Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by VE Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab is book 1 of her Shades of Magic trilogy, and I picked it up a while back when it was available as a freebie. She's also one of those authors whom I've been wanting to try out awhile now, and I'm very glad that I've had this opportunity. (I also rushed out immediately to pick up book 2, once I was done with book 1, so that says something about the calibre of the writing.)

There are many Londons – Black London, which has been locked away for a very good reason; White London, where there are ruthless practitioners of magic; Red London, where there seems to be a healthy balance between magic and user; and of course Grey London, which is as the name suggests – where magic is rare. Magic is hungry, and wants to be used, but it's mainly the province of the Antari, master magicians who are able to walk between the various Londons. But the Antari are few, and it seems that they are a dying breed. Very soon there will be no contact between the various dimensions. And maybe that is as it should be.

Lila Bard is a crossdressing cutthroat and thief in Grey London, and she wants more from life. Perhaps she would have remained in her dimension if it weren't for the day she crossed paths with Kell, and the two get plunged into a quest that threatens the integrity of all the Londons. More than that, I won't say, except that Schwab has created a wonderful, well-realised setting where she twists and turns her narrative around every corner, and pulls the proverbial rug from beneath readers' feet effortlessly.

A Darker Shade of Magic never lets you get truly comfortable, taking readers on a journey from any of the various Londons' underbellies right up into the royal palaces, with many narrow squeaks and danger stalking around every corner. While it took me a few chapters to get to know and like both Kell and Lila, by the end of book 1 I was enjoying the dynamics between the two very much, and I'm sufficiently invested to carry on finding out how these two will continue – and I have my suspicions about Lila, but I'm not going to spoil anything about the story. A thoroughly enjoyable, engaging read, and I'm a firm fan of Schwab's writing from here on in.

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