A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Release Date: 24 February, 2015
Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands. There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London…but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.
I obtained a 130-page preview (the first third!) of this novel via NetGalley, and am I ever glad the author went with 130 pages – she was given the choice to end the sample 50 pages sooner, and I think I would have thrown my kindle in angst if she had! I’ve read everything by V. E. Schwab (also known as Victoria Schwab) so far (even her books for middle-grade, that’s how good she is – anything is very readable no matter what age it’s aimed at) and each book somehow keeps getting better than the last – even if the last book is easily one of my favourites for that year.
This book really reminds me of Scott Lynch’s style in The Lies of Locke Lamora – Schwab has said she’d a fan of his work previously, and here you can see the beauty of descriptions of the places visited, the richness of the items that dominate the rooms.
A Darker Shade of Magic shows the reader four versions of London (well, one’s now lost) and those who can walk through the magic that separates them, delivering letters and tokens between the royalty that presides over that particular London. Kell is one such man who can travel between these worlds. We also meet Holland briefly who has the same ability, marked by one eye that’s completely black – white and iris and all.
Then there’s Lila, a cross-dressing, pick-pocket who speaks directly to my heart as she aspires to be a pirate.
This is easily the most anticipated book for 2015. I’ve pre-ordered four copies – paperback, hardback, kindle and iBook versions. Because this is a book I’ll need on every platform, it’s printed in such a beautiful way (the title and chapter page illustrations are just wow) that I’ll need it in hardback, and then I’ll need a paperback to fling at people so I can get as many people as possible to read it.
Check this one out. It’s going to be so dang excellent.