[Review] A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

3 Things About This Book
| A Magical World with Four Londons | Near-Extinct Race of Blood Magic Users | Sadly Underwhelming Execution |

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic, #1
Published: 2015 by Titan Books
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy
Book Depository

I’ve put off reading A Darker Shade of Magic (henceforth ADSoM) for 8 years in fear that the huge hype around it back then would’ve raised my expectations too much, and I’m so glad I did because this? This book would’ve been more accurately named as a darker shade of yawn.

But before I go into why this book didn’t work for me, I want to touch upon the aspects where I can see why many adore this book: an inclusive and diverse cast of characters, plus an incredibly intriguing setting and alright writing. There are four Londons in the ADSoM world and as Kell is one of the last magicians who can travel between them, he becomes a messenger for the ruling royals. This is already enough to win interest so add in a non-binary prince who the protagonist has a good brotherly relationship with and a tough female character? That’s a complete win!

Unfortunately, despite the above, the execution of the story brought everything down. First off, the characters are completely one-dimensional. Kell was alright but ultimately, boring. Holland and Prince Rhy were interesting but relegated to side character status. The royal twins were psychotic but worthy antagonists. Lila — as much as I wanted to like her because I like unapologetic, vicious and morally dubious/grey characters — disgusted me when she wanted Kell’s double strip without his consent. She’s also very obviously your classic Not Like Other Girls love interest which just made her a double no for me. That aside, neither Kell nor Lila, as the narrators of the story, grew as the story progressed, making them far from the complex, three-dimensional characters I’d hoped for.

Although the writing isn’t bad, the numerous little details dragged the story. I had trouble keeping my attention on the text, especially when so many pages were just chunks, chunks and more chunks without dialogue to break the monotony. It also didn’t help that there was only one plot—which sure, could stand on its own, but was also very boring due to the ‘time’ in between each plot point just so the overall thing made sense logistically. Like, okay, all that drama over a magic stone because power-hungry twins wanted more is fine, but where are the subplots? You know, the ones that would breathe more life into the complicated politics between the Londons?? Nevertheless, I greatly appreciate the brotherhood aspect and the practically non-existent romance.

ADSoM is, in a nutshell, underwhelming. There’s so much potential to it so having an almost 400-page first book barely scratch the surface of that potential is a major letdown.



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