If Magic was a colour, what colour would your city be? Four Londons, in four parallel worlds, each imbued with varying degrees of magic, identified by a colour. The history and geography in each world vary and the only fixed points are London and the Thames River. V.E Schwab’s book A Darker Shade of Magic is a magical, dimension travelling, dark adventure tale told with humour. The irrepressibility of the main characters is appealing in the face of all odds and the reader is left with a desire to read more about them.
PS: I like the way that the London in our world is called Grey London because it doesn’t have any magic and is therefore the most boring of the four.
LL: Yes but White London is the scariest with magic being the most wanted commodity. Of course that is not as scary as Black London which has been closed off because magic took control over there.
PS: Kell the protagonist who is one of the surviving two Antari in the parallel worlds, with the ability to travel between them, does not go to Black London in this book. We only hear about the place being blocked and understand its danger when Kell is conned into transporting an artefact of Black London which corrupts everyone who touches it, into his own world of Red London.
LL: And he has to get rid of it to ensure that Red London and its world retain the perfect balance between magic and mundanity. But magic in itself is like a character in the book and appears differently in each London. You do get the impression that it would take over wherever allowed.
PS: It is a fine balance like everything else in life. Too much magic makes the world unstable and too little makes it boring. Sort of like the difference between too much drink and no drink at all.
LL: More than Kell I was fascinated by the character of Lila Bard who is a pick pocket and aspires to be a pirate. She is audacious, rude, ruthless and at times vicious but totally fun. Also she a person you would want on your side. In a strange way, in all her corruption she is incorruptible.
PS: I felt that the book was a darker take on the Chrestomanci books by Diana Wynne Jones. The idea of parallel worlds with a few people able to travel between them with the concurrence of the governments in each world certainly seems inspired by Chrestomanci.
LL: Maybe that is why it is a ‘darker’ shade of magic. Because otherwise I am still mystified about the title of the book. But despite that, the book was an enjoyable read and I am glad I got to it when the second book is already out. It cuts down the waiting anguish.
We felt the book was worth spending your time with if you enjoy fantasy. We don’t know if it is part of a trilogy but V.E. Schwab certainly seems to be aiming to write a few in the series. Kell and his multi-dimensional coat, travelling through worlds with an out of control pick pocket, insane, power hungry rulers and magic waiting to take over, makes for a fun and scary read. We presume that the next book will reveal a little more of the back story on both Kell and Lila. The different colours of London with their degrees of magic provide for an intriguing backdrop. There is even George III, with all his madness, thrown into the mix.