Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 400
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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 have been putting off this series for a long time. Partially because of the hype and partially because I found it a little intimidating (for some reason). I finally decided to grab a copy of the (quite long) audiobook and give it a listen when I saw it at my library. I've found this review difficult to put together, possibly because I feel like the last person on the planet to have read this book, but here goes!

Kell is the hero of this story. He is Antari, a rare kind of magician who is able to travel between parallel worlds, although this story takes place between different Londons. Each London has a different level of magic ranging from super duper magical (White) to not magical at all (Grey). When Kell stumbles upon an item from a no longer existent super DUPER macial London (Black), he vows to destroy it to keep it out of the wrong hands, and adventure ensues.

I really did like Kell. I wasn't put off by the narrator's depiction of him, although I've heard other people hate it. I thought he was an interesting character and I was excited to learn more about him and his world(s). I did find myself wanting to know more about his backstory and his relationship with Rhy and the royal family. Maybe that will come in the rest of the series?

Kell's companion in this adventure is Lila, a thief who finds herself working with Kell despite robbing him to begin with. I didn't have any strong feelings about Lila, but I did think she was a fun, grey character. I enjoyed going along with her as she helped Kell, while staying true to herself. One of my favorite things about Lila was her attitude - I loved having a snarky character who wasn't annoying or over the top, something I feel like there really isn't enough of in YA fantasy!

And of course, no good fantasy book is complete without a good villain, and Holland delivered! Holland is also Antari who was one of the creepiest and most tragic villains I have read in awhile. I felt so BAD for him, but also just kind of wanted him to die from the moment I met him. Okay, I take that back. I wanted him to be saved somehow, but die as a backup. Honestly, Holland may have been my favorite character in the entire book.

Although I enjoyed the characters, I think the best part of this book was the world building. I love the idea of parallel universes and I really enjoyed the way they were written and explained. For example, having to be passed through in a specific order. I was so creeped out by the depiction of White London! Honestly, can we please see Black London? If White London was that disturbing, I'd love to see the worst one. Can someone just tell me in the comments if this ever happens in a future book?

So if the characters were enjoyable and the world building was amazing, why didn't I love this book? Honestly, I got a little bored with the story. While a lot did happen, it didn't FEEL like it at times. There was a lot of running from place to place and being thwarted and hiding. While I certainly didn't dislike it, I didn't find myself all that invested or even all that concerned for the characters. It was also really slow a lot of the time, which isn't a great thing when listening to an audiobook since I have a tendency to zone out if I'm not hooked.

Overall, I really enjoyed A Darker Shade of Magic! I had some issues with it, mostly with the pacing, but I do think that the world and (some of the) characters make picking up the next book worth it. Probably. Honestly, I just want more travel between Londons and I REALLY want the characters to go to Black London. If someone tells me that happens, I will 100% pick up book two!