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.
I have to say right away that I loved Vicious by V.E. Schwab which was published in 2013, and ever since I've been looking forward to reading her other books. So, when I read the blurb for A Darker Shade of Magic I knew instantly, INSTANTLY, that I had to get this book because there's nothing that I didn't like about the premise: parallel worlds, travelling between these worlds, magic, and adventures!! It was really nice to notice that I wasn't let down by A Darker Shade of Magic, even though it was a quite a bit lighter than I thought it would be (I kind of hoped that A Darker Shade of Magic would be a gruesome and dark read).
I've always found parallel universes a really fascinating concept, so naturally I loved the fact that Schwab hadn't created only two parallel universes, but four. FOUR! Grey, Red, White, and Black London all had their own distinguished features in terms of appearance, amount of alive magic, politics, customs, and even language which was so cool - the author had really thought the concept through which made me to fangirl quite a bit. I loved how inventive and intriguing this concept was and its execution, and the fact that the author didn't give away too much. She gave the readers all the basics and then a bit more about the parallel worlds, but also made them hungrier to know more about these Londons. Hopefully, we'll get more insight of these cities and the parallel worlds in general in the next instalments!
Kell and Delilah/Lila were such an interesting duo, both of them being used to be self-reliant and distancing themselves from other people. I liked that they weren't those typical YA characters 'handsome/beautiful without really knowing it' but Kell and Lila were very impressionable with their quirky yet a bit sad personalities. And I have this really weird thing for girls dressing as boys to get away with things! I don't what it is, but I just always seem to love novels in which the girl dresses as a boy and is a really badass and conquers the world in her own way. Even though I had a bit difficult time to connect with Lila first, I was really glad to notice that she eventually grew on me. With Kell, I had no problem - I liked him instantly. He with his red-hair and brooding personality was right up on my alley! One thing that I would've liked to know more about was these characters' pasts - what's up with Kell not remembering his childhood? I need to know!! I guess I just have to wait the other books to be published...
I think A Darker Shade of Magic is one of those books which are best experienced when known as little as possible, so I'm just going to list somethings that I absolutely loved in this novel (hopefully) not giving too much away: banter, a potential romance, Kell's coat with more than two sides, sadistic villains, dying magic, just enough open-ended ending to peak my interest for the second book. One thing that I didn't like, though: the constant use of italics to emphasise words.
So if you have been meaning to read A Darker Shade of Magic, but still haven't: DO IT. I can almost guarantee that you won't be disappointed. I have to say thought that I did enjoy Schwab's Vicious more than A Darker Shade of Magic, but I still have to read her The Archived (which I'll try to read soonish as soon as I get a copy in my hands). A Darker Shade of Magic offered banter, slice of magic, exciting adventures, and heartfelt emotions which made the book a rememberable and unique read.