I procrastinated for so long before I jumped onto the super-hyped A Darker Shade of Magic bandwagon, (I've talked about my instinctual avoidance of hyped reads) and now I’ll never get off! They are telling the truth, the bookworms and reviewers, because this book is so worth the hype.

As soon as I set my eyes upon the words, I was sucked into the world of the Londons.

The premise of parallel worlds intrigued me; so many worlds have the same location: London. There are Red London, Grey London, White London and Black London, each color signifying how much magic remains in the world.

1. Red London=Magic still going strong

2. Grey London=Magic in decline

3. White London=Only the rulers and an elite few still have control over magic, but it’s slowly dying away, and the people suffer because of it.

4. Black London=Magic destroyed the world, leaving it a vast unknown after the other three Londons sealed it off.

Our protagonist is one of the only two people who can travel through these realms. And he came into possession of something from Black London. What would he do? 

I am hooked.


I adore Kell, the precious magician-freak-adopted-prince of Red London. He acts as the king’s ambassador and messenger to other worlds. As an Antari, his magical powers elicit fear and respect from almost everyone, marking him as an outsider in any world. His sense of not belonging anywhere, not even in his adopted royal family, wounds him and fills him with a longing for escape. But even though he can travel through worlds, he is more bound and caged than someone without his powers. He masks his loneliness with sarcasm and nonchalance but is tired of pretending all the time. I love his internal struggles, yearning for freedom, and conflicted feelings towards his family. So many of his mistakes stem from that sense of loneliness, and this makes Kell the perfect protagonist: lovable but flawed.

On a side note: He has a magical coat with goodness knows how many sides with all sorts of styles and colors; that alone is enough magic for me! (I want one of those, please).

Lila is the sassy, flinty heroine who grew up on the streets of Grey London. She dresses as a young man and steals from the rich, and she is constantly looking for adventures and trouble. Even though she is always running into scrapes, her intelligence is adequate for any trouble she finds. Lila is a satisfyingly independent character, and I love all her exchanges with Kell. Like him, Lila is secretly hurting from all the hardships and hungers she experienced after her family abandoned her, and she tries not to depend on anyone from then on, owing no one and taking no favors. Also, she wants to be a pirate. I love how all the characters are one bad choice away from being the villain, and we have to nervously stare at their moral compasses all the time.

Rhys is the crown prince of Red London, also the adopted brother of Kell. He is slightly the Golden Boy (meh), but I loved to see how he and Kell verbally poke at each other and act like real brothers. We see so few of close families in YA novels, and this is a refreshing change.

Holland is the other Antari who is the messenger/slave of the rulers of White London. The king and queen of White London control all his actions through a spell (like a puppet), and there’s nothing Holland can do about it. He does evil things under their command and has hardened after years of service. Holland is a tragic mirror-image of what Kell could have become if his fate was altered, and vice versa.

Apart from these characters, there are many side characters who’re also adequate and vibrant. The twin rulers of White London, for example, really are brilliantly portrayed and just chilly.


Victoria Schwab is so skilled at worldbuilding! From reading The Archived series, I’ve loved her imaginative worldbuilding even more than the plot. She is masterful at setting up magical worlds and filling them with enchanting characters and special qualities (like archives of souls or worlds-travelers). These worlds aren’t pompously described and mapped out for readers but sketched out in several strokes to put all the needed elements in place.

The magic system in this book is also pretty easy to understand at a glance. There are magicians who can control one or two of the elements: water, earth, air, and fire. The Antari can control all of the elements and blood in addition, but blood magic could be evil (?) So Kell can use blood to travel through worlds among other things.

Pacing & Plot

The pacing is perfect and doesn’t drag at all. The characters jump from mistakes to mistakes and never seem to stop the actions and stabbing and magic combats. The whole plot seems predictable and easy, and the climax could have been a little more dramatic. However, I’m entirely willing to overlook this for the characters and the setting. #sorrynotsorry.

Final Thoughts

So basically I love this book to pieces. The glorious characters, the multi-worlds, the often bloody scenes, and the intense chemistry but not-full-on-romance between Kell and Lila (I hope it stays that way). If I have a physical copy of A Darker Shade of Magic, I would stuff it into your hand and stand over you till you read it! :)


So, have you read ADSOM? What do you think of it? Do you know it's going to be a TV series?


a8405-a-darker-shade-of-magic-by-v-e-schwab-moments-of-gleeful-grace-book-reviewA Darker Shade of Magic

by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

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.

Published by Grace Li