Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1
Published: 27 February 2015 by Titan
Length: 400 pages
Summary : Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There is Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There is Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London...
Review: Kell is one of the last Antari, a blood magician. As the adopted brother of the prince in Red London, where magic is prized, he hops between the other Londons- White, ruled by a ruthless brother/sister duo, Grey, without magic at all, and occasionally Black, which was wiped out by London, on diplomatic missions. He’s also a smuggler. At some point he meets Lila, a thief from Grey London, as he’s smuggling artefacts between the worlds. She hopes to be a pirate and adventure, and with Kell she gets more adventure than she’d thought as they try to return an artefact he’s taken.
I wanted to read this because, as you may have noticed, I am a little obsessed with London and its variations. I’ve enjoyed the London based urban-fantasy I’ve read so far, and the idea of four Londons, each very very different, intrigued me. Also, Schwab posted on Goodreads a summary of elements:-magic, cross-dressing thieves, Londons (plural), and a royal who is equal parts Prince Harry and Jack Harkness- which definitely caught my eye.
The characters are fun and fleshed out. I think my favourite was Rhy (the aforementioned royal mashup of Harry and Captain Jack) who starts off providing comedy and then by the end he’s more than that and you just want to hug him. Then come the Dane twins, the cruel rulers of White London, who I loved reading about as they do evil things. Kell and Lila, I really enjoyed seeing their friendship develop, but I didn’t care for them as much as I did for Rhy, Astrid, and Athos.
The writing was good in places and bad in places. There’s a lot of world building to start with, and partially though the middle. I love how each London is completely different and how each world the London is in is completely different in elements like language, rulers, and general ambiance. While the world building to start is brilliant, it also makes the book slow down, and for me, it never picked up the pace or interest/adrenaline levels, even with all the plot twists and the fight scenes, which is probably the main reason I didn’t enjoy this as much as I was hoping. It did pick up towards the end though.
Overall: Strength 3 tea to a historical fantasy novel set across three beautiful worlds but, for me, was let down by the pacing and plot.