[520]: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Tor Books | Hardcover, 400 pp. | February 24th, 2015 | Adult Fiction | Fantasy | Rating 4 out of 5 Stars

Victoria Schwab is one of those authors who consistently makes book reviewing a difficult job. For one, I have a hard time explaining exactly what it was I just read. And two, I always fall short of adjectives; three, I have a tendency of repeating myself. More often, she confounds me. She has the gift of hypnosis; the kind that would make you fall in love with story elements that you normally wouldn’t. To be honest, the narrative is pretty dry. But I can’t help but enjoy her characters’ trains of thought. Or her train of thought, by extension. Also, I need romance, all right? I need it  like I need a semi colon in a sentence that I’m powerless to end.  This is her second book that didn’t offer a smidgeon of swoon. But for some asinine reason, I dug it.

For those of you who haven’t read this book yet, I will not bore you with what the story was about. Besides, I don’t freaking know where to start.

As you can tell from the title, this book is about magic. I know what you’re thinking. Magic is not exactly a novelty nowadays. But if you’ve ever considered reading this book with every expectations of applying what you’ve read about magic in the past, I’ll say, you’ll be sorely disappointed. More than likely, you’ll be lost. Because this magic is a different beast altogether. Schwab grabbed it by her hands and beat it like it owes her money.

In this world, London is a city that exists in parallel dimensions. They are classified according to colours: Red London, Grey London, White London, and Black London. Each dimension increasingly more perilous than the last. Not a lot of people can travel through these universes. Kell is one of the last Travelers. Because of this ability, he can smuggle goods from one London to another. It is during one of his missions that he was charged with treason.

Kell is one of those closed-off characters. You never really get to know him other than what the author tells us. I mean, I know that’s how characters are made, but in Kell’s case, it’s like you can feel he doesn’t want to tell you much. It’s almost like he resents Schwab for sharing pieces of himself. In a way, Lila is about the same, but where Kell is resolute, Lila at least  humours the readers.  They’re a quirky couple, but don’t get your hopes up. No floating hearts above their heads, I’m afraid.

A Darker Shade of Magic is probably not going to amuse the majority, but if you’re looking for an extraordinary novel about an extraordinary world, look no further than this book. Victoria Schwab  is a fantastic story spinner. Her characters are every bit as compelling as her intricate storyline.



  • I’ve only read The Archived by her, but I’ve heard so many good things about all her books. I hear ADSOM sold incredibly well on its first month that they ordered a second printing… that sounds incredible. I hope I get to read this soon.

  • I read Tika’s review of ADSOM and I got too overwhelmed to read it for some reason. It’s a thing with me when it comes to fantasy novels, I find them a little intimidating. But I do want to pick this up… maybe soon, hopefully. 😀 Wonderful review, as always!

  • I have a need for romance too but I head so many great things about the characters and the magic system in this one so I can’t wait to get it!

  • I’ve had Vicious for sometime and I really want to get to it because I’ve heard great things. I usually need romance in my books as well, but this sounds unique and so I might enjoy it in spite of it being missing here. Fab review, Joy! 🙂

  • I want to read this so bad but I don’t think I’d be able to review it because it does sound awesome. And since you’re a better writer than I am and it robbed you of words, then I think I would be a babbling mess .

  • Good to see you enjoyed this one. The magical aspect has me intrigued. Nice review Joy 🙂

    Naomi @ Naomi’s Reading Palace

  • Uh oh, I have a copy of this one and I never got past the second chapter 🙁 I tried reading it three different times but it’s too complex fantasy for me which is depressing. I might give it one last go seeing your awesome review though 🙂

  • I like there to be at least a little romance in books, too, so I’m glad this one still worked for you despite not having any. Everyone seems to love this novel and I’ve already heard of some potential ships 🙂 The premise of the multiple dimensions of London seems awesome, too. I’m so excited to read this one!

  • Christy

    I’m going to read this. I am!! I even bought it at full price, so you know I’m determined. lol

  • Gorgeous review Joy. <3 I'm so happy that you mostly loved this book 😀 YAY for finding it, lol, and then reading it too. <3 I loved it oh so much. Sigh. It's such a stunning story 🙂 I LOVED Kell. <3 I do think there will turn out to be a romance, though 😉 Well. I hope. <3 Fingers crossed 🙂 Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3

  • Hahaha, oh Joy, that was a fantastic review! 🙂 I’ve read so many good reviews on this book. Now you’ve just reaffirmed that I absolutely need to read it!

