A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – A Spoiler Free Book Review

“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” he asked Lila now.
She looked at him as if it were a strange question. And then she shook her head. “Death comes for everyone,” she said simply. “I’m not afraid of dying. But I am afraid of dying here.” She swept her hand over the room, the tavern, the city. “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”
― Victoria Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars


Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–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, ambassador of the Maresh empire, 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. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive. – Taken from Goodreads.


I don’t think I can write this review quick enough. I want to get all of my thoughts and feelings out so I can start reading A Gathering of Shadows asap. What was taking me so long to read this book? I have no clue. But, I regret putting it off.

Let me just start off by saying going into this book I already knew I loved Victoria Schwab. This love affair started many moons ago with The Archived in 2014. Up until this point I had read all of Victoria Schwab’s young adult novels as well as her adult fantasy novel Vicious and I loved each and every one of them. However, the Shades of Magic series went mostly ignored by me. But, I made it a point to start this series in January. And I fell in love.

Schwab’s writing is like no other. She builds a world around you that feels three dimensional. You can picture every piece of the puzzle. The worlds she build feel full and expansive. They are filled with individual people who aren’t merely plot points. Schwab’s worlds are often based upon our own. She takes what you already know and spins it on it’s head. What results is a view on society without the rose colored lenses. These worlds are not clearly good nor bad. People are not wholly good nor bad. They are merely reactions to events and history.

The idea of this novel is a concept that seems so simple yet is very complex. What I mean by that is Schwab has a way of marrying fantastical elements in a way that just make sense. You don’t have to try to figure out how the magic system works or why the society behaves the way it does. Yet, she does this without info-dumping. Honestly, at the end of this novel I was left marveling at all of the information I obtained in this novel without every feeling inundated.

Part of the ease of reading her novels comes from the characters. I love the way Schwab writes her characters. They are not defined by one individual element. They are layers of years of experiences that come together to create a person. They are constantly evolving in ways that feel wholly organic.

In this novel I adored Holland and Lila. Holland is what would classically be viewed as a villain, or at least a villain’s pawn, but he is so much more than that. The important parts of Holland’s character was revealed to us ,not through dialogue or description, but through his expressions. Schwab finely tuned her knowledge of this character that she charmed me to him through his facial expressions! If that’s not impressive I don’t know what is.

Lila on the other hand is a punch in the face. She is a woman who does not allow that to be her only role. If you ask her or any other character in the novel she is a multitude of components. These include thief, captain, pain in the ass, savior, friend, or foe. Lila walks the line of good and bad. She does what she has to despite he conscious. I appreciate Lila because I can understand her. I can’t wait to see where the story takes her next.

All in all I really enjoyed this book. It was exactly what I needed at this time. It was fun and fantastical yet dark. This book was a quick read. If you haven’t read it yet run out and get it now. You are missing out.

Have you read this series? Are you a fan of V.E. Schwab? Let me know below!


14 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – A Spoiler Free Book Review

  1. This was the first book I read by Schwab and I was simply mesmerized. Her writing and world-building, like you mentioned, are hard to miss and definitely make up the biggest chunk of her talent. Great review!


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