A Darker Shade of Magic/A Gathering of Shadows by V.E Schwab

An actual book review! Man it’s been a while – so to make up for that, I’m doing a two-for-one sort of deal. I had been meaning to pick up A Darker Shade of Magic for almost a year after all the brilliant reviews it received. Then, when I finally do pick it up, I finish it in under two days, head straight back out to buy the sequel A Gathering of Shadows, and finish that within 24 hours. It so shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that this is going to be a very positive review.

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Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There is Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There is Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…

For spoiler reasons, I won’t post a blurb of the second book.

The first book I read by V.E Schwab was Vicious (read review here) and I loved it, so it’s surprising it took me this long to pick up this series. The world Schwab has created is enchanting and, with no better word for it, magical. Set throughout parallel worlds, all in London, we meet Kell who can travel between all three of these Londons which he has nicknamed: Red London, White London, and Grey London. We know that there used to be a Black London, but that’s all you do know going in. Grey London is supposedly the London of our world, as in the reality, without magicians and abilities and all of those marvellous things.

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Schwab’s imagination knows no bounds, and the way she’s conjured up this world (or worlds) as well as weaving an intricate plot, not to mention the fantastic characters, is just incredible. She is definitely the kind of author I want to be one day, and not just because she writes fantastic fantasy.

Kell is one of those characters that you feel inclined to love, although it isn’t until about halfway when you realise that you do actually love and adore him. He’s the definite hero of the book, and his heroine/ally/antagonist/the best person ever is Delilah Bard, the magnificent (otherwise known as Lila). A cross-dressing thief with dreams of being a pirate, I’m not quite sure how you can’t like the guarded, wary Lila. She is everything you want in an heroine, from her stubbornness to her determination to tackle everything head on. She isn’t helpless, she isn’t vulnerable, and she most certainly doesn’t need saving.

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Then there comes the charming, wonderful Rhy that you can’t help but adore. Man, I just want to live in Red London and meet these people before setting sail with Lila. It’s just a book (well, both of them) that sucks you in until, before you know it, you’ve finished it and are going crazy on the internet trying to discover when the next one is coming out. My only critique might be the few Americanisms that pop out at you which, for an English reader expecting to be firmly grounded in parallel Londons, it’s distracting.

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So, if like me, you like fantasy and a book including cross-dressing, pirates, thieves, magicians, and parallel worlds sounds appealing, then this is the one for you. Also, if you know when the third one comes out, hit me up.

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February Wrap Up

I had anticipated a very bad wrap up for this month considering university work, but I’m happy to say that I did good this month (well, for me).

So we start off the month with an easygoing Kindle flick called Legend which I thought was perfectly enjoyable, thank you very much. A solid three stars from me. Then I hit perhaps my earliest reading slump out of all my years due to the book Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M. Elliott. Now maybe that’s a bit mean and I’m sure plenty of people will like this book, but it just really was not for me. Admittedly there were parts that I enjoyed, which is why I gave it two stars, but the supposedly strong female heroine of the novel was pretty wishy-washy in my opinion. For those of you who don’t know, this is a historical romance (fiction) which is about the woman who is in Leonardo Da Vinci’s first portrait. I have read almost no historical fiction, so going in I was excited to see if I liked this, but found that I didn’t like it at all. I would have far preferred to see more of Leonardo himself in the book and the character Sancha, who was far more interesting than the main character. There was a great piece of imagery in the prologue of ‘excuse me, I am a mountain tiger’ with the comment on the juxtaposition of ‘excuse me’ to that of the unfaltering ‘mountain tiger’. It intrigued me, and I wish that it would have held that edge throughout. I may also be a little bit biased as well, due to the fact that I didn’t particularly like the cover of this book at all but did like the hardback book underneath which had a small embossed tiger on it. Much nicer.

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After that I decided that I was going to read something that’s been on my ‘to be read’ shelf for a long long long time, and that was The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I had only read one other of his books, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which I enjoyed but didn’t think it was brilliant. Yet every time I mentioned this to someone, particularly customers buying his books, I was almost hit on several occasions by outraged fans of his, on account of the fact that I didn’t start with his Chaos Walking trilogy. Welp, I started it, and did enjoy it but found it all a bit confusing and overwhelming to start with. You’re thrown into the middle of everything, with no clue what’s going on or what’s happening or anything really, and the main character is just as stumped as you are. You turn a few pages and think ‘huh?’ so turn a few more, think ‘I’m even more confused’, a few more ‘what the eff?’ and so it goes on.

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Next up is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells thanks to the inclusion of it in the February Owlcrate (which you can find a review of below this post), and I was glad to read a proper Sci-Fi classic for a change. I probably should have been able to finish it in a day, but I admit it did take two. And of course I listened to the audiobook of the first Harry Potter book this month, and finished it around this point in the month – and it was great fun. Loved Stephen Fry’s narration of it, especially impressed with all of his different voices, and I’m starting the second one immediately. After that I entered the biggest reading marathon of my life, and that was when I finally bought a copy of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab. I mean, wow. Once again, I love fantasy – and it’s because I can read books that include cross-dressing, pirates, magicians, thieves, and all of it set across parallel Londons. There’s nothing like reading about a place where you live and know about – I absolutely loved it. So much so that I went out the next day as soon as I finished it and bought the sequel, which I finished yesterday on the 1st of March so I’m not counting it in this wrap up. Still, brilliant, brilliant, absolutely smashing. Read it. Five stars without fail.

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So, drumroll please…that means that I read five ‘proper’ books this month (yes I’m counting the audiobook, that took over eight hours of my time) and six in total. That means my overall total is 11/50 for my reading challenge and fourteen overall, which I’m incredibly proud of.