  • Yep – I pretty much fell in love with this book and now need to hunt down her other books! I wan’t more about that Black London – imagine in her hands what it’s going to be like… I’m so glad you loved this too.
    Great review 🙂

  • Wow, if this hooked you even with the lack of romance, I know I’ll absolutely love this one as well Joy. The world building sounds absolutely incredible! That’s one aspect why I’m usually drawn to dystopian and lately fantasy as well, the vivid world an author creates completely sucks me in. Do you think it would have benefited even more from a subtle romance thrown in as well? Absolutely lovely review Joy, I especially loved ‘I need it like I need a semi colon in a sentence that I’m powerless to end.’ So beautiful <3

  • This is actually new to me but I’m starting to get back into reviewing after being out of the game for a bit. I love the sound of this and the ways in which London is divided. Also a new way of looking of magic is great. This is a great review. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great review Joy!, I still haven´t read any of her books, but I own Vicious, so I hope to read one of her books soon-ish.

  • Everyone is loving this book and I confess that after all the great reviews, I’m starting to be really really curious! I need to try!

  • I’ve already fallen in love with Schwab’s words ever since I read her Vicious. I’m 30% into this book myself and absolutely love it. There’s really no comparison when it comes to AU fantasies like hers! I wish she and Brandon Sanderson would collaborate… that would be EPIC.

    Faye at The Social Potato

  • Great review. I’ve always considered her writing…different. Unique in a sense. I started Vicious and am already feeling so engrossed. This one seems really interesting too. Gonna check it out 🙂

  • I really need to get on board and read this author. I don’t know why I haven’t yet. Something just holds me back. But you guys are slowly breaking me down …

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  • ” Schwab grabbed it by her hands and beat it like it owes her money. ” I literally busted out laughing when I read that! I’m so glad you were able to enjoy the story. I thought I was going to miss the aspect of a romance, but I was so captivated by everything else, that it didn’t even cross my mind. I honestly think that Lila and Kell are going to grow into something more. I’ll bet money that SOMETHING will eventually happen between the two! Great review as usual Joy 🙂

  • I’ve actually read a lot of great reviews for this and some that weren’t so great, either way, I really think I want to try it or at the very least, try this author. I love that her writing is so magical.

  • “Also, I need romance, all right? I need it like I need a semi colon in a sentence that I’m powerless to end. ”

    ME TOO JOY!!! So I’m of course a little bummed that we don’t get any romance in this one, but it sounds like the story is still hugely successful without it. Maybe we’ll get a slow build up in future books 😉 *holds out hope*

  • Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Joy. I didn’t think it would be the book for me, but wow, it certainly managed to impress me in many ways. I liked Kell’s character. I think he really made the book for me + the wolrd building was outstanding. I’m looking forward to reading book 2!
    Lovely review, Joy! 🙂

  • This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year! Although I have to admit I love VICIOUS even more. Sydney is still one of my all time favorite characters in fiction.

  • Haha I always have a hard time finding the right adjectives so I guess that means I should start carrying around a list if then with me when I do reviews, eh? And parallel universes and couple that with the fact that it takes place in London and we have a recipe for a good time. 😉

  • I am so excited about this book, I recently won a copy and can’t wait to pick it up. The way it handles and revolutionizes magic sounds really fascinating and the parallel dimensions, sounds like it was done well. I love alternate realities and they are often too confusing or done too poorly, but for you to like it is promising. Wonderful review Joy!

  • “Schwab grabbed it by her hands and beat it like it owes her money.” Haha, love this! I always have a hard time describing her novels too, but I usually find myself totally engrossed and enjoying them. Lovely review!

  • When this book first came out I was very disinterested and wasn’t even going to bother trying it out. But it seems I have been mistaken because even though her writing isn’t perfect a lot of people have ended up loving her books so I have to try them! I am glad they captivate you so much 🙂

  • I had the same problem. How to even explain it