A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Caidyn: 3.5/5
Chantel: 3.5/5

“The people fed on the magic and the magic fed on them until it ate their bodies and their minds and then their souls.”

We want to start off this review by saying that, yes, this book is very good. It’s an excellent book with a great plot and great characters. We plan on reading the rest of the series together over the next few months.

What this book suffers from is hype. All over Goodreads are rave reviews for it. Anyone that you’re friends with likely read and loved it, then will be gushing over the third book that came out a few months ago. So, of course, you hear about it. When you finally pick it up, you have all of these wild expectations for it. However, for the both of us, we didn’t see exactly what everyone else did.

The plot is spectacular. Magic has gotten out of control. It’s dangerous, too. Not just in the hands of the wrong person, like you see in Harry Potter, but in general. It can consume people if it’s too pure.

“Purity without balance is its own corruption.”

And that’s what happened in the different Londons. Yes, there are four, as most people know. Grey London is our London, back during the reign of George III. Red London flourishes. White London starves. Black London is dead. All because of magic. Each London had different reactions to what happened in Black London. Magic is fascinating in this story. It’s elemental, not fancy. It’s uncontrollable. It’s dangerous.

That was what kept us reading, really. The general plot of dark magic breaking free and Lila (from Grey London) and Kell (from Red London) being forced to come together to protect the world from it, and to keep the Danes (rulers in White London) from getting it. We loved the characters, too. Lila was very interesting and her strength made me smile, yet she had a certain vulnerability to her. Kell was strong and I loved that his weakness was his love for his adopted brother, Prince Rhy. (Who we both loved and found a sweet little baby that we want more of.)

The writing was equally great. It was eloquently done. Although Chantel did find some typos, it was still great. Just like the plot and characters, it kept the two of us reading since it was so compelling. It went well with the plot; quick, yet well-done. There was no long, awkward rambles about emotions like some fantasy books have. Everything was contained.

However, our two biggest problems have to do with the plot and characters.

Kell and Lila both felt like cardboard characters we could pick out from any other fantasy novel. That’s not a bad thing. You have to start from an archetype, then twist it and make it your own. It didn’t feel as if Schwab got that far. They were great characters, but not their own. Both of them needed more backstory — which will hopefully come in the next couple of books — and at times it felt like the side characters had more personality than they did. Lila was strong, but it felt utterly false and awkward. Kell was the typical quiet man with a chip on his shoulder. Those aren’t bad things in characters, just that we both wanted more after hearing them raved about by other reviewers.

Same with the plot. The focus of this book wasn’t on the characters, but the plot. Yet, all for naught. Without giving any spoilers to the plot as a whole, it wrapped up like a stand-alone novel. The Danes should have been villains for the whole series. The tension of pure magic should have been stretched out. It could have been a driver throughout the series, along with finding out with Kell and Lila their own backstory. If I hadn’t known there were going to be more books, we both would have sworn it’d be a stand-alone novel. There was so much drama that was tied into a neat bow, making us both wonder where it was going to end up.

Even with our two big problems, we’re both very optimistic about the next books. The plot and characters were compelling enough that we want to know what happens to them.

4 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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