Review: A Darker Shade of Magic


Four Londons. One is permanently sealed – corrupted by magic gone wild. A second is a brutal place where magic is fought over in powers of dominance. The third is a pinnacle of a magical civilisation and the last is grey, bereft of magic.

V.E.Schwab’s novel mixes some clever conceits; parallel worlds, people with rare magical gifts and a looming existential threat. Ostensibly it is set in the Regency period of English history but it spends very little time in ‘Grey London’. Instead, we are thrown quickly into a game of intrigue and magical duels between the benevolent monarchy of Red London and the vicious twin warlords of White London.

After an initially slow world building section in which the central character Kell moves between the three London’s he has access to, the pace picks up enormously. Murderous pickpocket Delilah Bard has ambitions to become a pirate but her theft of a dangerous MacGuffin carried by Kell embroils her in the conflict. As we follow her experiences from our own grey world to the pageantry of Red London to the oppressive violence of White London, the three Londons are given more shape and distinctive character.

Exciting, fun and well paced. A good read. I started straight away on the sequel.



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