I have been meaning to pick up A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab for ages now. I have seen repeated reviews of it and all have been great. The idea of separate Londons connected my magic was interesting to me. I finally got around to buying it and I am so glad that I did. It was one of those books I continuously picked up just to read one more chapter. I was always wondering what was going to happen next. The characters are complex and have so much potential. I am halfway through the second book in the series and so far it is living up to my expectations.
In A Darker Shade of Magic, there are four Londons. There is Red London, Grey London, White London and Black London. Each one has a different relationship to magic. Grey London has no magic. Red London is the ideal place to live. It has a balance of magic and the power that comes with it. White London is being eaten alive by the magic in its borders. Black London is a legend, consumed by magic long ago.
Kell is an Antari from Red London. He is one of the select few who can travel between all the Londons. He also is one of the most powerful throughout the Londons, able to control all aspects of magic. He comes into possession of an artifact from Black London and has to get it back before it destroys him and his home.
Lila is a thief from Grey London who become entangled in Kell’s mess. She is desperate for freedom and adventure. She quickly learns that this desire can be more dangerous than she initially anticipated.
There are a number of aspects I love about this story. One of my favorite parts is that magic has a literal life of its own. Magic is not just a force that can be used by a select few. It lives. Those who use it have to talk with it and form a relationship in order for it to work with them. It even has its own language.
Magic becomes its own character. I love this idea. Much of the time magic is a force that is a tool for the characters. It may be said to live, but in this story it actually does. It is not something that just needs to be harnessed, it needs to be respected. Magic is one-half of a partnership. Kell knows how to speak with the magic so it works with him, not for him.
Magic has its own wants and needs. We see all the angles of magic and its life. This was one of the most fascinating parts of this story for me. It was refreshing to see a new take on magic. I am eager to see how this evolves in the future books.
Lila has to be my favorite character. She is strong, stubborn and independent. She does not let anyone push her around. She is sassy and will argue if she feels it necessary. No one gets to tell her what to do. Lila does not like to be indebted to anyone, she wants to control her own life. She doesn’t want to need anyone.
Lila forms a complex relationship with Kell. She needs him once she is displaced from her own. He has the information she needs to survive and she fights the idea of needing him. She fights the idea but also begins to understand that sometimes you do need other people. I am interested to see how Lila continues to balance this idea with the independent side of herself.
Kell is also a great character. He lives with the royal family. While Rhy (the prince) considers him a brother, the king and queen have created a distance between themselves and him. This was an interesting dynamic to read. It puts Kell in a difficult position that really affects his character.
Kell has an obsession with smuggling artifacts between the Londons. This is what gets him into the trouble that he battles throughout this book. Kell is not quite sure who he is. He has no memories of his true past, he lives in a family that only kind of wants him. Kell struggles to figure out an identity for himself.
Both Kell and Lila are floating along to find a purpose. When he meets Lila he meets someone who is struggling with many of the same issues he is. I am interested to see how their relationship progresses throughout the books. I am sure they both are going to help each other come to terms with certain aspects of themselves.
In this book, there is the barest hint of what is going to come next when it comes to the plot. What is more interesting and, what is making me continue to read, is how these characters are going to develop. Who will Kell and Lila become and how will they help each other to grow.