A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab is a dark, fast-paced fantasy thriller.
I originally read the 130 page preview about a month ago, and I loved it. I couldn't wait for the book to come out. Then, I got tied up with life things, but I finally managed to finish it today, and oooh boy. How did I manage to split this into more than one sitting? Stupid life.
A Darker Shade of Magic follows Kell -- an antari-- through three of the four Londons. Kell is one of the two people with the ability to travel through the worlds. He is owned by the royal family of Red London (although most of the time they treat him as, and he thinks of himself as, a son). When Kell stumbles upon a piece of Black London--the London that has been closed off due to magic contamination--Kell decides to take it back to Black London. But other forces make it complicated, to say the least.
Schwab's characters are fantastic. They're not all perfect people; they have flaws that put them in danger or make them dangerous. This book is definitely not for the weak of heart. The title does not lie. This is not Harry Potter or The Golden Compass (which although can be dark, are typically fairly light). If Game of Thrones took place in London and featured more magic, I'd say that would be the closest comparison. Magic becomes just another power imbalance: people who have it want more of it, and people who have none will kill for it. Even in Red London where magic is fairly prevalent, the lure of more magic keeps characters looking for more power.
The Dane twins are fantastically creepy antagonists. (I feel like I've read a lot of books with twins lately...is there a resurgence of twins as a trend? ) They are both evil, rapacious, and love to torture.
Lila and Kell are delightful protagonists. Lila does what she wants regardless of what other people think of her, and Kell cares more about other people than himself. While Kell could be construed as too perfect, I think his willingness to put others before himself gets him into too much trouble to actually be perfect (also he has a hidden vengeance streak).
This is the first in a series, however, Schwab manages to wrap up most of the loose ends by the final page. I'm curious to see where she takes the second book: I can only come up with a handful of plots, myself. Even though there is not a title or a release date for the second book, I'm already excited to see more of the characters and more of the world.
I would recommend this to fans of older, more intense, fantasy novels.
Favorite Quote: "What sons our parents have [...] Between the two of us, we'll tear the whole world down."