Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic, book #1
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Source: ARC received from author
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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.

I knew going into this book that I was going to love it. I've loved everything I've read of Victoria's -- which includes The Archived books, Vicious, her Twitter feed and which is soon to include The Near Witch -- so I had a pretty good inkling that this book was going to be my cup of tea. But when you read a summary like that above, and see the author explain the book in her own words as "pirates, thieves, and sadist kings," you pretty much know you can't go wrong with said book.

And I am now ferociously, 100% in love with A Darker Shade of Magic. I feel like I'm cheating on Mac and Wesley and Victor Vale, but I'm only being honest in saying that this is my new favorite of hers. Some may find the pacing a bit slow in the beginning, but it's fantasy and the world-building is epic. It has to be, since V is paving the way for not one London but three -- technically four but we'll get to that -- and all three are vastly different and require so much descriptive text to make each one stand apart. If you're having trouble with that in the beginning, I suggest you read Victoria's post about laying the foundation of a fantasy story and her hopes that you'll find the build-up worth it in the end. I sure did.
"Bad magic, Kell had called it.
No, thought Lila now. Clever magic."
-- p. 152 of ARC
Then, of course, there are the magic systems. It's seriously amazing how much awesome Schwab can fit into her books and still leave you wanting more every single time. There's the magic that people like Kell possess and harness within themselves. Kell is only one of two Antari left with these powers, but others in Red London can manipulate the elements. Those in Gray London have no magic whatsoever, and the residents of White London who have magic to call their own wield it as a weapon. But worst of all is the black magic, the bad magic of the Black London that no longer exists -- or at least whose existence has been wiped from the other three Londons. It is truly a force to be reckoned with.

As are the characters in this novel. The complexity of her characters, and what drives them, is one of my favorite aspects of Victoria's writing. You can just feel her passion for her characters -- and their stories -- radiating off the pages. As with Vicious, there are some seriously blurred lines and tons of gray areas in ADSOM, where it's not necessarily about good and evil, right and wrong, but more about what one has to do to survive. And Schwab always makes it a struggle for her characters, which in turn makes for great reading.
"A lavish kindness, your highness, but I am better left a specter than made a show." Kell tipped his head so that his copper hair tumbled out of his eyes, revealing not only the crisp blue of the left one but the solid black of the right. A black that ran edge to edge, filling white and iris both. There was nothing human about that eye. It was pure magic. The mark of a blood magician. Of an Antari."
-- p. 22-23 of ARC
I am in love with Kell. There. I said it. He is beautiful and he is magical and he is a smuggler of artifacts. Also, he has the most amazing coat that is really several coats in one -- so many that even he doesn't know how many really exist in the coat's depths. Kell is the would-be hero of the story, with loyalties that run deep, even if he is disobeying the laws of every London by continuing to trade in goods from each, including his own. His ability to travel between the Londons is a freedom he deserves and craves, yet it only serves to add to his loneliness. Kell is determined and strong of character, but I liked seeing him in a more vulnerable state at times because it meant that he had to let someone in, that he might find an end to that loneliness.
"Looking for trouble, he's say. You're gonna look till you find it.
Trouble is the looker, she'd answer. It keeps looking till it finds you. Might as well find it first.
Why do you want to die?
I don't, she'd say. I just want to live.
-- p. 62 of ARC
I don't think there ever was a quote that embodied a character more than that one. If I'm in love with Kell, than I want to be Lila Bard. Wanna-be pirate. Thief. All around badass. Yep, it sounds like a pretty awesome existence to me, especially once she meets Kell and forces him to take her on his adventure, even as he tries to convince her of just how dangerous a trip it is. Plus, she gets all the best lines. =) Though Kell can be pretty fierce, too, when the situation warrants.
"It's because you're a human," he snapped. "Because you may be the bravest, boldest soul I've ever met, but you're still too much flesh and blood and too little power. Astrid Dane is made of magic and malice."
-- p. 325 of ARC
They may have started out as thief and smuggler and altogether reluctant companions, but an uneasy alliance soon grows into something akin to friendship and possibly something that borders on more. This is an adult novel with quite a bit of violence but very little in the way of romance, though. I'd be fine with keeping Kell all to myself, but I wouldn't be put out to see something more develop between him and Lila.
Kell threw his arms around her. And for a second, only a second, she didn't pull away, didn't threaten to stab him. For a second, and only a second, she hugged him back.
"What are you?" he asked, amazed.
Lila only shrugged. "Stubborn."
-- p. 387 of ARC
Basically, this book was everything I was hoping for and more. My review could never do it justice, but I think the fact that I flagged the hell out of my ARC might give you some indication as to just how much I loved this story, if my words don't. I pretty much wanted to highlight everything as I was reading, and when I was done, I was left with this feeling of utter satisfaction, like I'd just read a story that was written just for me, that hit all the right notes, and that I ultimately know I'll end up reading again and again. I've already pre-ordered both the US and UK finished copies, and if you've loved any of Victoria Schwab's previous books or you just love a really well-written fantasy novel with epic world-building and characters, I suggest you do the same. You do not want to miss this book.

GIF it to me straight:

About the author:

I am the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, I have been known to say “tom-ah-toes”, “like”, and “y’all”. I also suffer from a wicked case of wanderlust, made worse by the fact that wandering is a good way to stir up stories. When I’m not haunting Paris streets or trudging up English hillsides, I’m usually tucked in the corner of a coffee shop, dreaming up monsters.

My first YA novel, THE NEAR WITCH, a dark original fairy tale, debuted with Disney*Hyperion in August 2011, and is now out in paperback.

My next YA novel, THE ARCHIVED, is the first book in a new supernatural series about a world where the dead are shelved like books, and it hits stores January 2013, also with Disney*Hyperion.

My first adult novel, VICIOUS, about two brilliant and highly disturbed pre-med students who set out to generate their own superpowers and end up mortal enemies, is out in hardcover from Tor September 2013.

I have more books coming out in 2014, but I’ll get to those later.

These days, when someone asks me what I do when I’m NOT writing, I just kind of laugh nervously. But in truth, on the odd occasion I’m not typing away, I’m probably baking cookies, or watching BBC shows, or wandering. (See how we came full circle, there?)

Find Victoria:

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  1. I hope my copy arrives soon! =D Great review!

  2. So I loved everything about this review. I am so gonna have to read this book. I love all the lines from the book. great choices. and I am in love with Kell too... just from your review and quotes.

  3. I'm so glad you loved it! I've heard great things about this book and I'm so excited to read it when it comes out in a few weeks. I have always been amazed by the complex and interesting worlds that Victoria Schwab is able to create and it sounds like here she has done it again. I'm so excited to meet Kell and Lila and fall in love with them too! Great review.

  4. Wonderful review! I got a chance thanks to Netgalley to read the first 131 pages and just wow. Sounds like the interactions with Kell and Lila are some of the best parts of the book. Thanks for including quotes. Now I so neeeeed to read the end! (My e key sticks, but I left it this time because it fits ;) )

  5. I have only vaguely heard about his book so it was good to dive in and read a full blown review! I love the idea of great world building, even when it comes into where magic is put into play. I haven't read any of this authors books but now I intend to!


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