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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Review by Michelle

darker shade of magic book cover

If you are into fantasy, adventure, parallel realities, and twisted magic, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is definitely the book for you. This is the first book in a trilogy that will have you astounded and speechless by the end. A Darker Shade of Magic is a book written for adults and young adults, but as a teen, I was able to understand everything and love it intensely. The setting is beautifully written and fantastical, the plot is intriguing and dark, and the characters are relatable, flawed, loveable, diverse, and well-written. The fantasy and attention to detail in this book are unlike anything I’ve ever read and so uniquely imaginative. Bestselling author, Deborah Harkness even commented, “This is a book to treasure” which makes it on the cover of the book. 

Before getting into a general overview of the plot, the setting must be discussed. As I previously mentioned, the attention to detail is sublime and thorough. This helps paint a vivid image in your head while reading. The book has four alternate realities of London, which are: Grey London, Red London, White London, and Black London. Grey London is our reality, but set in the 1800s during the reign of the old King George III. This reality is without magic or even much knowledge about it, or the other realities. Red London is the reality from which the protagonist is from, thriving with magic and very prosperous. White London is being starved of all magic and dying off, becoming a brutal place where everyone's for themselves. Black London has become almost forgotten ever since it was corrupted with pure magic. Each reality is geographically identical, but all the buildings and territories outside of London are different. Each London has their own unique language, culture, music, clothing, traditions, and much more. The author did a marvelous job at bringing these worlds to life with so much detail. There are a few types of magic that present itself throughout the story. The first type is elemental: control over air, fire, water, earth, or bones. Most people have some control over one or even two of these elements, especially in Red London. But control over bones is forbidden, because it gives too much control over people to those who have it. The next type of magic is the magic of the Antari, who are magicians able to master all the elements and are the only ones who can travel between the realities. The Antari must use their blood and a token from the reality in which they wish to enter to travel between. Both of the elemental and Antari magic are random and not inherited. There are also some objects that are magical, mainly in Red London. For example, the main character has a coat with an infinite amount of sides, allowing him to change the style or color, while remaining one coat. The last type of magic is black magic, the dark force that long ago corrupted Black London. Black magic has almost no limits and is nearly unstoppable, yet desirable. This magic brings a much darker mood on the book and brings a unique take on the paranormal. 

The story follows the protagonist, Kell, a young man and one of the last of the Antari. Kell serves as a messenger between the London’s and was raised among Red London’s royal family. But when he falls for a trap and ends up with a magical stone from Black London, he manages to escape to Grey London. While there, Lila Bard, a thief who dreams of becoming a pirate, robs him of the relic which possesses limitless power. Kell eventually retrieves the stone from Lila, but ends up fighting an old rival. Lila saves him and, due to her thirst for adventure, in return convinces him to take her to his reality. But black magic spreads throughout the realities and the characters pursue many adventures as they try to stop it from plaguing the worlds. This book is full of fantasy, mystery and adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat and wanting more. 

There isn’t a single part of this book that I didn’t like, which is a very rare thing for me to say. When I think back on this book and its sequels, I remember vivid images in my mind of what happened, like I was in the book itself and seeing everything rather than reading it. V.E. Schwab is an incredible writer who knows how to entice you and does an exceptional job at illustrating stories through her words. Some of my favorite parts were the setting and the plot since they were so detailed and intriguing. I rate this book a 10/10. It was extraordinary and I highly, highly recommend it to other teens and adults! 

Checkout A Darker Shade of Magic from the Newport Beach Public Library.

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