I love a good surprise and A Darker Shade of Magic did just that. For a while, it was floating around my Goodreads feed and I saw many positive reviews. But something about it didn’t appeal to me. I’m not sure if it was the cover or the fact that some readers categorized it as YA. (Nothing wrong with YA, I just haven’t been in the mood for it. And, for the record, I don’t consider ADSOM YA at all.) Then I saw a copy at the used bookstore and decided to give it a shot. Boy was that the right decision.
This book is wonderful! It’s a fantasy with a strong foundation of world-building but it is not so ‘fantasy’ that it turns non-fantasy readers off. Come on, fantasy fans, you know what I mean. (How many times can I say fantasy in the same paragraph? **whispers** fantasy.) Some readers have to ease into this genre and a 1000 page Sanderson probably isn’t going to work for them. However, this 398 page Schwab is just right.
There are four worlds and the only thing they have in common is each has a London. Grey London has no magic. White London has magic but is full of people fighting for power. Black London no longer exists (maybe??) And, Red London seems to have a balanced magic. Only two people are able to travel between the Londons and one is Kell, who is from Red London and an adopted son to the king and queen.
The magical system, vivid location descriptions and fast paced story were all so well done. Schwab also created several interesting characters – primarily Kell and Delilah, a Grey Londoner who gets sucked into a magical fight.
Very highly recommended, especially for those newer to the fantasy world. I did feel a few of the elements had been done before but that is a very minor quibble. 4/5 stars.