Literature and London Part 1: A Darker Shade of London Magic

I’ve been meaning to write this post since I’d gotten back from vacation in April, and somehow time got away with me. Or, shall I say, I ran away from time due to other time-sensitive (hah!)…stuff. In any case, I wanted to do a more geeky, in-depth post about my very short time in London (and its surrounding areas). And, of course, because I’m a book-nerd, I was going to do so with a bookish twist, much like what I did with my Prague post!

“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London.” – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Unlike Prague, it’s got a bit more of an assortment of literary fandoms, only because many books I’ve read encompass various parts of the United Kingdom, and not just that of the city itself. Since I knew the Shades of Magic and Harry Potter references would run a bit long, I decided to split my London and Literature series of blog posts into three parts.

And, of course, Schwab won out as the first post. Because why the hell not?!

Windsor’s distance from London was terribly inconvenient considering the fact that, when traveling between worlds, Kell could only move between a place in one and the same exact place in another. Which was a problem because there was no Windsor Castle a day’s journey from Red London. In fact, Kell had just come through the stone wall of a courtyard belonging to a wealthy gentleman in a town called Disan. Disan was, on the whole, a very pleasant place.

Windsor was not.

Impressive, to be sure. But not pleasant. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I knew there was quite a bit of description of certain places in Grey London in A Darker Shade of Magic, but rereading it definitely reopened my eyes to just how much of Grey London had been largely described. I find it a bit appropriate that when I visited Windsor, it was kind of a grayish day, much like when Kell walked into the castle to see George III. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Windsor wasn’t a pleasant place, the town itself had a sort of charm, even in lieu of us crazy tourists and our need to look at the inside of The Queen’s favorite residence.

He continued on until the park gave way to the streets of London, and then the looming form of Westminster. Kell had a fondness for the abbey, and he nodded to it, as if to an old friend. Despite the city’s soot and dirt, its clutter and its poor, it had something Red London lacked: a resistance to change. An appreciation for the enduring, and the effort it took to make something so…here, Westminster Abbey always stood, waiting to greet him. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I felt sort of like Kell, though unlike him, I traveled through the Underground to get to Westminster. When I walked up the stairs and out of the underground, Westminster pretty much greeted me in its staunch regalness and unchanging glory. It was a lovely sight to walk into, and I can’t help grow a fondness for such a structure amidst the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

Even at night, the river shone red.

As Kell stepped from the bank of one London onto the bank of another, the black slick of the Thames was replaced by the warm, steady glow of the Isle. It glittered like a jewel, lit from within, a ribbon of constant light unraveling through Red London. A source.

A vein of power. An artery. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I pretty much walked parallel to the Thames for an entire day, and I often glanced at it and wondered how the city would have looked if the water was really red. Alas, no magic in this artery. The view, however, is particularly pretty, and I’d like to think that in another time and another London, a tavern boat called the Sea King moored its ports. (Up until it burns down, of course…bad Lila!)

Also, on a similar note, Red London’s version of the Thames is the Isle, a glittering red river running across Red London with power. At the heart of it stands a palace, the House of Maresh, and honestly, if it had a Grey London equivalent, I’d imagine it to be exactly like Tower Bridge, which is certainly a magnificent structure that straddles the river. Wouldn’t it be cool if that was how the palace looked like? It probably doesn’t, but my imagination ran away with me, so…

Lila was soaked to the bone.

Halfway across the bridge, the sky had finally opened up–not a drizzle, as London often seemed to favor, but a downpour. Within moments, they had been soaked through. It certainly didn’t make dragging the half-conscious Kell any easier. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

And somewhere in the distance–probably at London Bridge (which isn’t Millennium Bridge OR Tower Bridge, but the plain one in between)–in another time and another London, is a crossdressing girl thief dragging a half-conscious ginger-headed Antari across the river and into the Stone’s Throw.

On a related note, skim-reading ADSOM was a good and terribly bad idea. Good because holy hell, HOW did I totally forget about a fake-Kell striptease happening in the middle of the book?! And bad because OMG lots of other things happened and then I ended up spending hours just reading scenes upon scenes of my favorite characters and and…hours later this post still wasn’t written. Yeah.

Pity there wasn’t a Stone’s Throw in sight, but I will say that I dined in a pub near the bridge, which comes a bit close!

Coming up in the next London and Literature post: Hogwarts and Harry Potter.

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Of Epic Fantasy Owl Crates and TBTBSantas

I don’t think I’ve posted a book haul-ish post on my blog in ages. Mostly because the last few books I’ve bought I’d done piece-meal. And honestly, for the most part, they were gifts. The last thing I’d actually bought at The Strand for myself was a copy of Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith (which, if you’ve seen the cover, is gorgeous and of course I wanted it in my collection). Everything else I’d gotten I’d given away (including six children’s books, five of which I really wanted to read but didn’t have time to, and three books to my TBTBSantee).

