A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab was a good book that came at a bad time for me. I was experiencing a book hangover after attempting to push my way through The Scottish Duke and during this book hangover I thought it was a good idea to try to push myself to read A Darker Shade of Magic. It turns out that it wasn’t the best idea, which ultimately leaves me with mixed feelings.
The basic premise that is told to most (and was, in fact, the pitch that had me hooked) was that there are four parallel Londons and Kell, the first protagonist, travels between them. The blurb on the back of the book reveals considerably more information, to the point where you don’t get to all of the stuff covered on the back until about half way through the book. I’m usually not a fan of having so much information on the back cover, though in this case I managed to not even read it until I had already gotten to that point in the book, so it didn’t end up affecting me much.
The book itself was an enjoyable read but it spent a very long time setting up the world with the barest hint of a plot on the horizon until half way through the book. While this didn’t make the book unreadable, it contributed to my book hangover problem that I was having since the world building, while interesting, did not capture me enough to get me through.
Kell and Lila Bard were interesting characters that I enjoyed reading about, but I couldn’t quite connect with them. I think that my biggest problem with Lila was her dream to be a pirate on the high seas, which seemed to not be the right period. While I think it might be more or less accurate (I believe based on who the king is at the time the Golden Age of Piracy was still a thing), the description of the London that we know made it seem like Victorian England to me, rather than a pre-Industrial Evolution setting, which made the pirate fantasy seem out of place and somewhat childish, making Lila’s attitude about things such as killing seem lopsided. What I did appreciate about her though, is that she wasn’t afraid to just run when the odds were against her. I found that to be refreshing in the face of badass protagonists that win fights against all odds.
That said, my favorite part of the book were the descriptions of the different Londons, White London in particular. The writing delineates the different cities really well, and breathes life into each of the iterations we see. White London was especially enjoyable for me thanks to the absolutely frightening atmosphere.
Overall, I enjoyed the book enough to give it three and a half out of five stars. I will probably continue with the rest of the trilogy, but at the moment I’m not dying to get my hands on the next book.