A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)

Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Date read: February 17 to 24, 2019

You know how there are books you have a feeling are not quite for you but you read them anyway to make sure? That’s this book for me. Young protagonists and their youthful points of view don’t do anything for me; that’s why I stay away from most YA. I’ve read enough to know that I’m outside of its reach.

But here’s where it gets tricky. This book and others like it like The Invisible Library, Sorcerer to the Crown, and a few others, aren’t YA according to their authors, but they read like YA (to me). They straddle that fine line between YA and adult fantasy, and it’s hard to tell what they are and even harder to tell whether or not you’ll like them. Better to err on the side of caution and avoid them altogether or take a chance because you never know until you try? It’s always the latter for me.

So I had to try even though I sort of knew I’d have a hard time finishing this book. In fact, I thought about abandoning it several times during the read, but in the end, I decided to go with the audio and let it do most of the work.

The premise is there are four dimensions and in each there exists a city called London—I have no idea why, just roll with it—and all the Londons are both unique and similar to each other in various ways. There’s Gray London (aka our London, the non-magical London), Red London (magical and vibrant), White London (magical and deadly), and Black London (magical and lost). The ruling houses of each London know of the other Londons, but the majority of the people don’t. Only a rare kind of magic users called antari can travel from one London to another—again, I have no idea why or what the point of it is. It seems delivering letters and smuggling trinkets from one London to another is their main purpose. The rest of the book doesn’t delve into the why of it; things just are the way they are, and the antari can walk between worlds.

Kell tipped his head so that his copper hair tumbled out of his eyes, revealing not only the crisp blue of the left one but the solid black of the right. A black that ran edge to edge, filling white and iris both. There was nothing human about that eye. It was pure magic. The mark of a blood magician. Of an Antari.

[…]

The people of London—and of the country beyond—loved their prince [Rhy]. And why shouldn’t they? He was young and handsome and kind. Perhaps he played the part of rake too often and too well, but behind the charismatic smile and the flirtatious air was a sharp mind and a good intent, the desire to make everyone around him happy. He had little gift for magic—and even less focus for it—but what he lacked in power he more than made up for in charm.

[…]

Lila was nineteen.
Nineteen, and every one of the years felt carved into her. She poked at the skin under her eyes, tugged at her cheeks, ran a finger along her lips. It had been a long time since anyone had called her pretty.

The first half of the book is all about scene-setting and world-building and character introductions, and the plot doesn’t kick off until halfway through the book. Doesn’t go smoothly though. There are quite a few glaring plot holes that are hastily patched up with magic.

I was going to dig further into the story, but that seems unnecessary at this point because I’m clearly not the target audience and it’s clearly not the kind of fantasy that moves me. Going further into that just seems unnecessarily mean. So I’ll stop here.

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