But! There is always the OwlCrate.

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I had subscribed to Owl Crate last month, when the Wonderland Theme was a definite buy because I really wanted a copy of Marissa Meyer’s Heartless and come on, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was an awesome book, and it’s a fabulously aesthetic theme. I was not disappointed, and when I saw that December’s was going to be on YA epic fantasies, I jumped at the chance. I hadn’t been able to call the book this time around (Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst), though it looks really good (and an LGBT one, too!), so I can’t wait to read it. The swag for the Epic theme was pretty much kickass as well, what with items from some of my favorite fantasies out there.

Next month’s theme is “Classic Remix,” and I’m fairly sure it’ll include Heartstone by Elle Katharine White, because it’s certainly a remix of a classic Jane Austen story, and surprise surprise, it gets released in January. My inner Austenite wants this book, but I’ve chosen to opt out of the Owl Crate because I’m not keen on getting more tea (especially if it comes out to be a slightly disappointing set of decaf).

I also had the pleasure of getting a lovely pile of swag and books from Raisa @ raisinetta and they were gorgeous, thank you so much!

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Alright, don’t laugh, but I’ve been wanting Eona by Alison Goodman for ages. And yet…I still haven’t read Eon, lol! It just wasn’t right, not having the sequel when it’s clearly a duology, I guess. I also got a hardcover of Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan, which is a fantasy following, well, wattaya know, a girl named Raisa (I see the cheek you used there, har har). All the chocolates have disappeared, and the tea will as well once I get going with my nightly teatimes. My sister has been grumbling about finding a particularly blue TARDIS hanging on our tree (which is all the more odd because our tree happens to be white and gold-themed). And Sailor Mars happens to be my favorite senshi so she is now hanging around my set of house and school keys!

Some other books I’ve managed to yoink this month includes a few library borrowed: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (because I needed to finish it and I’d already sent the copy I bought along to my TBTBSanta), the graphic novel of Brent Weeks’ The Way of Shadows (which I’ve been wanting to get my hands on since I’ve read the Night Angel trilogy and loved it) and White Sand by Brandon Sanderson (also a graphic novel, which looks awesome so far). Oh, and my bestie had a copy of Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, which I plan to read in February before I lock myself down with A Conjuring of Light. Ahem.

Anyway. That’s all bookish updates so far! I shall be back with some holiday fooding this Sunday. If I haven’t died from the exhaustive week of knitting, baking, and gifting.

Food and Fandom: Shades of Magic

It’s also been a while since I’ve actually done a Food and Fandom post, hasn’t it? Yeah, I’ve been real bad at keeping that going. (To be fair, the Mediterranean feast I had planned kind of went out the window when someone else broiled my lamb steaks, lol! Not that I minded too much…it was cooked really well that I had no complaints.)

However, time to get back to getting my feet wet, as it were.

So one of my birthday presents was this structure of loveliness:

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This, my friends, is a wafflemaker. Isn’t it glorious?

Anyway, fast forward a month and a half later, and I still hadn’t made my own waffles. I mean, my sister’s utilized it at least four or five times since, but me? Nope. Hadn’t been compelled to experiment just yet.

Until the other day, when I decided, welp, might as well try something! (It might also have helped that we had fresh strawberries in the fridge…)

Shades of Magic

“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”

I cannot gush about this series enough. I am terribly excited over the third book coming out next year. (“Terribly excited” is putting it lightly, considering I practically garbled my squeeing whenever I hear news about A Conjuring of Light on Schwab’s Instagram.) I have done an interpretation of A Darker Shade of Magic a ways back after I’d read the book, but honestly, I could have gone about it more elegantly.

For those who’ve not heard of the series yet…

So there’s this author named Victoria Schwab. She goes by V.E. Schwab for her adult novels, and she’s written the Shades of Magic series under this name. So far, A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows are out. They are absolutely fantastic books, and there are not enough words for me to tell you how many feels I had for both books (mostly for AGoS, because HOLY HELL THE KISSING ALONE). Come 2017, A Conjuring of Light will be released.

The series takes place in a world with four Londons. It’s about magic and of magicians long-thought to be extinct. It’s about a darkness seeping out of Black London and corrupting its parallel counterparts. It’s about a boy and his coat, a girl and her hat, and a prince and his crown. It’s about freedom at the expense of sacrifice, and shackles at the expense of love. It’s a lot of things to a lot of people, and honestly, I could go on and gush about this series, but all I’m really trying to say is READ IT READ IT READ IT.

