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Science Fiction Fantasy Blog

Our Discussion of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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.

The Prefect stands on its own, although it is part of the Revelation Space Universe… we are looking forward to the sequel Elysium Fire due in January 2018. -Goodreads

Below are a sampling of our comments:

  • I read it in three days – it moved along quickly and the major characters were well-developed. The minor characters were cardboard, like the King and Queen of Red London.
  • Lila was an interesting character – I appreciated her survival instincts. Kell was interesting, too – he wasn’t just a courier.
  • I liked Lila’s line showing Kell that she is a fast learner: “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London.”
  • The Danes were great villains. The author must have something against Vikings. It was unusual to have siblings be the King and Queen.
  • It was interesting to have Astrid take over Rhy’s body and not Athos.
  • Kell's character may have been named for antigens on red blood cell molecules, or perhaps the Book of Kells.
  • Power lies in the blood which explains why the Danes drank Holland’s blood.
  • The story isn’t terribly original, but it is well done: Good will win. Lila will help Kell. Lila will have magical powers.
  • Question: Why would the different Londons bother communicating with each other? If just to pass polite messages, what is the point?
  • It seems likely that Lila is Antari because of her missing eye and Kell’s reaction when they kissed.
  • Many questions are left for later books: What happened to Kell in his first five years? What exactly was the relationship between Lila and Barron? What happened to Lila’s eye? Why are there so few Antari?

Please add any additional thoughts or comments you may have about A Darker Shade of Magic. We gave this title the codes LEL, MAG, GB, & FEM with an average rating of 4.0.

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