Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Tor Books
Reading Level: Adult (great YA crossover)
Pages: 400 (ARC)
Source: Gifted from Friend
Kell 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.
Take a seat and break out the popcorn while I tell you the story of how I fell in love with a boy with a glittering black eye and a magical coat
I need to start this review off by saying that Victoria Schwab is my favorite author that I have discovered since starting my book blog. That is a bold statement, but this book solidifies my feels for sure. She rocks my world with her epic storytelling and dark, atmospheric worlds full of the most intriguing, complex, and dynamic characters while pursuing the best kinds of tales of good versus evil. I cannot get enough of her stories and her imagination and I will forever follow her and her stories.
Originally referred to as "a novel with pirates, thieves, and sadist kings" back when VICIOUS (a novel where you can find my husband, Victor Vale) first made it onto the scene, I knew I had to have this book. It did not disappoint me at all and blew my expectations out of the water completely. It has aspiring pirates, thieves of all kinds, sadist kings, good kings, lovable princes, time-traveling of the most unique sort, multiple Londons, magic magic magic and more amazingly cool magic, a kickass cast of characters that I will legitimately never forget, and some of the most flawless world-building I have ever encountered while experiencing a crazy magic filled journey of a lifetime that absolutely everyone needs to read because it also serves as a great introductory to fantasy done right.
Let's start with the world-building...there are several Londons. Four, actually, but one London is sealed off from the rest because it fell in this magical war since it kind of turned evil and whatnot. In other words, this is totally mysterious and I want to know more about it in book two or I may stage a silent revolt. The remaining Londons are referred to as Red London, White London, and Gray London. Each London is set in a different point in history mixed with magic--at least it seems that way. Only travelers can make their way to other Londons and, right now, there are only two travelers in the world because they are a race that is dying out. This novel takes this obvious complex-sounding world and makes it seem like it is easy to build it and bring it into our lives as readers. Schwab excels in such a thing and I envy her for it greatly.
But holy cow, Batman, we must talk about the mad skills Schwab possesses for dreaming up characters that are impossible to hate.
Kell is the traveler for Red London and he is among the best main characters I have come across in a while. He is likable and respectable, though also unlikable all at once because he likes to dabble in illegal transportation of relics and such and that kind of ended up sending him on the wild journey found in this book. In other words, he's a bad boy and he knows it and I love him for it. And, in other other words, he is the best kind of hero out there, very much like Victor Vale. You love them even though you know you're not supposed to at times because they aren't the quintessential hero, but that's what makes them so real. I hate heroes that are 100% perfect and clean-cut. It takes away from our ability to admire their growth and makes their story less interesting because good balances out evil within oneself. No person can be truly good without being tempted by evil and overcoming it. Kell has both darkness and light in him, and that's why he is going to be very hard to forget. Plus, any form of tragedy in a hero in regards to their present life or even their back-story is like candy to me, so I'll automatically eat that right up.
Another character worth noting is Lila Bard, my favorite thief that is aspiring to be a pirate. She wants to live a life she dictates for herself with reckless abandon and that's just what she does. This girl is perfect and I literally would not change a single thing about her. She plays a very large part in this novel because she outsmarts Kell in the best possible way and from then on they are stuck together. I don't want to say anything else about her because discovering her for yourself is part of the fun, but I will say that I have so many theories about her that I am sure will be part of book two. But, oh gosh, this girl knows how to make life more interesting.
I also want to take a moment to talk about Holland, the other known traveler in this deliciously dark world. He is just another example of good and evil warring within a person, how a back-story really effects who a character is, what they become, and how they behave. And even though I did not love him, I can say I gained even more respect for Schwab because of how many layers Holland alone carried. Throw in Rhy, the Prince of Red London who I believe will have a very large part in book two, and you have heard about four of my favorite characters ever. Seriously. Ever. Like I will never forget them and even talk to my friends about them until they tell me to shut up.
But then I can just transition to talking about the magic in this world because it's not your typical magic. The magic itself is almost like its own being because of its complexity. It is its own world where it plays by its own rules, it's own living breathing thing that cannot be ignored or fully controlled and it will do what it wants whenever it wants whether you want it to or not. And that's what is so cool about it.
And even though this review is long enough already, I need to take a moment to mention the exploration of relationships in this because wow.
First, the romance. There is the potential for a relationship in this which is what makes it so enticing. There is a ship to ship and root for, but it has not set sail yet. Because of that there is a slow-building tension and desperation to make it work on the readers end while the characters blissfully do their own thing and slowly realize hey, this person isn't that bad. No insta-love plus the potential for one of my ultimate ships ever to set sail in book two is A++. And Kell's amazing friendship with his brother, Prince Rhy, is doubly A++ because it shows how important and necessary friendship is not only to life, but to one's sanity and happiness as well.
So, in other words, you have to read this book. There's no way that we can be friends if you don't read this book. Okay, that's a lie, but if you are my friend and you don't read this book then prepare for a book pushing of a lifetime on my end. Schwab has mastered the art of creating enticing worlds with unforgettable characters and crazy stories that constantly blow my mind. She has officially taken up residence in a tiny part of my heart and I will never allow her to move out. I sincerely hope that all of you give yourselves the opportunity to fall in love with her works the way I have, and I truly cannot wait to see what story she decides to gift us with next.
Also read this book because magical coats. Yes.
But, really, this book deserves infinite stars.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book as a gift from an industry professional and it in no way effects my views of the story. I accepted no compensation in any form in exchange for this honest review.