My rating: ★★★☆☆
Not going to lie, I picked up this book based off the hype for the third book in the series, A Conjuring of Light. Schwab’s other titles like Vicious have had some pretty great reviews, so unfortunately I went in with some pretty high standards, which I feel definitely coloured my opinion of A Darker Shade of Magic.
Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.
There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–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, ambassador of the Maresh empire, 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. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, 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.
When I picked up ADSoM, I was pretty desperate to get into something new after my darn Sanderson burn. I literally bought the book, got home, and started reading straight away. Had no idea what it was about or what to expect, I didn’t even read the blurb – and unfortunately for the first hundred or so pages, I was thoroughly confused. The vehicle for the story is the concept of inter-dimensional travel, and this was not communicated very effectively until well into the novel. Only when I read a description of the book (wasn’t until about half way) did I realise that this was the case, I thought they had some kind of caste system based on colours (think, Red Rising, Divergent, Red Queen, etc.). I can understand that the intent may have been to convey mysterious magic, but this was so mysterious that it lost me.
Fortunately, however, the novel does get much better after that first half. While it does fall a bit short in world building, the characters were enjoyable, my favourites being the Dane twins of the White world – they reminded me a lot of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. The latter half makes up for pace which was definitely lacking in the first half, and ends up being a pretty good read.
ADSoM suffers a bit of the shallowness that a lot of first-book-in-series’ do, but I do love the concept and Schwab writes quite well. I’ll be continuing into the series with high hopes 🙂