A Darker Shade of Magic (#1)
by V.E. Schwab.
A Darker Shade of Magic is the tale of many Londons. In each of several parallel universes, there exists a version of the city of London. