Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab


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CW’s: Attempted Rape, Violence

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.


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

It’s fair to say that this is a pretty hyped book, but I can also assure you that it did meet my expectations, which is always nice. However, the book impress me enough to give it 5 stars like it did most people. Despite being good and enjoyable, the spark to make me adore and obsess over A Darker Shade of Magic was missing. I wasn’t necessarily disappointed but I expected the book to be a more mind-blowing and full of plot twists, after I’ve heard everyone talk about it so highly.

Important Side Note: A few days ago I took the Which London do you belong in? Quiz (because I love taking quizes) and this happened …


Uhm … I have no idea how this happened, I swear I clicked all the nice answers, but I guess I belong with the void 😂

“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. 

📕 Obviously I loved the magic system and the idea of different Londons! We’ve got some parallel world thing going on that I really loved with all the different Londons and how each universe is unique. I loved to explore the differences between the cities and their overall setting, as it really intrigued me. I love London, so I was furthermore engaged and happy with how the world-building turned out. I definitely want to see Black London in the upcoming books, because it sounds super creepy and interesting. That reminds me of how much I liked the background history and the fact that only the Antari – who use blood magic – can travel between the world ever since they have been shut off. In addition, I loved the way magic worked in this world, because not everyone has an affinity for it and even then magic is a living thing! We see how magic is working in the different Londons and what happens if you exploit it!


📕 Yes hello I LOVE Holland! My morally grey love – I’m not going to lie that half star is purely for him because I love Holland with all my heart! It’s a written law that I have to find that one character that is snarky and has a tragic past and adopt them – it literally happens every time. So apart from being my poor sinnamon roll, Holland is the second Antari in the Series and bound to these evil people who enslaved him. All these years have made him bitter and trained at not showing emotion – I just want him to be happy, he did not deserve that. My boy Holland is really clever and incredibly powerful, which makes him a very dangerous enemy, especially as he doesn’t have any problems with hurting others to achieve his goals. However, I feel like there is more to him than being ruthless, he’s not as bad as everyone thinks. He let Kell live after all, so he’s not completely lost. At the end Holland is kind of … shipped off, but will return I’m sure AND he’s going to be pissed. But please give him some love in the sequels!

📕 I really liked Kell and connected to him immediately! He gets bonus points for his cool coat and the fact that the first line of the book is really intriguing! The thing about Kell is that he feels like he’s more a property to the royal family and not really a beloved family member, which is sad and makes me feel for him. He’s also got this weird memory gap, that I’m sure will be relevant later, because Kell does not really remember his parents or his life prior to coming to the palace. He’s als got cool Antari powers, that I loved to see in action, while never really feeling like he was too special. What I like about Kell is that he’s caring, loyal and loves his brother with all his heart – he’s just a really good guy with a good heart. He’s the kind of hero I want to see and root for, as Kell just tries to do the right thing, but gets into a lot of trouble. He does some extreme things because he loves his brother, which is going to come back and bite him for sure, but that just added to him being realistic and flawed.

📕 I was also a fan of Rhy, who I hope gets more screen time later. He’s super flirty, a bit arrogant, but overall a fun that I want to see so much more of, because Rhy sure has a lot more to him that I’d like to explore! He’s got such an easy, amusing personality that really brings something fresh to the story and stands out. In case you didn’t know he’s also bisexual and I’ve heard that he later gets a male love interest, so that’s something to look forward to. Generally, I really felt for Rhy, as he’s frustrated because he cannot do magic, which makes me feel sorry for him. He’s a really good guy, maybe a bit too trusting, but still Rhy deserves some good things.

“But the thing about people, Kell had discovered, is that they didn’t really want to know. They thought they did, but knowing only made them miserable.” 

📕 I loved Rhy’s and Kell’s relationship! They aren’t brothers by blood but definitely in heart! What I need is more of their relationship in the sequels, because we didn’t get nearly enough of their interactions, so I hopefully will get more in the next books. I love that they care for each other despite their flaws and clashes. These two are going to break my heart at one point, because Kell already sacrificed a lot for Rhy because he loves his brother :(((

📕 Minimum (!) romance. There were maybe two kisses, but the romance really is not the focus of the story at all, which makes me really happy! As much as I like reading about romance, sometimes I need a bit of a break. BUT as for the hinted romance I didn’t really root for Lila/Kell, because I didn’t feel the chemistry AND don’t connect to Lila, so no real shipping potential for me.

