A Darker Shade of Magic  by V.E. Schwab

Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Novel (401 pages)
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

It’s been a while since I read a proper Fantasy novel, so I was very excited going into this one. It’s been recommended to me a bunch. I can’t say I was disappointed. This is a real solid start to a series. I didn’t find it spectacular and wouldn’t call it one of my favorite fantasy novels ever, but there is really intriguing setting in here.

Kell (amazing name by the way!) is an excellent protagonist. He’s flawed in many ways, but sympathetic in how he cares for the family who took him in. To me he was a character who is just beginning to get a grip on his powers but is holding back from who he could be. That’s the most exciting prospect about the sequels to me. Seeing him blossom fully and move on from magician seeking curiosities, to a full-fledged hero.

It’s how his magic works that is the star. This isn’t a wonderfully complex system of using magic like you’d find in “The Kingkiller Chronicles,” but it’s enough to keep the story humming along at full speed. He is born a special race who can access blood magic, true magic, and use it to traverse the multiverse. This idea of placing parallel worlds in a fantasy setting isn’t completely original, but it’s in their description that the true magic lies. Each London we’re presented with has a character of it’s own, and I wished I spent even more time learning about their differences.

The other main character, Lila, was hit and miss for me. She was so scrappy and rebellious that at times she almost seemed like a cartoon, and spoke like it too. Placed beside Kell who was such a three-dimensional character, I just couldn’t get behind her plight. Rise up from the riches is tried and true, but to me she just didn’t make the cut. Maybe it’s just that Kell was so captivating throughout…

My other issue, the villains. Holland is Kell’s rival and stole every scene he was in, but his bosses, the villainous Danes in charge of White London, were cardboard villains. I would have loved more focus on Holland instead because everything with the Danes merely led to a final confrontation that simply didn’t feel earned. They had so little face-time throughout and where I got to hear plenty about how evil they are through Kell’s thoughts, I didn’t see it like with Holland.

This is still an awesome kick-off to a series. Each of the three Londons (There are four but we don’t get to see Black London yet) are a treat to behold, and the reserved hero Kell is worth investing time in. I can’t wait to see where the sequels take him, and hope they’re able to do as much justice to his human companion Lila.

This book can be purchased for kindle here.