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Best Adult Fantasy | Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic is what the fantasy genre is all about. Hardcore magic and an epic story.

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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A Darker Shade of magic v.e. schwab book review

Title & Author: A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel by V.E. Schwab

Genre: Fiction/New Adult – Fantasy, Magic

Release Date: February 24, 2015

Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1

Publisher: Tor

How I Got the Book: ARC via the publisher


“Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London – but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped. ”

Best Fantasy So Far This Year

While I’m not sure if A Darker Shade of Magic is technically YA or not (some characters are 20 years old and with others’ ages are not mentioned), I must insist you read this divine work of literature.

First of all, I was immediately sucked in. I probably sound like a broken record, but lately all the fantasy books I’ve read have had incredible world-building.

A Darker Shade of Magic tops them all, however. There are four Londons – Grey, Red, White and Black. Kell is of a special race that can walk between them…which starts ALL the problems.

What’s interesting is that despite there being parallel universes, this book is solidly a fantasy (vs science fiction). There is the most inventive magic and new “things,” and it excited me to read a world so fully fleshed out.

Also, this story sounds complicated but it’s not. Right away, the author sets up the scene, and the setting was crystal clear in my mind right away.

This is a random observation, but sometimes I read books where the characters are “tough” and you can tell they’re tough because they keep telling you they are. In this book, the characters are edgy and dark and mysterious and they show you they are with every sneaky, backstabbing violent thing they do.

It was fascinating to read, and I appreciated how I saw things develop instead of being told how it would. That is largely the magic of this story.

Everything happens in stark contrasts and is so well thought out.

As a side note – there is only a subtle romance in the story. A Darker Shade of Magic is the type of book that does not need anything taking away from its core, so I was 100 percent ok with that. Plus, there are going to be sequels, so… 🙂


This book made me fall in love with fantasy all over again. I highly recommend, nay DEMAND, you read this book! And then comment or email me so we can gush together, k? A Darker Shade of Magic is simply a book to melt into.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • Cannot wait to pick this up!!

  • I’m reading this knowing have got the worst crush on Kell 🙂 Victoria Schwab has won a great reputation in the last few years, one, which, to my embarrassment, I was completely unaware of until I picked up this book. I knew after the first few pages that she’s special, so I googled her to find out more. I’m going to read all her books – her writing is absolutely inspiring. Great review 🙂

  • springology

    I need this book! I wish I got the owlbox for this month. It had this book and other goodies. ^^

  • Stephanie

    I really loved it! I’m so glad y’all chose it for book club, because although I was interested in reading it prior to being chosen, it probably would’ve taken me a lot longer to get around to it. The synopsis doesn’t do it justice. I found it very easy to follow, as well. Our main characters were 19 (Lila) and 21 (Kell) and Rhy was turning 20, so I guess it’s…new adult-ish? Either way, good book for everyone!