A Darker Shade of Magic, by V E Schwab

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.

This book is honestly one of the best books I have read all year, and is fighting for the top spot so far for Book of 2016 with its sequel, A Gathering of Shadows.

Seriously, I don’t even know where to start with this book.

The characters are wonderful- every single one of them, from Kell all the way down to the characters that only have one or two lines (and they only get better in the next book). Each character is so well rounded and believable you are almost convinced you could look up from the page and see them stood in front of you- and you almost wish they could.
What Victoria does well is she makes you empathise every character, even the ‘bad’ ones. Okay, maybe not all, but most. She makes you care so much about each one that even when a villain gets hurt, you want them to get better.
Oh, Holland, you poor poor daffodil.
Kell is a wonderful main- he’s loyal and loves the people he counts as family, but he is also bitter because he is not really one of them. As the only traveller in his London, his whole life is dictated by what his kind and queen wants him to do. Take letters to the other Londons, do this, do that, and he just wants a small place to be himself. And so he smuggles magic and items across to each place, even though it is illegal.
Rhy- his brother and the prince- is brilliant, and his conversations with Kell…and basically everyone else…is a gift from heaven, I swear. He’s funny and a flirt and wonderful- but behind that is the fact that he never thinks hes good enough or strong enough to be who he is, and he breaks my heart.
And then is Lila Bard. Lila, the book version of myself, my other half and just completely wonderful girl. Honestly, a character that meets a stranger on the streets, steals from him then ends up travelling to different Londons with him, how can you not love her?! I have never identified more with a character- from belonging on the water (as a pirate) to wanting to see not just this world but every world, from the eyes.

After the characters comes the worlds. Three (or four, really) different Londons. Grey London- our own, magicless and dull, Red London- Kells world, with a perfect balance of magic and people, White London- where power is corrupted and evil. Each is in a different Kingdom, each has a version of the Thames running through it, but each is completely different.
It’s wonderful to read about a place you think you know, when you really dont.

And then Victoria’s writing, which is a bit like magic itself, writing that draws you in and makes you feel like you are sat next to the characters, watching events unfold rather than reading about it. It’s so beautiful to read.

The only problem I had with the book is a small one, and one that most people wouldn’t pick up on. I said I identified to Lila because of eyes, when really I should have said eye. Lila had a glass eye- meaning she only sees out of one eye. Now, my left eye isn’t glass but it is blind, so I know how it is only seeing from one. The problem I had with it was you find out in a single sentence near the end of the book. Before that, there is not a hint of it, even when it is her PoV.
The thing is, seeing out of only one eye sometimes messes up balance. It means you find it harder to judge distances and speed of things, it means that often, you walk into things on the blind side. Lila is this adventurous girl, a thief and wants to end up as a pirate. She would have struggled with some of the stuff she did- maybe not enouh for others to notice exactly what was wrong, but enough that she would be slightly more careful with some things. (as a sailor myself, I also know how difficult it is to, well, sail with only one eye).
In one respect, I love love love that there is a character I understand like this, because she is the first (around my age) that I have ever read about, but at the same time, it annoys me that I felt like it was just…thrown in there as an afterthought?

Other than that, though (and it is a small thing, really) This book is amazing, brillaint, and if you are not already running out to go and buy it, then you need to. Quickly. No, really, its amazing.

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