So. This waffle. I’m eventually getting there, I swear!

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I feel like it was the culmination of the first two books. And doesn’t the shape look like the cover for ADSoM? No? Not even when you squint?

Oh well.

In any case, as I sat there, eating away at the strawberry waffle, I thought: gee, this does sum up the loveliness of Shades of Magic in all its parts. There’s the strawberry waffle itself, which I’ve now decided is Red London. There’s the sprinkle of Black London in its attempt to take over in the form of melty chocolate chips. There’s White London with its magical syrupy goodness, also on the cusp, reaching into the depths of Red London in its attempts to make way for a lone powerful force. And then there’s Grey London, just chilling on the side.

Okay, maybe I am reaching for it. But this is totally what I saw when I was taking pictures of my waffles!

Strawberry Waffles

Making the batter itself wasn’t too hard. I got the recipe from Sprinkle Some Sugar, with only two changes, really.

1. I never really use actual buttermilk, because I hate storing that in the fridge. My grocery store always sells buttermilk in half-gallons, and I never use that much in a span of a month. So I substituted.

(In hindsight, I should have used whole milk to enable more fat to curdle, but my buttermilk substitute was the following: for every cup of 2 percent milk, stir in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.)

2. I added the strawberries. We had plenty in the fridge, and I do love myself some strawberry waffles, so I cut a bunch up and threw them in the batter.

And then I let the wafflemaker do its thing!

Verdict: Add a bit of maple syrup, scramble some eggs, and cook bacon, and holy hell, that is one breakfast you can food coma over!

Book-Haul: Schwabfest

So This Savage Song came out this week, and Victoria Schwab happened to be in the neighborhood. I found this out a couple months back, so naturally I was SO READY to head on over to Books of Wonder for a signing. Which means accumulating my own personal collection of Schwabbooks.

And aren’t they lovely?

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Alright. So These Vicious Masks isn’t a Schwab book, but I just felt like throwing that in there because I’d bought it at BoW when I purchased This Savage Song.

I’ve already read A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows (and frigging loved them), so for now I’ve only got Vicious and TSS to contend with. While I cannot wait to read TSS, I plan to get through Vicious first, only because I’ve been reading through a ton of YA lately.

Also, HOW AWESOME IS THIS KELL BODY PILLOW AND WHERE I CAN I GET ONE.

Food and Fandom: A Darker Shade of Parfait

You’d think that a rainy Saturday would have helped me get on with my reading, but nope. For the past few days I’ve kind of been in a slump and have been reading at a turtle’s pace lately. Probably slower, because I read like a turtle on a regular basis.

Or maybe it’s because I still have A Darker Shade of Magic on my mind, and I just needed a way to convey that into food. Who knows.

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One of the things I did love about ADSoM (a book I’ve gushed about already) was its world’s structure. As far as the reader is concerned, there is a portal between four different Londons, and while much of London can still be recognized in each world, the rest of the area outside of the city differ in more than just name. The Thames alone is enough of an indication that while landmarks are similar, they do not necessarily play the same part.

So I sought to portray the four Londons (Grey, Red, White, and Black) in a type of food. Layered in the order Kell had to travel to get to the Black London portal, that is.

I honestly had a couple options to go about this. The parfait was the first that came to mind, the second being a layer of jello. I also thought about cookies and piping chocolate, but I’d need a more precise hand at mimicking the book covers’ depictions of the Londons. The jello would have given more shape to the “layers” of London, but it would also have taken some time. So I went for a rougher–and quicker–rendition.

The parfait could have honestly been a combination of anything, really. I used pieces of chocolate I’d gotten from Moscow (which was delicious!), frozen raspberries (which were kind of too tarty, unfortunately), and vanilla pudding, which I’d split up so I could color one half a bit darker. I topped the entire thing off with a few pieces of white chocolate, raspberries, and a piece of spiced chocolate from Prague (yes, I seriously went chocolate crazy in all the places I’d visited last summer). Honestly, it took all of 10-15 minutes to make, and very delectable when put together! It was harder to color the white pudding since I ran out of black food coloring, so I mixed a bit of blue and red in for a light shade of purple. Oh, and I might have added cinnamon into the vanilla pudding, because why not.

Verdict: Other than the tarty raspberry, the combo was pretty good! The chocolate pieces certainly lent texture to the whole thing. The layers came out messy, but hey, I can totally just chalk this up to “the four Londons aren’t evenly separated anyway!” It’s so true, and from the looks of what A Gathering of Shadows is about, I’d say the Londons are slowly going to end up bumping and sliding and encroaching upon each other at some point.