A Darker Shade of Magic is a surprisingly fantastic book–and I mean that in the true sense of the word fantastic.
The core worldbuilding conceit of the book is that of four parallel worlds, specifically four Londons. Gray London (our London?), a dull world with little to no magic left; Red London, with magic full of life; White London, with a more sharp and controlling feel; and lost Black London. The feel and description of each London really makes the book, with Schwab evoking each London with colors and scents and even feelings. It’s a really interesting take and done rather well.
And while the magic of each world has its own distinct feel, they’re fascinating to read. In particular, there are a few artifacts, which Schwab has quite a way of describing.
Kell wore a very peculiar coat. It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible. The first thing he did whenever he stepped out of one London and into another was take off the coat and turn it inside out once or twice (or even three times) until he found the side he needed. Not all of them were fashionable, but they each served a purpose. There were ones that blended in and ones that stood out, and one that served no purpose but of which he was just particularly fond.
Speaking of Kell, the main characters are quite a draw as well. Kell, is a Red Londer is one of only two (known) people born with a natural ability to travel between worlds. Since the doors were closed ever since Black London fell, his abilities are even more unique. So of course what does he use them for? Smuggling. And carrying messages between the Royalty of each London, but we all know his real goals. I can see a lot of myself in Kell, which is always a good reason to read a book.
Then there is Lila. Oh Lila.
I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.
She certainly is rather quoteable.
“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”
She’s a thief from Gray London and there are hints of quite a bit more, although I expect it will take until A Gathering of Shadows or A Conjuring of Light until we get all those answers. I certainly look forward to it.
“Delilah Bard,” she said. “We’ve met before. And you looked worse.”
Rhy laughed silently. “I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”
“I apologize for shooting you in the leg,” said Lila. “I was myself entirely.”
Rhy broke into his perfect smile. “I like this one,” he said to Kell. “Can I borrow her?”
“You can try,” said Lila, raising a brow. “But you’ll be a prince without his fingers.”
Overall, it’s a crazy book that could stand alone, but works even better making me want to read the sequels. Fun worldbuilding and great characters. Well worth the read.