DNF: Ink and Bone  My Thoughts: Six of Crows My Thoughts: A Darker Shade of Magic My Thoughts: Quake

Sunday, July 19, 2015

My Thoughts: A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E Schwab

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (February 24, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765376458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765376459
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Age Range: 17+

"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" -Goodreads

My Thoughts:
A Darker Shade of Magic despite its intriguing blurb initially confused me, as there was no clear age designation, and I didn’t want to spend $20 on a novel that was too violent/mature/incesty for me – and thus I staved off buying a book I so desperately wanted to read. A book I ended up enjoying.

It’s hard to “pin down” what made the premise “click” for me, but I’d wager V.E Schwab’s vibrant ideas for Red, White and Grey London played a big role in it. When we first pick up, Kell is in an analogue for our London (read: grey), but throughout his little mission we have time to properly visit each and every one.  What’s more impressive is that each dimension, each alternate city maintains a distinct feel to it that persists regardless of whatever's happening plot-wise.

Not that there is much going on concerning plot. When it comes to structure, I've found A Darker Shade of Magic to be comfortably casual, relying on its captivating setting(s), action, and a (usually) easy to read nature, as opposed to actual "content". This works really well with Travel/Adventure stories, and even more so in this paticular case. Fans of the fantasy genre can expect to be taken on a tumultuous race against time, whilst their "hero" tries to return a corrupted artifact back to whence it came.
“The queen considered him, her pale lips curling at the edges. “The bodies in my floor all trusted someone. Now I walk on them to tea."
There’s also the tiny detail of Kell being part of an exclusive strain of magicians called Antari, who as aforementioned– can cross between universes, and command blood.  (In Schwab’s world, that means you can control coerce magic itself).  His abilities are defined to a reasonable extent – they have restrictions and are bound by a good set of rules, but (thank God) they weren’t over-explained. I think I can speak on good authority that going into the gritty details of any kind of mysticism, robs it of its intended splendor.
"Blood was magic made manifest. There it thrived. And there it poisoned. Kell had seen what happened when power warred with the body, watched it darken in the veins of corrupted men, turning their blood from crimson to black"
Literally the only thing holding A Darker Shade from being phenomenal is its repeated use of the word and, more than once in a sentence. It turned often descriptive lines, into a mess like this;
“Vendors in colored tents sold wares by the light of river and lantern and moon, some food and other trinkets, the magic and mundane alike, to locals and to pilgrims.”
Naturally I picked the worst offender to exemplify my point, however potential purchasers should know that sentences like this appear often in the novel, and frequently disrupt natural flow. These problems don’t detract to much from the book’s figurative imagery as you meander through its plot, but I felt it was worth a mention.

My Rating 4.4/5

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