A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic

Book - 2015
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Baker & Taylor
Serving as an ambassador of his own world while carrying messages to parallel-universe Londons with respective magical abilities and conflicts, Kell hides his secret smuggling activities only to be set up with a forbidden object from a dark dimension. By the author of The Near Witch.

McMillan Palgrave

A Darker Shade of Magic, from #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in ArnesRed Londonand officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

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.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then 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 has all the hallmarks of a classic work of fantasy. Schwab has given us a gem of a tale...This is a book to treasure."—Deborah Harkeness, New York Times bestselling author of the All Souls trilogy

Shades of Magic series
1. A Darker Shade of Magic
2. A Gathering of Shadows
3. A Conjuring of Light

& Taylor

"From V.E. Schwab, the critically acclaimed author of Vicious, comes a new universe of daring adventure, thrilling power, and parallel Londons, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic. Kell is one of the last Travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes--as such, he can choose where he lands. There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there's Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne--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, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, 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--a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a 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--and that is proving trickier than they hoped. "--
Serving as an ambassador of his own world while carrying messages to parallel-universe Londons with magical abilities and conflicts, Kell hides his smuggling activities only to be set up with a forbidden object from a dark dimension.

Publisher: New York : Tor, 2015
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780765376459
Branch Call Number: Fiction Schwab
Characteristics: 400 pages ; 22 cm


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Nov 25, 2017

I'm afraid 'A Darker Shade of Magic' is what you get when your author has a number of interesting ideas but little to no desire in telling an actual story. The result is a collection of interesting ideas but a decidedly dull, empty story and world(s) overall.

Oct 15, 2017

You may detect the faintest echoes of influence from Gaiman's Neverwhere, Tolkein's LotR and Lewis' Magician's Nephew. The concepts of elemental magic, parallel worlds out of balance, confluence points and mundane items as tokens are also not new but Schwab fits them together into a universe that doesn't feel derivative and needs little further explanation.

Jun 25, 2017

London during the 1800's is a dull, gray place. A reckless young thief named Lila dreams of escaping the city to grand adventures. One day she meets Kell, a young magician who can travel between parallel worlds. Kell comes from a version of London where magic is very real and very fabulous. But there are other versions of London where magic is dark and dangerous and Kell is in great danger. Sounds like an adventure to Lila!

May 08, 2017

Well well well, look what I finally read and loved! Beyond the massive hype, I always assume that adult fantasy will be inaccessible to me; I struggle with terminology and complexity sometimes so I tend to put them off until I have time to really give the book a fair chance. That was not a problem for A Darker Shade of Magic a.k.a ADSOM. I was honestly captivated from the beginning and could picture everything perfectly. The writing is crisp and detailed, enough to paint an indelible image in your mind but not so much that you are overwhelmed. I love the concept of parallel Londons and V.E. Schwab did a magnificent job of differentiating between them, making them come alive (as it were). I really liked the history of the worlds and of magic, and the idea of the pub present in every London, the city of London in every different country & world.

The dialogue was fantastic. The action was intense. And THE CHARACTERS. I LOVED KELL. AND I LOVED LILA. AM I ALLOWED TO SHIP THEM BECAUSE I DO (full disclosure after finishing the trilogy: I definitely ship them). Aside from that, I found them individually fascinating, fully realized, and got positively giddy when their paths finally crossed. They’re a good pair, two sides of the same coin. I really enjoyed their alternate POV chapters; the tone was pitch perfect and it was interesting to see magic through each of their very different world views.

I liked what I saw of Rhy, I hated the scary Dane twins (but oh were they chilling villains!), and I genuinely was invested in everyone, even Holland. I can’t think of much I didn’t like, and I’m honestly not sure why I waited so long to read this book because it has everything I love: magic, royalty, lots of action, secrets, long lost artifacts, intrigue, kissing. I was satisfied with how the book ended so I’m curious to see where the sequels will go (disclosure #2: the sequels are AMAZING).

Apr 07, 2017

I started it but was unable to get interested. Characters and plot failed to make me care. Obviously I am in the minority. I am not the typical reader of this genre (over 50...) so perhaps for a younger audience the book would have more resonance. That said, I do like Sarah Maas and am looking forward to her next instalment in the Throne of Glass series.

Mar 24, 2017

The premises of a person who can travel between four distinct London's drew me in. This novel takes place in the 1800's when magic travel between these London's is extremely discouraged. In the distant past, one of the London's called Black London underwent a terrible ordeal where the magic started to consume the humans who tried to wield it. Since this, the doors between the London's have been closed. The only one's allowed to travel between the worlds are powerful magicians called Travellers. When we first meet Kell, he has traveled to Grey London (the unmagical world) to deliver a message from his own rulers of Red London to King George the 3rd and Prince Regent. The existence of other London's, as we learn is a closely guarded secret that only the rulers know. We follow Kell from Grey to Red London (the magical one), to the ominous White London who makes Hitler and Vlad the Impaler look nice. At the same time. we meet a young thief of Grey London name Lila Bard who's life becomes entwined with Kells as they are plunged in a plot to reawaken magic and tear down the wall between their worlds. This summary makes the book seem complex but V.E. Schwab creates a movie seeming novel that lays out this plot beautifully. I highly recommend this fantasy novel with the magic system that makes it seem plausible. I will definitely be reading the sequel "Gathering of Shadow's". 5/5 Stars.

Feb 14, 2017

Eeeek this was amazing. Fantasy is a tricky thing. I want to be pulled into a multi-faceted, complicated world. I want alluring, elemental magic (that borders on dangerous.) I want characters that I love, hate, and love to hate. I want ruthlessness and danger, but beauty and enchantment. Most of all, the tipping point: I want it to have all of these things, but also feel real. I want to escape into a purely magical world yet feel as if it could exist.

