BOOK REVIEW: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. SchwabA Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
by V.E. Schwab
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Synopsis:

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.

Are you afraid of dying? Holland had asked him in the alley. And Kell was. Had always been, ever since he could remember. He feared not living, feared ceasing to exist. Lila’s world may believe in Heaven and Hell, but his believed in dust.

Gawd…will there ever be enough words to cover all the adoration and love I have for these wonderful books?? After I finish, I always know just what I want to say…and then I finally get the chance to write a review and it’s like, how in the world do you find the words-different words that aren’t the same old repetitive thing-to express your extreme obsession without always sounding like a babbling fangirl??

She kicked loose a stone. “Well, I mean, it’s another world, isn’t it? Another version of London? Is there another version of me?”
Kell frowned. “I’ve never met anyone like you.”
He hadn’t meant it as a compliment, but Lila took it that way, flashing him a grin. “What can I say,” she said, “I’m one of a kind.”

Well, I can’t guarantee this won’t be the case many times over…but I can guarantee that I will always try to do my best-for both my friends who have come to rely on my thoughts and for those who have chosen to trust me blindly-to be fair and explain things in the most beneficial way possible. There are many authors you will find that own my heart completely, making it hard to be totally unbiased…but I still try to explain things in a way people who don’t worship the author might be able to relate to. And most surprisingly, as it pertains to this review, this author is actually one of my closet obsessions.

“Pretty thing,” whispered an old woman from a doorway in Maktahm. “Pretty skin. Pretty bones.”
“This way, Master,” called another.
“Come inside.”
“Rest your feet.”
“Rest your bones.”
“Pretty bones.”
“Pretty blood.”
“Drink your magic.”
“Eat your life.”
“Come inside.”

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Not many of you knew me when I read [DEVOURED] The Archived series. Wes stole my heart in a matter of chapters, taking me completely by surprise. None of my friends had read it and no one really joined me (WHOOPS! AMENDED! My darling snake read with me! How could I forget…..), so I was [kind of] on my own for this little adventure. So, fast forward a year or so, and I hear that this amazingly underrated author is coming out with another series…surrounding magic and London. I mean, come on!!!

Bad magic, Kell had called it.
No, thought Lila now. Clever magic.
And clever was more dangerous than bad any day of the week.

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So I guess that begs the question: Well, if you love this author so much and were just so excited about it, why didn’t you read it right when it came out?? And the answer is simple, really-I just didn’t feel like it. I had it preordered, just like I did Six of Crows, but like Six of Crows I didn’t read it right away. They both appeared on my iPad and looked oh so gorgeous, but, at that time of my life, I just didn’t want to read fantasy. And with fantasy, if I’m not in the mood it sours the experience. I knew I would rate them lower, knew I wouldn’t enjoy them as much, and knew that if I waited, my fantasy urges would return and they would be well worth the wait.

“Where did you get this?” he asked.
“In a pocket in your coat,” said Lila, stretching. “By the way, did you know that your coat is more than one coat? I’m pretty sure I went through five or six to find that.”
Kell stared at her, slack-jawed.
“What?” she asked.
“How did you know what it was for?”
Lila shrugged. “I didn’t.”
“What if it had been poison?” he snapped.
“There’s really no winning with you,” she snapped back. “It smelled fine. It seemed fine.” Kell groaned.

And here we are, with SOC snd ADSOM at five stars and me at an all time high. I have been on a fantasy binge since February (for some reason, at the beginning of the year, fantasy steals my heart) and have had Nothing. But. Wins. Han, Varen, Cal, Garret, Kaz….and now Kell.

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”
Her smile widened. “Everything.”

My heart has been in a constant overdrive for the past couple months, meeting boy after boy, visiting some old favorites, as well, and feeling the love for them grow with each passing installment. And, if I’m being honest, this is probably the LARGEST win streak (with both boys and books) I’ve had yet. And it’s hard, I will admit, to let all these wonderful boys in to break my heart from one book to the next, an endless cycle of tortured eyes, shattered hearts, and broken voices. Fantasy boys are just…they are so hard to beat, seeing as they are always going through bad shit to get to their HEA…and even though my heart is stretching every which way to make room for them all (GAWD my Christmas list and BBF list are VERY long already!!!), it’s in a different way for each new guy, old guy, and favorite book or series (Yes, Snake, that was a reference). And I must say….after realizing this, it has made my reading experience so much more enjoyable. Why push anyone out?? I can love them all and still make room for more-I just love every single boy differently (says the book boy whore). And okay, wow, onto the point right???? Fantasy boys might just be my all time favorite boys (And that is truly saying something, seeing as how I love ALL DA BOYZ)….and Kell is no exception.

“What are you?” she asked.
“A monster,” said Kell hoarsely. “You’d better let me go.”
The girl gave a small, mocking laugh. “Monsters don’t faint in the presence of ladies.”
“Ladies don’t dress like men and pick pockets,” retorted Kell.
Her smile only sharpened. “What are you really?”
“Tied to your bed,” said Kell matter-of-factly.
“And?”
His brow furrowed. “And in trouble.”

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I swear, I didn’t think I’d fall for yet another boy this month after reading about my beautiful soldier Garret (Who has always been a BBF) and my new found unforgiving bastard of a thief, Kaz. But as it turns out? My fickle little heart moved right on over for the kind, loyal, determined, and lonely Kell. I can’t even begin to explain (correctly, that is) what it is that Kell does, but I can try to show you the basics (VERY basic, I don’t want to spoil).

