Book Review: V. E. Schwab – A Darker Shade Of Magic (Shades Of Magic #1)

A Darker Shade final for IreneA Darker Shade of Magic is the next Harry Potter! The world set by Schwab has great potential with a very expansive setting and a wide array of compelling characters at play. Fast-paced and full of action, the book will have you turning pages before you know it.

Title: A Darker Shade Of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
Author: V. E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: Feb 24, 2015

Goodreads: 4.04/5
Barnes and Nobele: 4.6/5


Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: the Four Londons.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London.

Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.



Characters: Stars 4.0

Schwab sets readers rambling through various point characters

KeLila_Bard_and_Kell_-_victoriayingll – the main protagonist in the story, Kell is one of few Antaris (blood magicians) left in the world. He is wise and cautious, but his fascination with the four Londons gets him into trouble. He is an adoptive son of the King and Queen of Red London and considered a brother of the Red Prince Rhy. However, he considers himself as a possession of the crown instead of family hence his guarded actions around royals.

Delilah Bard – Also called “Lila,” she is the second protagonist in the story. She is a wild and cunning girl who finds Kell weakened down the streets of Grey London and robs him of a precious artifact. Their encounter with Holland forms a bond between them and Lila convinces him to bring her to the other Londons. Lila is a very engaging character as she is high sprung and full of action. Despite having no magic, she is able to outwit guards, knights and other cutthroats.

– the other Antari known in the book. He isdark and mysterious compared to Kell. He serves the twins Athos and Astrid Dane, the king and queen of White London. Much vagueness is put into his character whether he is antagonistic towards Kell and is described as much stronger than him.

Rhy Maresh – The Red Prince and best friend of Kell. He is loved by the people of Red London but far less talented than Kell in magic.


Style and Pacing: Stars 5.0

Chapters are written through multiple POVs which make you imagine it as a movie. Schwab uses this very efficiently even when shifting POVs from Kell to Lila to Holland and also when using the POVs of other sub-characters. This way, Schwab is able to differentiate not only how scenes vary at one standpoint, but also contrast how each character feels and wields the magic around them.

The main chapters are divided further into subchapters, which I think is an excellent move as every subchapter often shifts to a different character’s POV.

The sentences are fairly easy to read. Descriptions and settings are well-depicted which is very important for Fantasy books as the author is trying to bring their readers to a different world.

The story moves along a rather fast and violent plot with much bloodshed and mutilation and the author does not hold back in describing cutthroats and trickling blood. As dark as the scenes may portray, it does not feel heavy at all as the least emotions are established in them.

Schwab incorporates politics and warfare in the story as the royals conspire to dethrone and overpower their neighboring Londons. The author describes the difference in governance in the Londons and examines the effect of it in the society they are in.

There are times, however, that I feel lost in the story especially when Schwab starts to introduce a new character and moves from one London and goes back to the other. But as I read through the chapter, everything eventually goes into view and gives you a clue of the character’s significance (or insignificance) later on in the story.


Originality: Stars 4.0

The plot is astounding!

Many fantasy books talks about the four elements (fire, water, air and earth) as the fundamentals of magic and introduces a fifth element through a mind boggling riddle. In this book, blood is the fifth element and it is the carrier of all magic which makes blood magicians, Antaris, as the strongest wielders who can control all five elements.

Interestingly, Kell and Holland are the only two known Antaris and acquisition of such power is undeterminable.


The idea of having four Londons is what makes the story very intriguing. At first you would think that you’d lose yourself between Londons but Schwab creatively differentiates each London and establishes their own uniqueness. The effort in world-building is just breath-taking and forming different cultures, languages and infrastructures in every London is immensely well-coordinated that you will instantly know where a character stands.


Personal Rating: Stars 4.0

Honestly, the cover was what got me curious to even read this book. But when I read the first three chapters, I just had to finish it in one reading (which I wasn’t able to because I also have a life).

As Anasae. As Travars. As Steno. From that first moment Kell pronounced his blood commands, I knew I would love this book. Schwab profoundly created an exceptional concept of magic, different from other Fantasy stories and leaving me pronouncing blood spells out loud like Harry Potter spells and wanting to traverse through walls.

The book lacked romance which is both a good and bad thing. A good thing as the book focuses more on power, magic and politics. The protagonists also are indistinctly romantic even when (spoiler!) Kell kissed Lila where no emotions was put into the scene. A (not-so) bad thing because I keep imagining Kell and Lila together, and Rhy and Holland as well. Schwab implied the romance in a very casual and not-so-intimate way. I hope that Schwab further develops these characters and eventually sneak in a bit of romance into the plot.

Out of all the characters, I especially liked Holland. At first I thought that he was merely a messenger for the Dane Twins much like Kell is to the Red Royals. He is portrayed as a darker version of Kell and his true intentions are not clearly expressed in the book. In a way, he was teaching Kell the potential blood magicians had at the same time warning him of the dangers the black talisman held. Towards the end, it seemed that his aggression against Kell was commanded by the Dane Twins and actually only wanted his peace.

I am already looking forward to the next book in the series – A Gathering of Shadows, as I am excited to know regarding a couple of unresolved issues in the first book.

  • Where was Lila heading?
  • What does Lila’s glass eye indicate?
  • What kind of magic is Lila capable of as hinted by Master Tieren?
  • In what way will Lila repay her debt to Calla?
  • What does Kell’s past hold as he only has memories past 5 years old?
  • What happened to the black plague of magic?
  • Is Holland really dead?
  • Was the discovery of the Black talisman really just an accident? Or was it orchestrated by a much stronger character?



Throw out everything you know of magic and delve into this world built by VE Schwab! This book will have you reciting spells as much as the Harry Potter series did.



“Men who waded into waters claiming they could swim should not need a raft.”

 “Purity without balance is its own corruption.”

“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”

“Hesitation is the death of advantage.” 

“You know so little of war. Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out.”

Hope you guys found my review entertaining and informative.

If you have any books or movies you’d like me to review, or any topic suggestions, let me know through HERE.

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Featured Image:

Cover art:

Fan Art: (c) Anonymous


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