Book Review | A Darker Shade of Magic

Author // V.E. Schwab
Publication Month // 2015
Publisher // Titan Books
Genre // Fantasy


Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city. 

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. 

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.


A Darker Shade of Magic was one of the first books I bought on recommendation of a lot of Booktubers when I first discovered the community on Youtube, and yet it took me nearly six months to pick it up, which I will attribute to the fear I have over very popular books. I’m always terrified I won’t enjoy them as much, but I am so happy to report that it is not the case with this wonderful, wonderful book.

A Darker Shade of Magic is the first book in the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab. It is an adult fantasy book about four worlds that each have their own version of London – Red London, which has magic. Grey London that doesn’t have magic. White London that seeks to control magic. And Black London… which used to exist. The protagonist, Kell, is an Antari – a magician that can travel between these worlds. Antari are rare, and Kell is one of two (known) remaining magicians with these abilities and he lives with the royal family in Red London.

Kell is one of my new favourite characters – he is so torn between his magic, his duty to serve the Crown and his love for his brother, as well as his need to be his own person. He rebels in his own way, collecting and trading items from the different Londons (which is illegal) for his own collection, but this goes awry for him when he inadvertently comes into possession of something far more dangerous and he’s forced to flee to Grey London.

There he meets Delilah Bard, a thief with grand dreams of becoming a pirate. Lila is a fascinating character. She’s rough around the edges, determined not to need anyone’s help, and her relationship with Kell is rocky at best. The two need to work together to fix Kell’s error to save all the worlds.

There were so many things I loved in this book – the characters, Kell and Lila and Rhy are all relatable individuals, despite the fantastical setting. The world building is absolutely incredibly, as V.E. Schwab builds THREE worlds in fabulous detail. There is no mistaking which London you are in as Kell travels between them ever. The magic system is fascinating, as is the history of magic that had been woven throughout the different worlds.

Without a doubt, this is one of my new favourite books (and series) and I can’t wait to read the second and third books. V.E. Schwab is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors.

Unsurprisingly, I gave A Darker Shade of Magic 5 out of 5 stars.


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