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Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

April 24, 2015

If you recall my blog post from the beginning of this year, I had resolved to read several new releases. Well, I finally got around to reading one of them, “A Darker Shade of Magic” by Victoria Schwab, and this book made a great first impressiong. This young adult fantasy novel is about Kell, a Traveler, who is one of the last magicians who can travel between different worlds.

The worlds consist mostly of the four different Londons: Red London, where Kell is from and where magic flows and the people prosper; Grey London, a land with almost no magic left and a frosty atmosphere; White London, ruled temporarily by whoever has murdered their way to the throne; and Black London, which has long been lost and sealed up.

The author does an amazing job at building suspense in her novel: She frequently provides short scenes from a nondescript perspective in which the reader is allowed to see the far-reaching effects of important events in the novel. Schwab also nicely balances the action, mystery, and humor. The characters are easily able to maintain a light mood while sparring, and after an intense scene filled with screaming crowds and a gunfight, things calm down and the reader is allowed ample time to recover.

While there are relatively few characters, their more-than-meets-the-eye personalities and striking development easily make up for the scarcity. Kell, the protagonist, grows as a person and discovers much about himself and his limits by the end of the novel. For a 400-page book, the characters learn quite a lot about both themselves and the world around them.

Additionally, everything about this fantasy world is explained clearly and concisely. Oftentimes, with fantasy novels, there’s a load of new terminology and rules that a reader has to learn, and sometimes massive “information dumps” do more harm than good. However, “A Darker Shade of Magic” didn’t have that problem at all! I was able to “assimilate” to the world quickly and without questions.

However, even though the interesting premise and wonderful characters are on point, the book falters in plot progression. Almost the entire first half of the book is setting up the character’s problems and plans, yet the rest of the book fails to deliver. This is somewhat understandable, as the author needed to set up for the rest of the series and not just one novel, but everything was still regrettably slow.

While there were a few issues that I found with the book, I still think that Victoria Schwab delivered a stunning first book in her new series. I will definitely be reading the next book, “A Gathering of Shadows,” as soon as it’s released.

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