Series: Shades of Magic #1
Published: February 24th 2015 by Tor Books
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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My book club selected A Darker Shade of Magic as its October read, and overall, I was impressed with the novel. It’s a young adult fantasy novel about alternate versions of London. The protagonist, Kell, lives in Red London, which is the magical London. There’s also Grey London, which is our London and generally devoid of magic, and White London, which has too much magic and is ruled by sadistic twins. There’s also Black London, but people don’t talk about it. Its magic was so infectious that it leaked out and tried to destroy all of the other worlds, until they banded together, destroyed all traces of it, and sealed it off from travelers between the worlds.
Kell is an ambassador between the rulers of the Londons, and serves as a messenger between worlds. He also trades in black market goods, as trade between worlds is strictly forbidden. Unfortunately for Kell, his side business makes him the perfect victim for a setup, and he finds himself in the possession of a dangerous relic from Black London which oughtn’t to exist. Now a bunch of people are trying to kill him in order to get their hands on it, and Kell is on the run.
Funny how I’m saying Kell so much, actually. Even though Kell is the protagonist, the story really isn’t about him. I mean, yeah, we hear his point of view, but it’s really about Lila, an orphan from Grey London who has a knack for trouble. She finds herself in league with Kell by association, and she’s able to follow him between worlds. Kell keeps giving Lila instructions on how to stay safe, and Lila ignores him with a smile. She does her own thing, and then saves Kell when he ends up in increasingly sticky situations. It can all be summed up by this image that one of my friends found: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/04/87/3f/04873ff7beb626645097bd6f60cb234b.jpg
Now, in a typical young adult novel, Lila and Kell would fall madly in love and practically be making babies with each other by the end of the book. In A Darker Shade of Magic, that’s not the case. Yeah, Lila kisses Kell a few times, but not in a romantic kind of way–it’s more of a “By the way, we’re both gonna die, might as well do this cause screw it” kind of way. There isn’t really a romantic subplot, and it’s refreshing, because both Lila and Kell spend most of the book trying to keep themselves alive and get rid of the Black London relic. And that’s nice. I mean, I enjoy a good love story, but every story isn’t a love story, and I don’t want to see a romance subplot forced on a world-hopping adventure when it really doesn’t need to be there nor fit.
A Darker Shade of Magic is a fun romp through London (well, several Londons), and just brimming with magic and intrigue. Definitely recommended.