Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V. E. Schwab
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic, #1
Format: Paperback, bought
My rating: 2.5 / 5
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.
Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.
-- As seen on Goodreads
My history with hyped books is mixed at the best of times. Sometimes they work for me, sometimes they don’t. Unfortunately this is one of those moments when I loathe book-hype with a fiery passion. Don’t get me wrong, A Darker Shade of Magic isn’t a bad book – definitely not – but it just wasn’t anywhere near the level of epicness I had expected. When I picked up the book I was imagining witnessing glittering rainbows of awesomeness, but it ended up being… beige. Bland. Alright. Just ok… Quite frankly, I was completely underwhelmed. Even rereading the synopsis, it certainly delivers one heck of an impact, but sadly the story just didn’t live up to what I was hoping for.
Simply put, the book felt entirely emotionless. It’s very hard to pinpoint just one thing that had me feeling this way. It took me a long time to get into the story, and it didn’t help that the book was broken into sections, and those sections were broken into even smaller chapters. Add quite frequent POV switching into the mix and I felt it broke the flow of the story up a bit too much. The writing style, though, I thought was very good, and I found myself spending more time paying attention to the pretty words and forgetting to get lost in the world being described and created.
Here’s the thing, though. I know I have a pretty short attention span, but I honestly didn’t think it was that bad. While I was reading, my mind was wandering all over the place and I found it difficult to get through more than a dozen pages at a time. I was waiting for something exciting and gripping that would have me hanging on the edge of my seat, but that moment never came. Nice writing and pretty sentences can only entertain me for so long before I look for other things. Like a plot. Speaking of the plot, (and trying to be completely spoiler free), was the entire book really wrapped around that tiny little thing? Seriously?! Did I miss something incredibly epic?
If you’ve visited my blog before, you’ll probably know that I can overlook a whole multitude of issues if I love some of the characters. I love having some form of emotional connection to them – it’s fun! Unfortunately, the characters in A Darker Shade of Magic didn’t deliver for me. Beyond a few random facts – Kell with his nifty coat and smuggling habits; Lila wanting to be a pirate and being the stereotypical strong female character; Rhy being a flirty bisexual Prince – I don’t really know any of the their personalities or what makes them tick. They weren’t vibrant, dynamic or expressive enough. They lacked that spark to lift them from mere names and random facts on a page. Rhy, though, would be the only character that I had much interest in, and he wasn’t in the book often enough to help me connect with the story properly.
Right now, I wish I was joining in with all the glowing praise A Darker Shade of Magic has received. Maybe if I’d read it at a different time I would have liked it more? I don’t know, and I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure. I’m putting my feelings down to being bitten by the hype bug, and my expectations being set at an unrealistic level. I still want to read Victoria Schwab’s The Archived series, and I really, really hope I’ll love those books more than this one. *Fingers crossed!*