Seeing all the hype around this series made me wary. I’m the type of person turned off, or turned cynical, by hype. But I wanted to give it a try. The only way this book was available to me was audio, so that’s how I read it.
Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.
There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive. (Goodreads)
I give A Darker Shade of Magic (4.5) stars!
First I’ll talk about the audiobook specific aspects of this book. I loved the narrator. His voice, his speed, his inflections, his pronunciations, the differences for voices, everything. It was an excellent choice. I was worried, this being fantasy, that I wouldn’t be able to follow the story. That wasn’t the case at all. Overall it was a very enjoyable story to listen to.
I was worried when I had to take breaks longer than a day because I might forget what was going on, but within a few words I was transported back to whichever London was being featured–even when my breaks turned into more than a week long (it took me almost six weeks to finish this)!
Now, on to the story itself!
It certainly has a palpable aesthetic to it. The red, grey, black, and white. The magic. The atmospheres. The fashion. I can see why it has such an avid and vocal following.
And the storytelling! I really enjoyed the structure of the story. I also enjoyed certain repeated phrases and the effects they had. I love how Schwab wove the elements of the story together and how it played out in my ears. There were times when I gasped “No!” aloud, times when I laughed, and times when I held my breath. Also, I found myself sometimes surprised by the violence the characters faced. Maybe this is because I was listening to it, with time for the words to really sink in and paint a picture–as opposed to being able to read quickly and move along.
Delilah, of course, was a favorite character, but I truly enjoyed the whole cast. I loved that they all made mistakes, that the journey wasn’t just a walk in the park. I also enjoy that obviously there are still things unknown about them, and I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.