2021 Book Review Book Reviews Fantasy

A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

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.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then 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.


A Darker Shade of Magic was an exciting, action packed novel that included an interesting structure to magic and different worlds. I feel like explaining the three different London’s is hard when you try to put it to words, but when you actually think about it it’s pretty easy to understand. I did have a hard time picturing what White London looked like because the author only vaguely described the city outside of the palace, but everything else was easy to picture and imagine. Despite an easy to imagine alternate world simultaneously going about its day, I feel like this novel had some down sides as well. The part where a dark magic was hopping from body to body like a plague was irrelevant and unnecessary. In the end, the infestation of all those people had little to do with the story and if this aspect was erased from the novel, the outcome would still be the same. The scenes where you’d read the point of views of the people infested with the dark magic reminded me of fillers just trying to lengthen the story. If this side of the story was written better or contributed to the overall story, I wouldn’t have any problem with it. But, seeing as that is not the case, the “virus” just acted as a block in the road.


Kell was awesome, Lila was not (in my opinion). I feel like in theory, Lila should’ve been an awesome character because she was the typical tough, resilient, and witty character that everyone ends up admiring. But, in reality she always got on my nerves and I ended up getting the urge to speed read through any of the scenes in her point of view. She was selfish, spiteful, and immature. I feel weird saying this because often there are characters like this in other books that I end up loving (ex: Six of Crows where everyone basically falls in this category), but this mix of attributes did not work for her or the story. Maybe she will get better in the other books, but in A Darker Shade of Magic, she was unbearable.

One character that I surprisingly sympathized with was Holland. He wasn’t an antihero, but I don’t have the heart to categorize him as a villain either. Does that mean I’m a Holland apologist? Is that even a thing? If it makes me a Holland apologist, then it makes me a Holland apologist and I’m okay with that. I honestly feel bad for him because of what the twins from White London put him through. His character had a lot of potential for a redemption arc. I’m hoping that he has a chance to come back in the other books but I don’t know if he’d come back as a true villain, an antihero, or an actual hero. Either way, I hope he comes back all the same. Another character that I of course loved was Kell. He was the main character so I guess that if I didn’t like him I wouldn’t have given this book three stars and told you it was fun and exciting.


A Darker Shade of Magic had some aspects that flopped, but the book as a whole was enjoyable. Although I did not like Lila, I loved Holland and Kell which blurred out my dislike for her and is probably a major aspect as to why I enjoyed this book. This novel is perfect for anyone looking for a fantasy novel that’s fast-paced and an easy read.

Let’s Talk:
  • Have you read A Darker Shade of Magic? If so, did you like Lila?
  • Would you be a “Holland apologist”?
  • Do you have any good high fantasy recs?

4 replies on “A Darker Shade of Magic”

It’s good to hear that you loved Lila more as the series continued. That gives me hope that her character can be lovable.

*Potential spoilers for anyone reading*
Hmmmm… You say your opinion on Holland you will be spoiling? I’m assuming that means he’ll be coming back in the other books 😂 That wasn’t really a surprise though because his story in A Darker Shade of Magic was too open ended.


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