"A Darker Shade of Magic" is my new favourite book. It's a fantasy that I can finally say, with absolute confidence, will begin to fill that hole in your heart left by that kid with the glasses. (Yeah, I went there.) That's not to say they're the same, at all...but if you want to be absolutely thrilled by a world and its characters, then this one's for you.

It took me a chapter or two to get my bearings. Our hero, a young man named Kell, is an "Antari," that is, one born with the ability to travel between worlds. Magic is a dangerous, yet celebrated and respected part of life, and an Antari is a rare thing. Kell, who has been adopted of sorts by the royal family, is tasked with traveling between the different "Londons" to exchange royal correspondence. It was getting the hang of the Londons: Grey London, which has lost magic (resembling our London in the 1800s) Red London, which is Kell's home, and incidentally where magic thrives, White London, which is starving for magic (and everything else) and Black London, which has been taken over completely by magic and is now more of a cautionary tale than a place people go.

After a series of events, Kell becomes involved in a dangerous mission, and meets up with the cross-dressing thief Delilah (who inhabits Grey London.) She is need of adventure and a bit of an escape, so decides she's along for the ride. The stakes are high, the risk is higher, and it's all a complete adventure in every sense of the word. Dangerous, black magic. Royal festivities and masquerade balls, with double disguises. Magical tokens with life of their own. Shady criminals, colourful pubs, ruthless rulers, and a good-hearted prince. Through it all pulses magic; healing, wounding, creating.

There is so much to discover in these stories. The world building is multi-dimensional, complete with other languages. Each London is practically a character in itself; I loved the different feel to each one. Kell is a smart, layered, interesting person that is both intriguing and relatable. Delilah is both frustrating (she's impulsive) and clever. The magic, whether it appears in a spell, an item, or simply woven throughout, is by turns delightful and horrific. There are echoes and tributes to other classic stories of the fantastical: small nods to Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Alice in Wonderland are all present.

I loved this, and can't wait for the next one. You will too.

MissMellissa Feb 03, 2017

I'm quite enamored with the characters and the world that has been created. I found myself wanting to slip between worlds and explore Red London for myself. I felt the cold oppressiveness of White London and the mystery that is Black London. I am eagerly awaiting her third installment, set to come out in a few weeks. While I'm excited to see what becomes of Miss Bard and Kell, I'll be sad to see the series end.

AL_KAYLA Jan 17, 2017

A book that instantly grabs you and holds on! There's a lot to this world, or I should say worlds that Schwab introduces but she does so in such a way that it's easy to grasp and follow along with her version of magical rules. Interesting and unique character dynamics and a plot full of adventure, conspiracy and sorcery

Dec 02, 2016

I adored A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab! I instantly connected with the main character, Kell and found the writing visually gorgeous! I didn’t have any expectations for this book, though it had been on my to-be-read for awhile now. However, I must have read something about the book that left the impression I wouldn’t like the writing and was pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t the case. I loved catching all the details of the worlds – yes worlds – Schwab shares with us. Most importantly, I could feel the differences of the four Londons and that just because a London exists in the same space doesn’t mean they’re not worlds apart.

The POV is split between Kell and Delilah Bard aka Lila, but I’d say there’s more POV chapters with Kell. For this reason, I consider Kell the main protagonist and it was huge for me to instantly connect with him. I connect better with female protagonists and so prefer reading books with them. I was thinking to myself why was it so easy to connect with him and came to the conclusion that maybe I’ve never come across one that was believable to me. As well, when the POV’s change I can definitely read a difference in character when it comes to dialogue and thoughts. This can be difficult to attain because of that lingering similarity between character voices. Schwab is exceptional at writing relatable characters.

In this book there exists four worlds Kell can travel to, though we only experience three of them: Red London, White London and Grey London as Black London was thought to be destroyed a long time ago. These colours haven’t been chosen randomly and the reader experiences that. Through Kell and Lila, I could really see the differences and learned the importance of remembering each London is vastly distinct. I have to be honest, White London seems like a very scary and bleak place to live, even when compared to Grey London, a world without magic.

Kell is an Antari, a world jumper or magician able to travel between worlds and belongs to Red London. The only other Antari in existence is Holland, who comes from White London and their relationship is strained, both having dangerous secrets of their own. I loved that in this book, magic comes with a price and Antari must sacrifice blood and pain when world jumping. Another intriguing fact, these worlds exist on top of each other so when traveling to White London, you must already be in Red London. If you want to go to Grey London, you must be in Red. You can’t travel to Black London from Grey or Red, you need to be in White. This made the plot all the more difficult for Kell and Lila and interesting for the reader.

I can’t wait to pick up the sequel, A Gathering of Shadows and find out what’s next for Kell and Lila. Schwab is a master of secrets, so I hope one particular piece of foreshadowing I picked up on is revealed in book #2. There’s a lot of dark elements in A Darker Shade of Magic and I loved every moment of it! I recommend this title to readers wanting a darker fantasy, with incredibly original worlds and intricate characters.

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Oct 15, 2017

humbleworm thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Dec 02, 2016

akzfineart thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

Nov 13, 2016

PayetteStAmour thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Feb 06, 2016

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Nov 16, 2015

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Add Notices

Nov 13, 2016

Other: There is an attempted rape scene early on in the novel.

Nov 13, 2016

Frightening or Intense Scenes: People being turned into monsters, the main villains torture multiple characters throughout the book.

Nov 13, 2016

Sexual Content: There is a vaguely detailed sex scene.

Nov 13, 2016

Violence: Several fight scenes, a lot of death.

Nov 13, 2016

Coarse Language: Several curse words are used throughout, including the f-word.

mvkramer Apr 28, 2016

Violence: Torture, magic battles, and lots of stabby-stabby.


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