A Darker Shade of Magic

Written by V.E. Schwab
Review by Judith Starkston

Magic, in Schwab’s fantasy novel, is a mixed blessing. Too much magic and the world self-destructs, too little and life washes out to blandness. Schwab’s world building floats somewhat in real historical time around 1819, but it’s a larger scope than you’ll read in history texts. There are four Londons, grey, red, white and black. In each, magic plays a different role, from almost non-existent to explosive and corrosive. Schwab’s world-building is detailed and engaging. Each London draws the reader in as a vivid, distinct place. Kell is one of the last living Travellers, people who can pass from one world to another, bringing official letters between the rulers of the worlds. He also smuggles objects between Londons and this treasonous dabbling allows a wonderfully distasteful cast of villains to exploit Kell. The plot has intricacies enough to keep the reader guessing. Kell’s character has depth, but even more likeable is his accidental sidekick, Delilah, a criminal young woman with a curious history. Both Kell and Delilah have pasts yet to be revealed, and Schwab has created an elaborate world readers will enjoy returning to.