Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Review | A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

What You Need To Know:
Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Number of Pages: 386
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Magic, Fiction
Standalone/Series: First Book in the Shades of Magic Series
Publisher: 27th February, 2015
Publication Date: Titan Books

The Plot:
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.

My Thoughts:

For months I had only heard good things about this book. So many different Booktubers had been raving about it and I knew that I wanted to read it at some point. I'd never read a V.E. Schwab book before and everyone and their mother always says that she is an amazing author so I was extremely excited to pick it up. Sadly I was extremely disappointed.

"I'd rather die on an adventure than live standing still."

There were few things about this book that I truly liked. The main being the fact that it felt like a Lord of the Rings knock off. Now I know that there are plenty of books that use ideas from other works of fiction but everything about this book felt like the Lord of the Rings. For example there was an evil power who craved one thing that would make them extremely powerful and that one thing could only be destroyed in the place it was created. Sound familiar. Now usually I could look past that, if it was told to be a retelling of sorts. Like the Lunar Chronicles or The Legend series. But no, it says that A Darker Shade of Magic is an original tale and it just pushes my buttons to know that it really isn't.

 "Hesitation is the death of advantage."

Maybe I could have gotten over the fact that it was a bad retelling if the characters were believable. Alas they were not. We have two protagonists. The first being Kell, he is able to travel between the different Londons; a dying art. He sounds like an interesting character but he's completely conflicting. One moment he is naive and innocent; saying something that a person who has seen all different styles of life in different worlds shouldn't do. Then the next moment he is arrogant and condescending; ordering people about and all but expressing that they are nothing compared to him. Not to mention the fact that one moment he is acting as if he loves his adopted family, the Royals of Red London, then the next he hates them. Yes, they do own him in a way but they treat him as a son so why should he hate them the way he does? Truthfully, he's just a selfish character who only wants to please himself, not those around him. Hence why he brings things into the different realms which starts the whole mess of the book.

"Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out."

And then there's Lila. Initially she seems more likable and believable because of how she is initially described. She's a thief who lives in hard conditions; a seemingly rough character with big dreams of escaping the life she is living. The type that people usually think is adorable and should be loved. But I actually thought that she was worse than Kell. At least he had some personality, even if it did annoy me. For the most part Lila was dull and annoying and though she said somethings about wanting to change her life; really they were just words that meant nothing at all.

 "Lila Bard lived by a simple rule: if a thing was worth having, it was worth taking."

But that wasn't the main thing that made these characters unbelievable. For me it had to be the backstories; or lack of them should I say. As a reader, I knew nothing about either of their lives and though somethings were hinted at (like their lack of parentage) there were literally no answers. No I know that this was probably done so that the reader would want to continue the series. But to me, that's poor craftsmanship. If you want someone to pick up the next book then don't end the only possible why that that story could be going in one book. Yes, there should be space to know more about the characters and to allow them to develop but that should not be the only way that the series could go. A reader will not remember how the book ended in a year or so when the next book comes out if there is not some pinnacle moment like a cliff hanger. And truthfully it wasn't even that good an ending; it was simple and .... meh.

"Magic made things simple. Somethings, thought Kell, it made things too simple."

Although I don't think that this book was as good as everyone said, I can tell you that there were a handful of things that I liked. Mainly the villains .... ish. They were good villains; dark, sadistic, everything that a person wants when reading a good book. And they certainly did the unexpected but when it said at the start that they would do anything for power, well it just became predictable and dull. Yes they were interesting characters but there was no power behind them and they were far too easy to beat when I think about it. It would have been so much more enjoyable for there to be a bit more conflict between the heroes and villains; something that could have made the ending a little less predictable.

"The bodies in my floor all trusted someone. Now I walk on them to tea."

Ultimately, I feel that there was so much potential behind this book that really it could have been amazing. Yet it was just poorly executed; jumping on the bandwagon of a well loved classic. Truly it just disappointed me. Hence why I have given it *

Book Total of 2016 - 40