A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab | Mini Review

Posted April 10, 2017 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Reviews / 14 Comments

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab | Mini ReviewA Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) by V.E. Schwab
Also by this author: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Published by Tor Books on January 19th 2016
Pages: 414 •Goodreads

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.

So it seems as though it’s SUPER UNPOPULAR OPINION TIME. I may be the only person to ever blog to not like this book. I seriously just checked Goodreads and the LOWEST rating anyone I know has given it is 4 stars. It took me almost the entire month of February to read this book, and the only thing keeping me from DNF’ing it was that I was convinced it was going to get better. How could it not, when so, so, so many people love it? I moaned all of February to Max about something being wrong with me for not being able to get into the book, lamented the fact that I wasn’t engaged. He was probably as happy when I finished it as I was so that he finally had to stop hearing my whining.

First off, I want to clarify that I am in no way bashing this book. The writing was excellent, it was more of an issue with the plot never catching my attention. Fantasy is really hit or miss for me (I either LOVE it or am bored to tears by it) and this book clearly fell into the latter category. I thought Kell was an adorable muffin of a protagonist, but other than that I couldn’t bring myself to truly become engaged with the other characters, which was a problem when they were in grave danger and I was supposed to be ~shocked and afraid~ for them. I also am not a fan of any story telling medium (tv show, movie, book, video game, etc) that has a plot that takes course only over the course of a day or two, so this story had that working against it in my mind. I think this book just had too much action for me and not enough character development (it felt like it was altercation after altercation and I wasn’t really getting a sense of urgency/excitement since they were happening so often).

Though this is the first and only book I’ve read by Schwab, I do think she has great skill when it comes to writing villains. The only part of the book when I was generally intrigued and couldn’t put it down is when Kell was “visiting” White London and had to interact with the Dane Twins and Holland (I have a feeling if I were to choose to keep on trying with this series that Holland would be my favorite). For some reason the Dane twins reminded me of a more sinister version of the Lannister twins from ASOIAF and White London was terrifying enough to hold my interest. Red and Grey London honestly just bored me.

Overall: I think my reading experience with this book is truly an instance of “It’s me, not you.” This book had too many elements that didn’t jive with my personal reading tastes, but I can objectively see why so many people love it. A small part of me wants to push on to AGOS to see if a switch in my mind will flip and I’ll see what all the fuss is about, but I’m also wary because when I force myself through a book I’m not enjoying it can land me in bit of a slump and I start to avoid reading altogether. I might try another series or book by Schwab in the future because I can tell she’s a talented writer, but for now I’ll have to except my fate as a major black sheep when it comes to this story.






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14 responses to “A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab | Mini Review

  1. So sad to hear you didn’t enjoy this one. I love the series overall but the second one was by far my favorite book out of the three. But I guess if it’s not for you, it’s not for you – I’m not sure if pushing on will really help (though I can’t not recommend book two because I love it that much). So if you ever do continue, I really hope AGOS will work out better for you! 🙂

  2. I love seeing that you didn’t like this one lol. It’s obviously been on my radar forever due to the hype and honestly the whole parallel universe/time travel thing is my JAM usually. I just keep putting it off because I feel so meh about reading it. I’m the same way with fantasy. I have to be really engaged with it in order to enjoy it or keep reading it. I get sooo sidetracked and distracted if it doesn’t hold me.

  3. I don’t blame you at all! I found this one terribly slow and it took me a long time to get into it. Lila saved it for me in the end. The sequel was even worse in that respect for me, (it’s one of those cases where what is described in the synopsis doesn’t happen until you are past the halfway mark and it is a long book) and I was really underwhelmed by it so I’m a little scared to pick up the finale. So maybe try out a chapter and see if it gets your interest but then drop it?

  4. Sorry to hear that you didn’t like this one too much! I haven’t read it yet, but I, like you, haven’t really seen any ratings under 4 stars for it. I have a feeling I wouldn’t enjoy it either, since I tend to be the black sheep when it comes to super hyped up books. Thank you for sharing your honest review, and I hope that your next read is more enjoyable!

  5. If you like Schwab’s villains, you should try Vicious! It’s more sci-fi than fantasy, so you might enjoy that better? I haven’t read this book, but it’s been on my TBR forever because of the popularity around it, and I loved her writing in Vicious. It’s good to have a perspective likes yours among the hype – a book can’t work for everyone, which I can forget sometimes when there’s so many praises for it!

  6. Bex

    I thought I was the only one underwhelmed by this book! It has so much going for it. I love the system of magic and the concept of the different Londons, but I wasn’t as drawn in as I wanted to be. I liked the characters individually, but not as much together. Like you said: too many altercations, not enough character development. I definitely see why so many people love this series, but it didn’t do it for me personally. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all. At least we’re in the same boat.

    • I’m glad I’m not the ONLY black sheep when it comes to this book! I love the covers, the concept, the whole aesthetic..but fantasy can be hard for me if I’m not engaged really early on in the novel and that was definitely the case with this one. I needed more character development for sure!

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