Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Darker Shade of Magic


Book Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1
Date Started: April 20th 2015
Date Completed: April 25th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Thriller
Quality Rating: Five Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Five Stars
Final Rating: Five stars

Unsurprisingly, Schwab has written another brilliant story driven by its awesome characters and original magical concept. There's something about a classical fantasy adventure that at the same time has refreshingly different protagonists that subtly veer off the well-worn path that just amazes and excites me. My faith in Schwab's talent for taking the usual and twisting it just a little bit farther than you imagine is just growing stronger. This is the kind of thing I love to read, and this is the kind of thing that's so hard to find.

I love Schwab's writing. It's just brilliant. The one drawback that emerged with the high fantasy genre was the opening description and explanation of the worlds was a bit lacking in structure: so many commas adding to not that many sentences. However, she somehow managed to avoid the danger of information dumping and actually when the direct explanation came, it was reasonably easy to understand. The concept itself is brilliant, and the world building around it did do well for such a confusing idea; but the biggest benefit from the magical world was that it made the book seem so much bigger. I don't think many authors can carry off such a succinct story in such a broad universe, but Schwab does it wonderfully.
The other notable part of the writing is, of course, Schwab's talent for non-linear timelines. Though it wasn't such as complex as her previous novel, I couldn't help noticing the little flashbacks and twists in chronology to hide or reveal details to the reader. It isn't something I've read a lot of in high fantasy, since typically the genre depends more on cause and consequences of events on a whole world, but Schwab was able to make it work very nicely.

A Darker Shade of Magic has a nice original storyline, mainly because of the worlds: it broadened the potential for the story, and Schwab took full advantage of this. I feel like we got to see all three Londons throughout the story without feeling pushed in a certain direction in order to show off something the author thought up.
The climax was brilliant as it was following two characters, and each were battling and sneaking at different times. The diversity of plot increased the tension, and the time jumps between the action spread it out just enough for get some more excitement in without drawing it out unnecessarily. I really admire the aftermath of the climax: Schwab took her time after the 'end' of the story to develop things properly. We're left with so much potential for the future and so many little things that I want to discover the answers to. I cannot wait for the next book.

The characters are my favourite part of this book, especially because of the protagonist's diversity from each other: they're both powerful and weak in different areas, and they make a brilliant team because of this. I also really loved the fact that, while there's definitely the opportunity of a romantic relationship, they didn't need to have in order to trust each other and be close - they're just as wonderful as friends.
I love Kell: he's awesome and his development through the story is great. He's a brilliant hero since he doesn't dedicate himself entirely to protecting others, but he isn't fully out for himself either: he has an ability others don't have and so he uses it, but he's acting like a 'normal' person would in his situation. His relationships with those around him are really nice, and you get the feeling he's a likeable character without everyone being spontaneously in love with him. He's actually pretty relatable past the magic.
Lila is now one of my all time favourite characters. While she might look like the newly typical kick-ass, sarky heroine, there's more substance beneath that, and Schwab pushes at those new boundaries. Lila isn't the way she is for the sake of rejecting traditional stereotypes: she isn't just irritatingly sarcastic, she does do some bad things; she isn't recklessly stupid, she genuinely is stubborn because of what she's been through.
Probably one of the few things I would've changed about this book would be the inclusion of two characters: Rhy would've been a hilarious addition to the team that I wish I'd learnt more about before Kell acted so rashly for him. I was also really rooting for Holland - but that's pretty much all I can without spoilers.

Because of Schwab's signature talent for non-chronoolgoical timelines (which aren't as important in here as in Vicous) the pacing was really good here. Well, maybe apart from just the beginning: it took a bit of time for the action to kick off, and since I'm used to tension and fast-paced plot it caught me a bit off guard. But as the story went on things picked up pretty effortlessly and I found it pretty much impossible to put down after the first hundred pages.

I think A Darker Shade of Magic is a brilliant book for a huge range of readers: younger readers will love the adventure, older readers will enjoy the complexity of the worlds. I don't like to make comparisons to other books because each do exist well on their own, but this was like Howl's Moving Castle meets Inkheart meets Throne of Glass - and that would make me pick it up without hesitation. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to wait for the next book.

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