Critique | A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Spoiler-Free)

3 Teacups

A Darker Shade final for IreneGoodreads Synopsis:

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby 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 another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

*sigh* I think I need to stop reading hyped books right now. Based on what everyone was saying and how “amazing” this book was, I was expecting this non-stop, action-packed adventure with amazing characters and an unforgettable plot. I didn’t quite get all that. It’s been a week since I finished it and it didn’t stick with me. (I even tried to write a review that following day, and I had nothing to say. Not a good sign.) The most annoying thing for me right now is that I enjoyed the book, but I can’t quite put my finger on a singular reason why this isn’t a 4 or 5 star read.

I feel like I’m grasping at straws, trying to find something to discuss in this review. Any thoughts and feelings I have surrounding this book all focus on a feeling of being underwhelmed. The plot for this book was cut and dry and straight to the point. They said that they were going to do something and they do it. There were a few blips along the way, but they were easily dealt with and that was that. I wish we would’ve gotten more of a feel for each of the different Londons, particularly Red London since that’s where Kell is from. Since things were so cut and dry, a lot of the focus was on Kell and Lila getting to where they needed to go while they were there. We saw a glimpse of how he’s received by the kingdom and its subjects, but it was from Lila’s perspective and only like a page worth of writing.

Kell’s relationship with his brother Rhy was also placed on the backburner, which I found frustrating because it was something that tried to play a major role in the plot, but we never saw the basis for. Kell is the adopted prince for Red London, and from what I saw, the king and queen treat him as their own son. But for whatever reason, Kell feels like their plaything and for the life of me, I don’t understand why. Yes, he’s Antari but he’s also kind of the only person who can travel between the kingdoms for Red London.

In short, because I can probably keep going on for another two or three paragraphs, things were underdeveloped. I didn’t get a feel for any of these renowned parallel version of London, and I didn’t have much a backstory for either of the main characters. I attribute this to the fact that the book is right at 400 pages in length, and I think if we had another 100-150 pages, we could’ve had more of everything. More plot, more action, more character development. Now, as you saw in my Muse Monthly Unboxing post, I own the second book, A Gathering of Shadows and I fully intend on reading it. I’m hoping that we find out more in this book, and I’m curious to see where Victoria takes things.

Overall, I’d recommend the book. It’s a fun read, fairly short, and I do like the magic elements in it.

Have you read this book? What were some of your thoughts? Was is a 5-star read? Let me know!

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5 thoughts on “Critique | A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Spoiler-Free)

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