Hannah’s Novel Notions: A Review of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Hannah's Novel Notions A Review of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Shwab

Okay guys, I have a question for you. It’s very important. First, I need you to look at the below image, paying close attention to the character’s head (this is a zoom-in on the cover for A Darker Shade of Magic): Darker Shade


Done studying it? Now, please tell me. Your answer is of vital importance:

Does the character look like he has animal ears to you? Because, seriously, he doesn’t have animal ears in the book, but that’s what I see every time I look at the cover. What do you think? I can’t decide.

I guess it’s not that important, really. The question that is important is this: Was the book any good?

In a word: Sure.

Don’t worry, I’ll expand. Here’s a brief overview of the plot:

Kell is one of the only remaining Antari, a magician who has the power to move between parallel worlds. There are four London’s: Kell’s home, Red London, a healthy world steeped in magic ruled by a just King and Queen. There is Grey London, a dull, magicless place. White London, a city full of powerful, frightening magic that cannot quite be controlled, ruled by cruel, ruthless siblings. And Black London, a place consumed and destroyed by dark magic.

Kell has traveled to all of these Londons save Black London, carrying messages back and forth between the royals. But that isn’t all he carries: He smuggles objects back and forth between each London, an illegal undertaking that allows others to possess items from worlds they’ll never see and that allows Kell to feel like something other than a royal errand boy.

But smuggling has it’s consequences. Kell finds a relic from Black London, a powerful stone that has the power to tear all three London’s apart. On his quest to return it to it’s home, Kell meets up with Lila Bard, a strange cut-purse who thirsts after adventure and desires to move as far away from Grey London as possible.

Together, they must keep the stone away from Holland, an Antari working for White London, while also finding a way to send the stone back to Black London, whose portals have been closed for years. But this stone holds great power and makes their task far more difficult than originally anticipated. After all, this is an ancient, cruel magic. A darker shade of magic.

-Drawn in 2015 - Kell from the book
Kell opening a portal. Art by Rizala.

I really enjoyed the concept of this story. Four parallel London’s? How fun is that? Schwab’s writing style was very good: nothing flashy, but perfect for conveying lots of action.

A Darker Shade of Magic was the kind of book that I mostly enjoyed as I was reading it. However, once I finished it, a few things started to bug me.

The characters felt flat to me. There was no growth: Each character ended the story in exactly the same position that they started, except for Holland, one of the kind-of villains. He was the most complex character and he got very little story time, which made me sad.

Kell and Lila were both very interesting characters with great backstories, and yet we never really get to know them. They generally lacked layered emotions or any kind of deep thoughts. I’m not sure how that happened. It was very odd.

That being said, most of this book was based around action scenes and interesting magic, so maybe the characters got shoved to the side during the creation process. The magic system is very interesting, as are the contrasts between each London. I enjoyed getting to explore the worlds and the magic.

And, of course, no review of A Darker Shade of Magic would be complete without a comment on Kell’s coat. That thing is so dang cool. You know how some coats are reversible, giving you the option to wear one of two sides? Well, his coat has dozens of sides. Yeah. I don’t know why that makes me happy, but it does.

A quick note on the genre: This book is part of the genre that seems to be growing very popular: Adult Fantasy. In case you can’t tell by the name, this type of fantasy is geared towards adults. That means that the world has a more realistic, gritty feel. Often, authors think that the only way to do that is through sexual innuendo. Though not rampant in A Darker Shade of Magic, this element was still there. The sexy evil queen, the flirtatious, Hannah's Novel Notions A Review of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Shwabbisexual prince, the riffraff hitting on the female lead, the female lead hitting on the male lead. C’mon, people. Not only is that annoying, but it’s very cliche. This story had a lot of great elements. It didn’t need to go there to keep things interesting.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. This book has great worldbuilding, good action scenes, a neat premise, but is somewhat lacking in the character development and meaningful message department.

A lot of people still love it, though, and I think most readers will enjoy this book. In fact, A Darker Shade of Magic will be converted into a TV series by Gerard Butler’s G-Base productions. I don’t have any further information on it, but I do think that this book was perfectly set up for a conversion to film. I’m interested to see what happens.

Have you read A Darker Shade of Magic? What did you think? Don’t forget to weigh in on the cover and tell me whether those are animal ears or whether I need to go see the eye doctor. Please. It’s driving me nuts.


A Princess of Mars Rating


Hannah Heath – bookworm and author



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