A Darker Shade of Magic

“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” he asked Lila now.
She looked at him as if it were a strange question. And then she shook her head. “Death comes for everyone,” she said simply. “I’m not afraid of dying. But I am afraid of dying here.” She swept her hand over the room, the tavern, the city. “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

Set across four alternate versions of London, V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic is a dark and magical adventure (who’d of guessed??) about saving the world and finding your place in it. It has all the things, from cross-dressing urchins to dashing princes. Oh and violence… lets talk about that for a minute.

If you get squeamish around blood then this is quite possibly not the book for you. In literally every chapter someone either cuts themselves or cuts someone else or just gushes blood from places they got cut a chapter ago. Plus gruesome death is just par for the course… including lots of blood bien sûr! Schwab seems to relish in creating new characters just to slit their throats ten pages later. You know, or stab them or whatever. Honestly, you get kinda “meh” about it all by mid-way through.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book, it’s fun and fast paced and I really loved the world building. Setting it across four Georgian (was it Georgian??) Londons was genius. And having recently moved to London myself (more posts about that coming soon!), the timing really couldn’t have been more perfect. Plus, the bad guys were pretty spooky, so that’s always a bonus!

The characters were interesting but unfortunately this is where Schwab lost me a bit. The people who populate this book are fun and sassy and care a lot about each other. But there was just… something missing. They lacked emotional weight. Even though their motivations were clear and they had back stories, they did have the tendency to feel a little superficial and as I was reading I was really craving more depth.

I wonder if I would have felt this way if I’d read it a few months ago. But as I recently read the Crooked Kingdom series and Strange the Dreamer, both of which have meticulous, weighted characters, it’s easy to compare and find A Darker Shade of Magic wanting.

Still, I will be picking up the second installment, as the plot and world is interesting enough to carry me through. And who knows, maybe the character development will continue to grow!

So in summary, for me, although a great concept, ADSOM was lacking in something. It needed some extra emotional weight to push it into a great read.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


2 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic”

  1. I could not agree more! I read ADSOM because I knew so many people whose opinion I respect who loved it – but in the end I think the hype just killed something for me. I like the characters, and I can understand what they’re trying to do and why, but you’re totally right, they lack emotional weight. I didn’t particularly care for them as much as I expected.

    I’m also going to continue with the series because I liked the action, I like the plot, and I like the setting, and it was all enough to make up for the rest. Even so, I was a little disappointed.

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