Why this isn’t quite 5 stars

📕 I wasn’t a fan of Lila Bard, but I also missed some female characters. Look I’ve got a lot of mixed feelings on her, while still feeling the lack of other female characters. Let me start with the good things. Lila is resourceful, smart, she wants to be pirate and has a goal, to finally be more than she was, which I can appreciate. I cannot really say that I hate her, because I don’t, but I feel more indifferent towards her. Generally, I couldn’t connect with her, she was about the only character that left me a bit uncertain, I really tried but I never got that attachment for her. Sad to say, but I wouldn’t have cared if she was not in the book. But again I wanted more female characters and more female friendships! The queen and Astrid were the only significant female characters and (1) didn’t really appear much and (2) is not going to be in book two. Back to Lila: I was sensing a bit ‘not like other girls’ vibe around her with the way she scoffed at girls flirting, giggling and being well … girly. She wasn’t a flat character (she had a background story), but I felt like she was more the trope of the ‘strong female character’ and too perfect, just not very realistic and more an idealized version of how a ‘strong woman’ should be.

📕 The pacing wasn’t my favorite and the plot felt predictable at times. First of all I was surprised about the ending – there was no cliffhanger like I somehow thought. Things are pretty much wrapped up and wouldn’t completely need more books as of right now, which surprised me. Starting at the beginning I felt like there was too much intro with characters, it took me rather long to get into the story, as the pacing was a bit weird at times, from action to random character POV’s. The plot was sadly more predictable than I thought. I was expecting some huge plot twists, which I didn’t get. There were action and stakes, but not as high as they could have been. I’m also pretty sure I figured out an upcoming plot twist, if it’s not a red herring.

IN CONCLUSION: A Darker Shade of Magic was really good like everyone had promised me. It had an engaging world with fascinating magic, tragic flawed characters and potential for more! However, I felt like a little spark was missing for me to make this a 5 star rating and I wasn’t completely happy with the pacing and plot at times. I do hope that the sequels are easier to get into and make me want to adore this Series more!

Have you read A Darker Shade of Magic? What’s your favorite New Adult Fantasy book? 📕


15 thoughts on “Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

  1. That was such a lovely review, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this book overall, even if some things still bothered you. I have to say that I agree with you on the pacing, it sometimes felt a bit off for me… thing is, it just started in a slow way, to allow us to understand the world, the characters and for everything to fall into place. It allowed us – or at least, me – to get immersed into a brilliant world-building, but on the other hand, well, it took its sweet time to really, really start and make me really into the story. ANYWAY that was such a lovely review, can’t wait for you to read all the series 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you ♥
      That’s exactly how I felt too! I liked that there was an introduction to the world and characters, but it did make it a bit harder to get into the story at first – at least until we reached a certain point 🙂
      I definitely need to buy book 2 & 3 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read and enjoyed it too! I had the same negative points though and Kell was a likeable character but I did not fall in love with him.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OMG we have so many similar thoughts regarding this book. I love Holland too, he might actually be my favorite character from the whole series. I really liked Lila at first but I have to admit she felt like a caricature and a ‘strong female’ trope sometimes. Why do I feel like I’ll be sorted into Black London, too? 😂 I need to take that quiz

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HOLLAND ♥ he’s the best and I love him so much! I’m glad you like her! I couldn’t really get into her tbh, which is super sad 😦 You need to take the quiz and let me know what London you get sorted into! 😀


  4. Great review! This makes me want to reread this book, or at least continue with the series… Why am I also so behind on all the series?? I so agree, this book really has one of the most intriguing first lines ever, I would’ve bought based on that alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I pretty much agree with everyone of your points Caro… I especially felt the story was predictable and I actually didn’t dislike Lila… I HATED her… Her choices made zero sense to me… and I didn’t get any chemistry unfortunately. I DID love the parallel Londons, especially because LONDON!! And I did LOVE Kells and Rhys… I felt more for them than the romance. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really couldn’t connect to Lila and don’t get all the hype around her if I’m being completely honest – she truly made a lot of poor choices 😦 I definitely loved the Londons as well as Kell and Rhy! ♥


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