Book Review – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Rating: 5/5 Stars

This will be a spoiler-free review. For my spoiler-y thoughts, check out my Book Breakdown on my YouTube channel, which will be posted on 2/21/2018 (My Channel).

When I heard all of the hype surrounding this book, I thought, Will it really live up to the expectations people are setting for me? Now all I have to say is: V.E. Schwab, I’m sorry I doubted you.

Of course, this novel wasn’t perfect, but I can honestly say that anything I could find issue with was so minuscule, I can’t even think of a single one off of the top of my head in this moment. All I can think of are the many, many things this author did right. For example, the characters. Kell and Lila, our two main characters that we follow throughout this novel, were some of my favorite main characters I’ve had the pleasure to read about in a while. I think what really drew me to them was that they felt like real people, instead of caricatures of people. By this, I mean that Schwab didn’t try to make them super quirky. And don’t get me wrong, I love a quirky character as much as the next person–I mean, we’ve all got our quirks–but in this instance everything about these two characters rang true to me in a way that hasn’t happened in a while. Sure, Lila liked to dress in masculine clothes and Kell had a magical jacket, but those were just small things that, in my opinion, added to their humanity more than anything.

The world building was also incredibly well done. It was interesting to follow both a character who knew everything about magic and the different Londons and a character who knew nothing about those things. It really allowed me as a reader to learn things at a nice pace, so none of it dragged and everything was made very clear. My favorite part of the world building was when Schwab would have the characters offhandedly mention something that grew the world even more without spending an ungodly amount of time explaining it. It really immersed me in the world without making me wish we could just get with the story. I’d also like to say that everything about this world felt new, like it belonged solely to Schwab. Not that she invented the idea of elemental magic, which plays a large role in this novel, but rather that she did it in such a unique way that it didn’t feel like anything I’d read about before.

Other great things I noticed throughout this novel: The pacing was on point, switching between Kell’s and Lila’s POVs worked wonderfully and really added great tension during intense scenes, and there was a lot of subtle humor sprinkled throughout that had me giggling like an idiot. The villains were also very formidable and made it feel like things really were at stake for our main characters, something that can be a failing point for some authors (but not for Schwab!).

If I had to pick out one negative thing to say about this book, it would be that the novel starts out a little slow, with quite a bit of world building. In fact, the inciting incident doesn’t really occur until around the 100 page mark. However, in this instance I’d say that’s forgivable, since the world building is so important to the inciting incident itself, as well as the novel as a whole. And while I say it started out slow, I wouldn’t say it dragged. Like I said before, the pacing really was on point. Even when it went slow, it never made me want to put the book down, because I was too enthralled with what was happening on the page regardless of plot. The characters and world really had me hooked from page one.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a novel featuring a well-developed magical world, realistic characters that you can’t help but root for, and a plot that has you on the edge of your seat.

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