Another fantasy trilogy for you, this time VE Schwab’s trilogy – A Darker Shade of Magic. I was in Waterstones one day and the bookseller suggested this title to me after I explained I was currently reading the Ash Princess. I was not disappointed!
We find ourselves in a world with multiple Londons, all controlled with magic in some form. Red London, where our protagonist Kell is from, is full of magic but it seems to bless people with differing strengths. Grey London seems to be our version of London where magic has but disappeared and no one really believes in it. White London where magic still clings on but in desperation it can be stolen from people and the rulers are often replaced and not through natural death. Then Black London where magic took over completely and destroyed the land.
Kell is an antari who is someone very rare. Most magic takes the usual forms of Air, Earth, Fire or Water. Antari are able to control blood magic and this makes them both unusually powerful and able to transport between worlds, as long as they have a relic from that land. This makes them useful messengers as they can go between the 4 (now 3) Londons and send messages between the kingdoms. Kell was taken in by the King and Queen of Red London and raised as a son and brother to the future King, Rhy. Rhy unusually has no great strength when it comes to magic and this is a concern as most royalty do. The current King is a great earth magician with an affinity for steel and his wife is fantastic with water, enabling her to listen across the palace with water bowls placed everywhere. Rhy has the ability to charm and please people, make people love him and whilst not seen as magic, through Kells eyes you can see that this will eventually make him a great ruler.
Kell has a nasty secret. He brings items from other worlds home with him. This is something which is forbidden and we learn this as he brings through with him from White London a strange stone which imbues the holder with magic, Black London magic. This starts a chain of events of which cannot be stopped and leaves Kell and his new found Grey London friend Lila, fighting for their lives and that of Red London.
I thought this book series was fabulous. The characters all had depth to them and you really cared about them all. Each had flaws but they all seemed to work together quite well. The world was believable and adding Grey London as our own world and having Lila come from it, I thought was ingenious as it brings us into this world fully. We could be Lila.
I also really liked the covers on all three and thought they were well worked to make a lovely collection.
The three adjectives you can see on the cover really does sum up these books, they were marvellous, fantastic and captivating. I have never read anything from Schwab before but I certainly will keep an eye out for her future works!
It seems a short opinion section but when nothing really is wrong with the books makes it hard to add great length! 10/10.
You may have surmised from the below posts that I like YA fantasy. You are not wrong. It is one of my favourite genres at the moment. Just a shame you have to go to the children’s section in book shops! I don’t need a fancy different ‘adult’ cover, just put it more in the middle rather than next to Horrid Henry!
We join Theo as her mother is killed and the Kalovaxians take over Astrea. Theo becomes Thora and the Ash Princess. We see that the Kalovaxians are not peaceful rulers but rather come and make the natives slaves and take all the natural resources from a country and then move onto the next one. We eventually find many countries that have been through a Kalovaxian rule and many people are now displaced.
Theo is friends with a Kalovaxians girl, Cress. However, Cress’s father is the Theyn, the right hand (and sword) of the ruler. He is the one that killed Theo’s mother in front of her. So a bit of a strange friendship! Theo does wonder if she is little more than a pet to Cress but she has literally no one else. That is until three Astrean’s sneak into the castle to rescue their Queen. Blaise, Heron and Artemisia (or Art) become Theo’s new guards (after eradicating the previous ones) called Shadows who follow her every move. This is to gather information for the resistance and try and bring down the Kaiser. During this time, the Kaiser’s son, Soren, starts to ‘date’ Theo. Theo initially uses Soren to be in a trap but once they have left the palace (he as a prisoner) she realises his loyalty to her and he becomes part of her inner circle.
As the books go on, you discover that Theo has access to power herself, able to control fire.
I haven’t really delved into the plot for the other books in the trilogy because doing so would be major spoilers and I think you should learn about the book for yourself. I loved this series. I’ve seen from reading other reviews that some people think that Sebastian’s use of the Germanic light skinned invaders and the darker skinned natives along with the love triangle and other themes throughout the series are lazy and copy-cat like. Whilst I can understand that and it is true to an extent, for me it didn’t take away my enjoyment of the book. Unlike other books, such as Eragon or Lord of the Rings, the other languages shown you would never be able to ‘learn’ like some people know the full elfish language etc. For me that is better. I don’t need to learn a new language in my light reading. Maybe it doesn’t add as much depth as those other worlds but these books are much shorter and a more standard length, especially when compared to the Eragon series.
The books didn’t drag, keeping a believable pace all the way through. Sometimes Sebastian had our main character/s knocked out or in a deep sleep to make a few weeks pass and then we get an overview which is both slightly lazy but also a clever way to make time and action pass quickly.
The main 5 lead heroes are definitely written well and Heron’s homosexuality is so normalised it isn’t even a thing which I think is well done.
For those who have read some previous posts (thinking along the line of the Hunger Games review etc) then you know I have an issue with endings! I think they are the hardest thing to write in a series and all this anticipation has been built up throughout however many books and now you have to end it. I think this one was relatively well done. It was slightly predictable. The person who obviously had to die at some point did and pretty much everyone else survived but sometimes it is nice to have a relatively happy ending and not have a random death placed in (looking at you Tonks and Lupin!).
Overall, an 8.5/10. A great series I would highly recommend.