Author V.E. Schwab is producing books quickly and has grown massive popularity with stand alone Vicious, and her young adult novels. After hearing so many wonderful things about her stories, characters and ideas, it became hard to ignore the recommendations. As much as the Vicious synopsis appeals to booknerds such as myself, I also love the idea of a great new fantasy series. First in V.E. Scwab’s Shades of Magic series is highly rated, A Darker Shade of Magic, published as recently as 2015. Garnering much attention and shining reviews across the board, as good a place as any to begin reading Victoria Schwab’s bibliography.
The book follows the mysterious Kell, a rare magician who has the ability to travel parallel worlds, with a rich history of magic that binds the four individual London’s. A habit of smuggling objects across worlds has caused unnecessary danger. But a powerful enemy may be using Kell as a tool. Delilah Bard is an unsuccessful thief with aspirations of higher villainy. Her quick hands and strong tongue has found her in the middle of Kell’s troubles. Anything but the helpless maiden, it’s Kell who may need Delilah.
Unfortunately the plot goes in a direct line, lacking depth and growth. There is no strong subplot, or corresponding genre, to add dimension to the story. Ms. Scwab’s talented writing carries us through, but I could not help but feel like I was lead through scene by scene, of a book with a one track direction, which made the ending predictable and underwhelming.
The magic was beautiful and relatively interesting, however there is no explanation on the systems workings. With no rules or limits put down for the magic, it was used too often as a convenient plot device. After completion of the story, I am still unsure of how the magic works or what it does other than the portal creation to jump dimensions, and I am unaware why the magic needs to do much else.
The most interesting part of the story is setting. The worlds that the characters are travelling between are each unique and carry great symbolism. The author does a great job of setting up the different scenes and bringing the reader from the wonderful, to the dark. The characters and monarchies of the individual London’s fit perfectly with their settings and helps as we are jumping world to world.
When it comes to characters my opinion is divided. On one hand Delilah Bard is one of the most assertive female roles seen in fantasy. Her proactivity makes her a force, despite her lack of magic. She shows no fear, she wants the world and there is nothing that can get in her way. Her character is a delight to read, and opposes all female stereotypes. Where as Kell… well I really don’t like Kell. When I say don’t like, I mean, I hate him and he ruined this book. I feel like the things I didn’t enjoy of this book would not have been so bad if I wasn’t disgruntled with the main character the entire way through. Pampered, arrogant, and conceited, he reminds me of Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell. The Zack Morris of fantasy and magic, his motives were not relatable, coming off as whiny and uninteresting.
Whelp, I am usually not so hard on books, especially in the fantasy genre. The story just never made up for my dislike of the main protagonist, who is now officially my least favorite hero in literature. Giving this book a 2/5, I do not think I will be continuing on this series. I have heard great things of the second book, but unless Kell dies in the first chapter I am sure it is not a book I will enjoy. As for Victoria Schwab, I am not done, her writing is great, with a balance of straightforward information and wonderful prose. I will give Vicious an unbiased attempt in the future.
Thanks booknerds, may your next book be your new favorite.