4.5 out of 5 stars.
Written by Victoria Schwab, ‘A Darker Shade of Magic‘ is the story of Kell and Lila, two very different yet similar people from two very different Londons. There are four worlds and Kell is one of only two people, known as Antari, who can travel between them. In each world, no matter the name of the country, there is always one constant – there is always a city called London. Kell is from Red London, where magic is in perfect balance with power and Kell lives in the palace as an adopted member of the royal family. After making a mistake in the vicious White London, Kell finds himself in Grey London where he meets Lila Bard – a cut-throat and thief trying to find adventure.
This book was interesting, to say the least. There were a lot of moments when I was unable to properly mentally function because the tension had rattled me so much. I was almost constantly anxious for Kell and Lila with each turn of the page because the story was so ruthless in each direction it took.
Despite a few grammatical errors here and there, overall the story was very well written. For the most part, the pacing of the story held up nicely – it wasn’t until the last third of the book that things felt as though they were being rushed. For the majority of the novel, everything felt as though it was happening at a proper pace; it didn’t feel as though information or action was being shoved down my throat. There was a point to what detail was given and what was left out, and that made all the difference towards the end of the novel. The only point that the pacing slipped up was during some fight scenes. Certain characters made mistakes that seemed entirely out of character, which gave Kell the advantage he needed. It was all very deus ex machina.
The characters themselves were all brilliant. I did find myself slipping into a frame of mind A LOT over the duration of the novel where I just wanted to scream “GOD DAMN IT, KELL” but that added to my appreciation of his character. He felt a little childish and whiny at first, and that feeling grew during the middle of the novel until he realised what a clod he was being. Despite that, Kell was certainly a very cool character – his magic was interesting, his sharp personality was amazing, and his coat is freaking cool.
To counter Kell’s personality, Lila was a ruthless badass. From the get-go, Lila was a very strong female character who took surviving very seriously. She was mysterious and cunning, a talented thief and a good fighter. Her character development was very well rounded, and I liked that – despite growing as a character – at the very end of the novel she was still the same old Lila that she was at the beginning.
The villains were a tad predictable, unfortunately. They felt pretty standard.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It was the first book I have ever read from Victoria Schwab and I wasn’t disappointed, thankfully. There is a lot that could be improved on plot-wise but nothing left me feeling like I needed more answers. Everything rounds out nicely – whether that is a good or bad thing, I’m not entirely sure on. All I know is, I am looking forward to book two and to picking up whatever else Victoria Schwab has to offer.