Kell is Antari, one of the last of his kind, living among humans who possess a lot of magic, a little, or none at all. He lives in a city where magic thrives. A smell of rose perfume engulfs the air, where the red glowing river flows throughout. The place Kell calls ‘Red London’, because there is more than one London. In fact, there are four, living side by side in a different universe, where only some know of their existence. Red, the color of magic so pure and balanced. Grey, a bland color, where no magic is left. White, the color of a place that smells like ash, slowly falling. Black, the color of destruction, succumbed to its own power.
“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.”
The Antari, or travelers, are the only ones that possess the power to travel from one London to the next. Kell services his king and queen by doing exactly that, travelling, but he cannot withstand the urge to bring trinkets from one world to the other. Even though this is extremely forbidden.. and soon, Kell finds out why. He is joined by a girl from Grey London, who is eager for adventure. Her name is Lila, and the both of them create a fun set of protagonists.
Lila has built a thick shell around her, she is morally grey and straightforward. Sometimes infuriating, mostly absolutely loveable. Kell, on the other hand, is a bit quirky. He wears a coat with many different sides, turning it inside and out, depending on what he wants to wear. Complex, layered, unique and imaginative, just like his character. He managed to charm me, without even trying.
They are not the only characters that made an impression. I actually cannot think of one character that I wasn’t interested in. Everyone had their own, selfish reasons for using or abusing magic. Their own motives, and so I was left feeling sorry for something harmful happening, even to one of the bad guys.
“What are you?” she asked. “A monster,” said Kell hoarsely. “You’d better let me go.” The girl gave a small, mocking laugh. “Monsters don’t faint in the presence of ladies.” “Ladies don’t dress like men and pick pockets,” retorted Kell. Her smile only sharpened. “What are you really?” “Tied to your bed,” said Kell matter-of-factly. “And?” His brow furrowed. “And in trouble.”
I was quickly sold by the world shown by V.E. Schwab, or well, worlds. Each had their own unique characteristics, though remaining interesting throughout. She somehow writes so expressively, breathing life into each one, bringing both beauty and ugliness to the table. Because this book is not necessarily for the faint of heart. There are some darker elements to this otherwise beautiful, intriguing tale.
Though, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, I fully see a ‘plot twist’ in part two coming, I never noticed any other form of predictability in the plot. I never once had a chance to feel something coming, because I was so captivated by everything else, preventing me from ever feeling bored.
A Darker Shade of Magic has shamefully sat on my shelf for a while now, and my wish list longer, but I am terribly glad I finally picked it up. A very fluid, fast paced but elegant fantasy novel. As Travars, to travel, to the bookstore where I will soon pick up the next!