Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Darker Shade of Magic Book Review

Rawr Reader,

I think there should be an award given to readers that lose interest in a novel and pick them up again in hopes of reigniting your interest. I started this last summer and set it aside for eight months, picking it up primarily because the chapters were short and the stack of titles on my shelf for unfinished books kept rapidly growing. In the end, I think I chose a good book to give another chance to. The synopsis is provided by Goodreads:

Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that 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 take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.

While I follow Victoria Schwab on various social media sites and am aware of how often she releases new titles, I'd have to say that I heard this from other booktubers who continued to rave about this action-packed adventure.

(safe for those who haven't read this yet)
   One thing I find myself never getting tired of is Schwab's gift for offering an original story. And if not entirely original, the world-building is on its own level. I thought this when I first read The Archived. And then Vicious. And now. It's for this reason I'll keep reading her future works because I know without a doubt I'll be on an adventure in a world I'd never thought of before with pretty kick-ass characters to kick it up a notch. 
   And so it is for A Darker Shade of Magic. Four Londons. Only two Antari to travel between them. That is, until Kell (our star on the front cover--- may I digress, what a cover!) meets a don't-take-no-for-an-answer, spirited girl with dreams of captaining her own ship and seeing the world (or in this case--- worlds). It hurts to say that while I didn't care for Lila (at all), I did cackle at her sass and fire to keep the scenes interesting. I cared more for what she was going to say as a comeback than for the ambivalent feelings she had being a thief and then being a slightly more normal human with morals. Together, the more cool-headed Kell and the firecracker Lila could only run into adventure... Thought I was going to say trouble huh? Well don't worry they run into plenty of that too! We really find each world has a garment of their own, and I really appreciated that each London actually embodied the color-ID they were given. 
    One thing that made this novel a quick read was the short chapters. There's a dozen larger sections but for the most part, each chapter was three to four pages long. Very convenient if you're reading on the bus to school or on the train to work or during lunch. Even if it's a couple of pages, if you finished a chapter it makes you feel as if you've accomplished something big.
    Something I always take into consideration is pacing, especially in my fantasy adventure novels. For me the beginning was a little slow because the main two characters don't meet until many chapters after the book begins. So while I would say the book picked up a little after the first quarter of the book (way too late for me to think very highly of it by the end), it didn't last very long and soon I sort of wished to be done with it. I'd have to say this was because the characters (Lila) more annoyed me than made me chuckle at her sass, and Kell seemed to always be brooding over a certain item he carries with him and it just reminded me of Frodo with the Ring from The Lord of the Rings. Actually, since I'm mentioning it, for a good portion of the book I felt scenes would closely emulate a theme or idea from Tolkien's series. It hurts me to admit it, but I didn't like it when I read Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (one of my favorite series) and there were names or scenes or small moments that just reminded me of The Lord of the Rings more than the original masterpiece I had in my hands, and I definitely still don't like it now. It's hard because not everything will be completely original, but for me to be taken out of such an interesting world and story and to be distracted into another world and story on multiple occasions is problematic.
    Another reason I felt this book didn't resonate with me as much as others was due to a small cast of characters. There are maybe only five characters that regularly show up, everyone else is rather fleeting. While this is expected for an adventure novel, usually we meet someone once and then move on, I still wished for more. Maybe not A Song of Ice and Fire large cast of characters, but I need more than just two sides of a coin to contrast each other. 
   While I didn't take as much a fancy to this series, I'm definitely going to continue to follow Schwab's works and pick up her upcoming novel The Savage Song.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

“I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself."
"I apologize for shooting you in the leg. I was myself entirely.” 
V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic

My Goodreads:

Next To Read:
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

River Song's Spoilers:
(unsafe for those who haven't read this book yet, so don't read this section)
   Every time Kell struggled to resist the evil stone from Black London, all I kept thinking about was Frodo and the Ring. I'm repeating myself because I really wonder if anyone else got that vibe. And sure, Lila could resist it better but I was never given an explanation as to why. 
   I think the moment I knew I disliked Lila was when she and Kell were arguing over who had a worse life, Lila with no family but freedom or Kell with family (forced as it was) and no freedom. She, with nothing, thinks that life with everything, in lieu of friends or family to rely on, is better than a life with friends and family but nothing to your name. In my mind, she made it sound like being a servant, or in Kell's unfortunate case a slave, was better than being a rat on the streets. Yes having money and stability and a home is nice but how can someone who has had no one to care for cast him aside so easily. She doesn't know what it means to have people in your life who actually mean something to you, or only use you for some talent you possess.
  Astrid gave the stone to Kell to transport to different worlds and her angle just makes no sense to me. And how can two pathological sadists not somehow turn on each other for all the power of the throne? And how can they go from such powerful masters of magic and then they're defeated so easily by a weakened Kell? I guess if there were more characters the fight would have been a little more epic in my eyes.     Let's talk romance. I felt that most of the exchanged between Lila and Kell (mostly in Lila's part) was foreplay and she was egging him on. Because whenever the author revealed their private and intimate thoughts, I kept wondering did it really have to be there? I thought their friendship weighed more than a romance that Schwab had built for them. 

Until Next Time,
Nicole Ciel

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