’re less invested in the beginning and then.... more invested in the end. Slow start, flawless payoff.

I actually want to talk a little more specifically about these characters because when I think back on this series, they are always what come to mind. Kell is a grumpy child who we love anyway. Lila is a fucking badass genderfluid thief with a soft side and I love her. Rhy is a bisexual prince [literally] who spends half his time dragging people. Even Holland, the sort-of-villain, is a super dynamic and intriguing character.

Oh, and then the relationships: Kell and Lila, y’all. Kell and Lila are my ride-or-die book couple and I love their dynamic and I love how they’re constantly dragging each other and just. fuck. I love them. I also really really like Kell and Rhy’s relationship, which is so ridiculously loving and caring? They are perhaps two of the most different people ever and they love each other so much it's beautiful.

I also kind of love that 98% of the dynamics in this book kind of read like everyone has dated everyone else and it’s now Really Awkward [this is both Kell & Holland and also Rhy & Holland and it later becomes the canon dynamic of Rhy & Alucard, and it's hilarious]. If anyone wants to come for me about this, I point to That Time Victoria Schwab Said That Every Character In This Series Should Be Read As Queer. No, that is not the only reason why I like this series, and yes, they’re all bi icons and you can’t take that away from me.

Anyway. Super highly recommended for fans of creative, engaging fantasy.

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Quotes Elise Liked

Victoria Schwab
“But the thing about people, Kell had discovered, is that they didn't really want to know. They thought they did, but knowing only made them miserable.”
Victoria Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic

V.E. Schwab
“A fine idea,” said Rhy. “But no. We must go out, you see, because we’re on a mission.”
“Oh?” asked Kell.
“Yes. Because unless you plan to wed me yourself—and don’t get me wrong, I think we’d make a dashing pair—I must try and find a mate.”
V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic


Reading Progress

January 6, 2017 – Started Reading
January 6, 2017 – Shelved
January 6, 2017 –
page 35
8.79% "What an A+ writing style"
January 6, 2017 –
page 35
8.79% "idk for some reason the writing style reminds me of six of crows which is my literal favorite book so"
January 6, 2017 –
page 65
16.33% "please @ my anxiety give me a break I just want to read this good book!!"
January 8, 2017 –
page 144
36.18% "The writing style!!!"
January 9, 2017 –
page 235
59.05% "This book is so atmospheric and I love the writing and the plot... the chars are good but they're not changing my life so far"
January 9, 2017 –
page 235
59.05% "This book is so atmospheric and I love the writing and the plot... the chars are good but they're not changing my life so far"
January 9, 2017 –
page 383
96.23% "i'm crying now???"
January 9, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-32 of 32 (32 new)

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L A i N E Y I can't stand her writing. Meaning i almost died everytime i read her books, so damn good~ Gorgeous <3


Kainat 《HUFFLEPUFF & PROUD》 YAS!! I love this review. I too adore Lila and Kell. Can't believe the last book is almost here.


Elise (TheBookishActress) I know!! oh man I still need to read the next one but I heard there's a cliffhanger so I almost don't want to


Frankie Lovely I love this series so much!


Frankie Lovely Elise .. there is one hell of a cliffy on book 2 so I would suggest holding out... not long though ... next month A conjuring of light!


Elise (TheBookishActress) I think I'm going to wait until I can buy the third book! I won't be able to stand waiting


L A i N E Y I LOVE her writing! Love it.
But I agree it's slow esp. the middle but the end was awesome :)


Callie (BeverageandBook) I loved ADSOM! I can’t wait to finish the series.


Elise (TheBookishActress) @Callie I hope you enjoy the rest!! I adore AGOS and was not a fan of ACOL, but that’s a genuinely unpopular opinion 😕 I hope you just like all of it!


message 10: by Annie (new) - added it

Annie Question. From your review, this book sounds similar to Gaiman's Neverwhere (London Above and London Below, only a few people have access to the magical version, etc.). If you've read Neverwhere- is this an apt comparison? Are they not even remotely similar?

Asking bc Neverwhere was a meh read for me.


Elise (TheBookishActress) @Annie I loved Neverwhere, and I think they have some similar magical-ish vibes, but no, they’re quite different in a few ways. Neverwhere is about a very ordinary man who falls into London Below. This one is about several characters from Red London, and then one character who’s just coming across magic – but she’s much more of a badass. Neverwhere is actually written to feel like it could be a very dark children’s tale, whereas this is... not. this is a bit more gritty and with a lot more plot.

