A Darker Shade of Magic

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.

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The Silent War

The Silent War feels like a conclusion to the Asteroid Wars ( The Precipice and The Rock Rats ), with the war continuing to escalate to father and father atrocities with even more sides to the conflict than before ( Yamagata is back! If a bit weirdly. ). It’s a bit strange to see what feels like such a conclusion with one book left, but I guess that’s why it’s called The Aftermath ? We’ll just have to see.

Overall, The Silent War is a satisfying enough conclusion to the Asteroid Wars (as a war and as a subseries) building up both the overall conflict and one within the book itself. It’s nice to actually see everything come to a head and I think the conclusion is workable, if a little ridiculous. It really feeds into the idea that behind every powerful corporation is a handful (or one) of powerful men and women really driving things forward.

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The Republic of Thieves

“I don’t expect life to make sense,” he said after a few moments, “but it would certainly be pleasant if it would stop kicking us in the balls.”

The Lies of Locke Lamora was all about revenge and gang warfare. Red Seas Under Red Skies branched out to an Ocean’s Eleven style casino heist and piracy on the high seas. So what do we get in The Republic of Thieves ? Infighting between political factions of mages and election fraud, apparently.

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Children of Blood and Bone

You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. it was thinking we’d never fight back.

Children of Blood and Bone is a rather good book. You have a West African world one generation removed from a genocide which managed to take magic from the world. Radically oppressed former magic users with pockets of resistance here and there–and a main character tossed headfirst into the struggle to return their power.

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The Rock Rats

The Rock Rats continues the story of The Precipice, following the story of humanity’s expansion into the Asteroid Belt and all the atrocities that entails.

Characterwise, this book is all over the place. Pancho is great fun, but we don’t see nearly enough of her. Lars is … kind of crazy and revenge driven, a long descent from liking him well enough in The Precipice. Amanda is pretty great, but only when she’s away from either Lars or Humpries. Of all the marriages in the series thus far, why does this have to be the one to stick beyond a single book? They really don’t make much sense together… Trite as the saying may be, she could do better.

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Jupiter

After the first 8 books in The Grand Tour (Mars in particular), Jupiter feels a bit odd at the start. We’re not building up to the eventual discovery of life–the fact that there’s life on Jupiter is presented fait accompli in the first chapters. And not only life… intelligent life (or so is claimed). Jupiter isn’t really about the discovery of life or even really about the idea of life on a research station around Jupiter.

What Jupiter is really about the conflict between religion and science as humanity continues to expand outwards into the solar system. The New Morality controls the politics of the Earth and is doing everything it can to control the solar system. In doing so, they send Grant Archer–a believer and an astrophysicist–to spy on what in the world is going on far out in the dark reaches of the solar system. There’s conflict between science and religion, both on the large scale with the New Morality and the small scale within Grant himself, especially as he begins to settle in and befriend those living on Jupiter station.

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A Curse of Memories

A Curse of Memories continues the story of The Greatest Sin, this time in a ‘closed house’ sort of murder mystery. Fallen have been killed and now everyone is locked into the Tower until the perpetrator is found. At this point, you’re not (and really shouldn’t) start this far into a series… but if you’ve read this far, this is a more than adequate continuation of the story. It’s only a bummer that (as of this writing), this is the end.

Chivali remains still the real draw of the series. She’s wonderfully snarky and capable of either lying blatantly or making the truth dance as she needs. Take this scene where a truth finder is employed to question her:

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The Precipice

The Precipice does two things rather well: it introduces technology that will change the Grand Tour universe and it makes me actually … kind of like Dan Randolph.

For the former, we finally have one possible solution to the fundamental problem of near future science fiction:

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Illusive Echoes

Illusive Echoes continues following Chivalis second life as an agent of the Fallen, sent on all manner of weird missions throughout the world with her fellow agents. This time around, they have to find a statue of a cat. Made all the more interesting with flavors of gang warfare and corrupt law enforcement and royalty. Pretty crazy. I still want to see more about those Drowned Ones, but at least we get a few hints this time around. Not yet forgotten.

To me, the most interesting part and real draw of these stories remains the interactions between Chivali and the other Fallen.

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Return to Mars

Return to Mars finishes what Mars started–and I really feel like they might have been better as one book. There was such a huge tantalizing idea dangled in front of us in the first book–not only life on Mars, but intelligent life?–only for a rush to the ending so that we never got to actually get answers. At least we do actually get answers in Return to Mars, but in such a way that it really feels like half the same book.

Plotwise, Return to Mars does at least explore some interesting ideas in how Martian exploration may actually take shape in the future, with private backing and a profit motive, rather than as a purely government run, scientific endeavor. It’s an interesting contrast to Mars at least, even if it feels like they’ve taken a number of steps back from the first mission in effort to cut costs (one assumes).

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