A review by erebus53
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

adventurous dark funny hopeful mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


Here's a book that feels like "first book of the series". I would probably be more annoyed by the worldbuilding and the (in case you forgot) asides, if the setting weren't so cool. This is a multiverse where there are 4 alternate versions of London, and only those with the right magical blood can open the doors between them. Each reality is distinct so it's not confusing, and good use is made of fantasy tropes so that the whole story is easy to read and accessible. The main themes involve things like duty, honesty, and why we are kind or brave when it might be smarter to just stay out of trouble.

Our main characters are a scrappy survivor whose dream is to be the Captain of her own pirate ship, and a red-headed mage with odd eyes, who is ward to the Royal Family of "Red London". The cast of support characters and nemeses, includes a savvy barkeep with a heart of gold, a charming fop who is the prince and adoptive brother of the mage, a brother/sister pair of scary sadistic royals, and a second broody mage guy who is scary indentured muscle, and not happy about it.

When a dangerous magical artifact gets smuggled into the wrong world, our characters are on a quest to return it to where it is supposed to be, or destroy it.. but like the 'precious' One Ring in LOTR, it's got this luring, dark-magical energy that corrupts those who use it...

I think the star of the show is the setting. The language in the book is easy to read while still peppered with odd sounding other languages. You get a few words here and there as they are learned by the characters. The magic system is explained mainly through explaining it to untalented or ignorant characters, which is a little clunky, but better than an encyclopedic info-dump. And there's this really cool coat that's multidimensional and can be turned inside out a zillion different ways to be different looking coats... ok.. maybe the coat is the star of the show.

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