“I told you the worlds would be different. But you’re right, I should have warned you. Here English is a tongue used by the elite, and those who wish to mingle with them. Your very use of it will cause you to stand out.”
Lila’s eyes narrowed. “What would you have me do? Not speak?”
“The thought had crossed my mind,” said Kell. Lila scowled. “But as I doubt that’s possible for you, I’d ask that you simply keep your voice down.” He smiled, and Lila smiled back, resisting the urge to break his nose.

He has an awesome coat-for real, it’s awesome. He loves his family with all his heart, even if he feels he doesn’t belong. He is an Antari, possessing magic in his blood that allows him to travel between the four Londons. He has one blue eye and one black, marking him as this aforementioned title of Antari and …did I mention there were four different Londons??

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“You don’t know anything about these worlds,” he said, but the fight was bleeding out of his voice.
“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”

Yeah, so cool, right?? Red London and Black London and White London and Gray London. I’m not going to lie, this may have been part of why I didn’t jump right on this story. I knew this author was amazing, but this all sounded so complicated. Jumping between different worlds? Hmm.

Something flickered through his eyes when he touched her, but she didn’t think it was her touch that moved him. The stone gave a strange little shudder in her hand, as if it felt Kell and wanted to be with him. Lila felt vaguely insulted.
Sanct!” he swore at her. “Just hold it up for all to see, why don’t you?”
“I though you wanted it back!” she shot back, exasperated. “There’s no winning with you.”
“Just keep it,” he hissed. “And for king’s sake, keep it out of sight.”
Lila shoved it back into her cloak and said a very many unkind things under her breath.

But from the moment I started this book I knew that, yet again, I had picked up a winner. Strange, beautiful, vivid, imaginative, and oh so creative with a cast of characters that sneak up on you when you least expect it. This book was so subtle in it’s magic, so complex in it’s world building, yet you never felt bogged down or like you didn’t understand. And even though its not all action and isn’t completely fast paced, the peril sneaks up on you (repeatedly) and steals your breath away. I swear, every time I thought they were just chilling, walking around, something (or someone) would slip up behind my dear boy, Kell, and make him fight for his life.

Kell had fought before, but never like this, never for his life. He’d gotten into his fair share of scrapes (most of them Rhy’s fault) and had had his fair share of bruises, but he’d always walked away intact. He’d never been seriously hurt, never struggled to keep his own heart beating. Now he feared that if he stopped fighting, if he stopped forcing his feet forward and his eyes open, that he might actually die. He didn’t want to die.

GOSH I could just go on and on and on!!! But I absolutely have to just say…Kell surprised me in the most wonderful way. He was so kind and loyal and caring…and even though he barely knew Lila, the thief who helps him get out of a pinch, he was protective of her and wanted only the best outcome for her life. His loneliness speared my heart and made my breath falter more and more as the book progressed, sneaking up on me in a way I can’t help but adore. He broke down more than once and cared only about protecting those that he loved-He would do anything to save them….even at the cost of his own life.

“Of course,” echoed Kell, shutting a cabinet. “You’re very fond of weapons.”
Lila stared at him blankly. “Who isn’t?”
“And you already have a knife,” he pointed out.
“So?” asked Lila, admiring the grip. “No such thing as too many knives.”
“You’re a violent sort.”

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It’s no secret I could go paragraph after paragraph talking about the fiery Lila and the absolutely breathtaking Kell…but alas, I am tired and this review is already useless as it is. There were so many wonderfully evil things in this book I never expected, making me smile and cackle (and cringe) in glee, and it was just all so unexpected, making it all the better. And then there was the beginning of a small romance…and it completely gutted me. It was everything I could possibly want..and nothing has even happened yet! Well….kind of ;). I might give the award for sweetest kiss of the year [yet]. *shrugs* What can I say? I’m a TOTAL fangirl. 😛

***I wanted to note that this review was toned down quite a bit because of multiple things…such as:

A) Dogs in background
B) TV in background
C) Husband making sad eyes because I refused to give him my full attention lest I not be able to finish review
D) Him constantly talking to me and making me feel bad for not answering
E) Something horribly sad that happened RIGHT when I got home (or at least I found out about it at that point)

So, as you can tell, I am not completely happy with my review because I missed a lot things I wouldn’t have normally. And I totally toned down everything UGH because I was constantly trying to appease the husband. So, WHAT I MISSED AND DIDN’T TALK ABOUT:

-The spectacular, beautiful, draw-you-in-immediately writing
-Lila’s feistiness
-Kell and Lila’s hilarious banter

Anyway…I am sad, but I suppose if I love book two, I can make up for my lack of FLAIR for this review in that one ha

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Guys…..I mean, come on. It seriously takes SO much to make my heart pound during a kiss anymore. SURRIOUSLY. But GAH this one just…it was…it…just YES. And the same with peril….it takes a TOOOOON for me to slow my roll and re-read and re-read and re-read a hardcore battle or scene where someone is fighting for their lives (which, incidentally, happened a lot in this one). Happy Chelsea is HAPPY. AS. FUCK.

This book isn’t all action.
This book isn’t romance.
This book isn’t about one thing or another.

This book is subtle and cruel and beautiful and vivid and imaginative and chaos.

This book is everything I love these days…and so much more. I cannot WAIT to read book two.

And I mean….KELL! GAH!!

RTC.

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