I will say that Neverwhere kind of invented the urban fantasy genre at the time, so a lot of urban fantasy you read today will have similarities to Neverwhere; City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, for example, has a similar opening to Neverwhere. it’ll just be very different in content.

but if that sounds interesting to you, you should be good!


Elise (TheBookishActress) [also, sorry for this essay! 💜]


message 13: by Annie (new) - added it

Annie Elise wrote: "@Annie I loved Neverwhere, and I think they have some similar magical-ish vibes, but no, they’re quite different in a few ways. Neverwhere is about a very ordinary man who falls into London Below. ..."

That's super helpful! Yes definitely sounds intriguing, I'll add it to my list. Thanks!


Elise (TheBookishActress) Annie wrote: "Elise wrote: "@Annie I loved Neverwhere, and I think they have some similar magical-ish vibes, but no, they’re quite different in a few ways. Neverwhere is about a very ordinary man who falls into ..."

no problem! hope you enjoy <3


Bojana "I also kind of love that 98% of the dynamics in this book kind of read like everyone has dated everyone else and it’s now Really Awkward..."
^^the most iconic sentence i've ever read in a review <3


Elise (TheBookishActress) @Bojana ha, thank you 😆 for some reason I find it really endearing?


message 17: by Tucker (new) - added it

Tucker UGH! Everyone loves this and I have tried reading it but it is so boring. 😢 i feel so alone


message 18: by Tucker (new) - added it

Tucker sorry. that sounded rude. i was expressing my dismay that i am not liking a book everyone else does :'(


Elise (TheBookishActress) @Tucker oh no, don’t worry, I didn’t read it that way! I mean, not every book can be for everyone – I’d say just move on to another author!


message 20: by Tucker (new) - added it

Tucker @Elise Actually, it's getting a bit better so I'm gonna press through.


message 21: by Tucker (new) - added it

Tucker plus a lot of people said its slow in the beginning but that its worth it


☆ Mira ✷ Your remark about 98% of the character dynamics reading as if everyone has dated everyone else is so accurate. I literally thought it was just me that felt during book 1 like Kell and Holland were awkward exes LOL


Elise (TheBookishActress) Tucker wrote: "plus a lot of people said its slow in the beginning but that its worth it"

it definitely is! but i'm glad you're liking it more <3


Elise (TheBookishActress) ☆ Mira ✷ wrote: "Your remark about 98% of the character dynamics reading as if everyone has dated everyone else is so accurate. I literally thought it was just me that felt during book 1 like Kell and Holland were ..."

oh my god listen, Kell and Holland being exes where it's really awkward is like........... so close to canon. the only weird love triangle dynamics i've ever stanned


message 25: by Tucker (new) - added it

Tucker Elise wrote: "Tucker wrote: "plus a lot of people said its slow in the beginning but that its worth it"

it definitely is! but i'm glad you're liking it more <3"


Heh... I ended up DNF-ing it. 😐


Elise (TheBookishActress) Tucker wrote: "Elise wrote: "Tucker wrote: "plus a lot of people said its slow in the beginning but that its worth it"

it definitely is! but i'm glad you're liking it more

Heh... I ended up DNF-ing it. 😐"


oh well :/


message 27: by Tucker (new) - added it

Tucker Maybe I'll end up trying it again in the future


Madison (life uh finds a way) LMAO I love that quote you included sm


Elise (TheBookishActress) @Madison quality!!


HeartlessFaeKing &#x1f52e; I would die for Holland, really. I know, i supposed to hate him, be afraid of him, and want him to get hurt or something, but all this boi deserves are hugs, safety and love ❤️


Elise (TheBookishActress) HeartlessFaeKing 🔮 wrote: "I would die for Holland, really. I know, i supposed to hate him, be afraid of him, and want him to get hurt or something, but all this boi deserves are hugs, safety and love ❤️"

oh man, i think it's really hard to hate Holland. he's such a well-written character!


HeartlessFaeKing &#x1f52e; Sum up of an actual converstation i had with another book lover: Her: "It's a terrible, scary villian!" Me: "It's an emotionally tortuted bby boi who deserves so much more better!" 😂


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