Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

So this book. I don’t even know where to start that will keep you safe from my abject admiration of A Darker Shade of Magic. And the squeefesting that will follow. And um. Yeah.

Screw it, can I just say I love this book and be done with it already? I cannot.


by V. E. Schwab, audiobook narrated by Steven Crossley
Tor Books, February 2015
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating / 5 cookies
Audiobook courtesy of the Ford Audiobook Club on Goodreads.

darkershadeKell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once 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 royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘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—trickier than they hoped.

So there’s this book I’d read a while back called Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. (You wonder why I bring this up, but I promise there’s a point to this rumination!) It was a beautifully written novel, about magic and circuses and competitions and a love story that spanned an age. The descriptions were exquisite, the setting was vivid, and I could swear I was walking down the Ice Garden with the cast of characters.

The book, however, didn’t do it for me as far as the story went. It was missing strong characters, felt disjointed for the most part, and didn’t really have a plot I was interested in reading about (or listening to). So while I adored the setting and the description–and the audiobook narration–I wasn’t utterly wowed. Still, it was a good book.

A Darker Shade of Magic, however, has all the bits that I loved about Night Circus mixed in with a wondrous world where magic is alive.

A Bucketful of Squees

Firstly, those covers. They just look awesome, that’s what. I loved the UK cover the best, though the US version was also rather splendid. I’m trying to figure out how I can Food and Fandomize this book, but right now my brain is mostly going to the color schemes and I’d need to find a way to make gray food….OMG I CAN MAKE A PARFAIT. YES. Hem, hem, anyway, the covers were most excellent.

A London in different shades. How could anyone not love being able to travel to four (well, three since Black London is pretty much just closed off) different Londons? I loved the world building and the detail put into distinguishing the Londons from each other. Listening to Steven Crossley’s narration of the book helped me imagine the places rather well, though often I did wish I had a paperback copy so I could actually read along, ’cause the descriptions were fantastic.

“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London.” – Lila

Delilah Bard. I admit, it took some time getting used to Lila. I think I’ve had my fill of pirates after overplaying Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag so her whole dreaming of being a pirate and having adventures just made me grimace and groan somewhat. That said, I gave her a chance because this sassy thief knows how to set bitches on fire. She also has no problem using a pistol. You just don’t frell with that.

I can totally picture an older Maisie Williams playing Lila. Can we see this happen please?!

Magic and Mayhem and Antari. I loved the Antari and the magic they wield. Magic has the potential to control is such a creepy concept and there are a cast of characters in the book that show us magical control in varying degrees. Kell and Holland, particularly, wield and view magic differently from each other, even though they are both Antari, and to be honest, I’m not particularly sure which one of their views I agreed with more. Which makes the notion of magic in the book even better, imo. (That said, I’d probably side with Kell because I’m kind of in love with him–though I do feel sorry for Holland).

Those motherfrelling twins. There’s nothing like a great villain to add conflict to the story. ADSoM has two: Athos and Astrid Dane. Well, three, if you count the darkness of Black London magic (though I feel this third is sidelined mostly and will re-emerge in the sequel). But the twins more than cut great figures across White London and its neighbors. Together, Athos and Astrid are two heads of the same coin in cruelty and power. Apart, they have their own sense of batshit crazy. I outwardly shivered when Crossley tried to convey their voice and description in his narration.

Can I just say how much I LOVE this fanart of the Danes and Holland? It’s so creepy and beautiful and I totally just yoinked this as my phone wallpaper for the moment.

That literal bromance though! It’s real! It’s really, really REAL! Rhy and Kell make an awesome duo, so I was slightly sad that there wasn’t much Rhy-ness in the pages. Kell is absolutely dedicated to Rhy in his own brotherly way, which made me admire him even more later on in the book. I mean, I don’t blame Kell. Rhy’s pretty damn hilarious, albeit unskilled in the arts of magic.

5 out of 5 cookies! It was seriously hard to stop listening to the audiobook. I spent many nights going “one more chapter and I’ll sleep” and finding myself awake a couple of hours later STILL listening to the story.



25 Reads: The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

I’m slightly regretting giving away my autographed ward sticker/tattoo swag to a friend for his birthday, because I’d have totally kept it and warded my forehead. Kind of like this “lovely” lady but in Peter V. Brett’s series. Just saying.


by Peter V. Brett
Random House, 2009
High fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating /5 cookies

book8As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

Gifly Thoughts

I kind of blame having read the stories of the Unfettered anthology for putting The Warded Man high on my priority list (“Mudboy” was one of my favorites from the collection). I kind of blame showing up at a Comic Con panel where the author did a reading of The Desert Spear a while back (although I couldn’t tell you what the reading was about, since I tend to block out spoilers, I do remember getting intrigued enough). I mostly blame the fact that I eventually found my paperback copy of the book staring eerily at me at the top of my bookshelf. Trust me, you don’t want the Warded Man staring at you. It’s unnerving. My eventual thought process went along the lines of: “FINE. I’LL READ YOUR STORY, GOOD SIR.”

That super-creepy stare, though.

Anyway, I’ve meandered.

The point is that I’ve read the book (finally). And I frelling loved it.

And This Is Why

The fantasy-touching-on-science fiction feel of the world. For hundreds of years, Thesa’s nighttime has been filled with a nightmare of corelings, often associated with mankind’s Sin–scientific advancement–against the Creator. Because of the corelings–dark creatures of magic–the world of science and technology have since ceased to exist, leaving a civilization akin to the Middle Ages. I love this mesh of scifi and fantasy. I really do. I also play too much Final Fantasy so my bias can be related to that.

The character trifecta that consists of Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer. I honestly had no problem switching between the three characters, they were all pretty interesting to follow. Once their storylines finally (like, last quarter of the book FINALLY) converged, I couldn’t stop reading. Their interactions were fantastic, and I pretty much spent the last hundred pages squeeing over how awesome they were. Well, the last fifty pages was really me squeeing over how awesome Leesha was, but I can’t help loving female badasses! (AND SHE CAN SET BITCHES ON FIRE, SO THERE.)

This is how I imagine Leesha. Minus the cray-cray. And the firebending, obviously.

The pacing was paced pacingly paceful! I expected action from the get-go. I mean, come on, it’s a world where demons come out at night to slaughter the unprepared, so there was going to be a lot of action. But even in the introductory capacity, there was a lot happening, but not too much. It was just the right amount of action that kept my attention span happy. (My attention span with high fantasies tend to lean toward the three-year-old mentality.)

There was a frelling ending. The Warded Man is only book one of The Demon Cycle series, which I understand is a quintet. I’m still not sure how to feel about the fact that not all the books are out yet, but it’s probably along the lines of shaking my fist at the world and thensome. But what I loved about this book in particular was how the ending was settled. Three storylines converged to a final point, and even though there are many untied knots, the endgame of book one was, to me, solved within the parameters of the book. None of that crazy cliffhanging nonsense most series tend to do (I’M TALKING TO YOU, LUNAR CHRONICLES–I STILL LOVE CINDER ANYWAY). Oh, great. I might have jinxed it for the later books.

Cliffhanger endings are the worst.

Also, those wards. I want to know more about the wards. And the elemental corelings. Speaking of which, for some reason I’m imagining wood demons look like Groot. And those rock demons are oversized golems.

A rock demon don’t got anything on Shale!

Suffice to say I’m going to need to get a copy of The Desert Spear at some point. Pun not intended.

5 out of 5 cookies! Omnomnom.