The Book’s Basics
Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: Yes. The first in “A Darker Shade of Magic” series.
Length: 400 pages
Initial Reaction: I enjoyed it, but not as much as I expected to.
In three parallel worlds, there are three Londons. There was a fourth London, but it no longer exists.
This book focuses on two main characters: Lila and Kell.
Lila is from Grey London (which has no magic) and Kell is from Red London (where there is a lot of magic).
Kell is also an Antari, which is a very powerful magic user and the only type of person who can travel between the worlds.
Both have strong morals, even if they pretend not to, but have an equal disdain for rules.
When Kell comes into possession of a relic from the fourth London, Black London, he finds himself in trouble.
On his mission to rid himself of the relic, he meets Lila who is on her own mission to gain freedom, preferably on the decks of a pirate ship, and the both of them are pulled into adventure across the worlds.
Who would I recommend this book to?
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy. There are a lot of funny parts in the book and a good amount of banter, which made it a fun read.
It is a good book, with excellent characters and a gripping story. The magic in it is interesting and well thought out. While there are some jarring typos (on the Kindle version, at least), I found myself able to get back into the book again quickly afterward.
The characters are strong, though, so the story is still gripping.
I have been wanting to read this book for years and I hyped it up too much before going into it.
I’ve got the next book lined up and will start it soon, but it is a good reminder to myself to take a book as it is.
It’s not really fair to myself and certainly not fair to the book.
In no way do I intend this note to be a condemnation of this book – it genuinely is good – but it is the work of a fairly new writer (at the time) and I’m expecting the future books to get better as I read on.
I’d like to say that I’ve learned my lesson and will try to read a book soon after putting it on my TBR pile, but I think most of us have a sea of books to get through.
Writer Craft Notes
Overall, the pacing felt good in A Darker Shade of Magic, but there were times when the point of view (POV) would switch to a character other than the two main characters, Lila and Kell. This technique can be used to slow the pacing down and create tension, but I found that in most of them, until maybe the last couple, it removed me from the story and slowed it down too much. These instances would be when I would put the book down and go do something else.
Pacing is something that I am trying to learn and improve upon. It can be a really delicate balance between slowing it down too much or too little.
Seeing how other authors pace their stories can teach me to find a balance that works for my story. I imagine it depends on the book as much as the author, as well.
I’m not saying that this method wasn’t right for this book. Schwab used it to do a couple of different things (to change the pacing and to give additional information), but is interesting to see how different authors use POV to give additional information.
In Kingdom of Ash, by Sarah J. Maas, there was a moment where I felt like there wasn’t quite enough information given because of the POV so it almost seemed out-of-the-blue when something happened. They’re kind of on the opposite ends of each other; I think having a bit less information but alluding to things that are going on just outside of the story is good, but it depends on what is going on and the amount of it because then you might have to bring in another perspective to have that story be told.
It can be really difficult to get the balance right, but it’s beneficial to study how different authors use POV to pace their books and give different perspectives.
I think what gives me pause about Schwab’s is that it feels almost forced as the other characters do not have POV chapters except for very specific plot points, so it doesn’t feel organic.
I find Kell and Lila’s POV chapters excellent. They’re fun to read and there is a lot to learn about craft-wise. Their chapters are where most of the heart and plot are, so I would have loved for them to have their chapters only throughout.