A Darker Shade of Magic

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.

Goodreads, Amazon UK

I heard so much hype about this book. This was all anyone could talk about and after finishing it, I can see why.

First of all, the book’s biggest strength – worldbuilding. Oh my God, if I can ever get my novel’s worldbuilding as good as this, I would die happy. For me, good worldbuilding can cover a multiple of sins and bad worldbuilding can drive an otherwise interesting plot down. The world-building was carefully layered in, no info-dump, and I understood what was going on the whole time which was impressive considering how intricate the whole set-up is. Not only that, but the different worlds with the different Londons were so interesting, especially with their history between them. Kell’s reasoning why he nicknamed all of them with the colours was sound and really gave us a feel for each London. White London was actually terrifying and God, I felt really sorry for poor Holland. Red London sounds amazing but I did like how Kell found the permanence of the buildings in Grey London appealing – a flaw in an otherwise great world.

The plot kept me on my toes the whole time and it moved along at a quick enough pace that I was sucked in and couldn’t quite put the book down long enough to go to bed. The plot diverges into an unexpected place and while I enjoyed it because it was so unexpected, I’m not sure whether I personally like it. But that is far more opinion than anything to do with the writing.

The characters were another main strength of the book. There was a great variety of both protagonists and antagonists and their relationships with each other were so interesting to read about. The plot could have been removed and I would have happily read a book where the characters interact with each other. Kell was powerful but flawed and so different from Holland, though they may both be Antari. Rhy was such a sweetheart and I wish he had been in it more.

Lila – oh, Lila. By the end of the book I did like her, but I think I would have liked her a lot more if she had been an amoral protagonist. Someone that shows up and helps because there is something in it for them, rather than the thief with a heart of gold she obviously was intended to be. I feel like cross-dressing pirate would normally have me instantly loving the character but she just read as a little removed to me. At least until the last third of the book. And the kiss between her and Kell made me roll my eyes. It came out of nowhere because there was no chemistry between her and Kell at all. Maybe I will change my mind after I read the sequel.

Despite that, I really enjoyed this book and when I saw the sequel in WHSmiths I instantly bought it. Five stars, would definitely recommend.

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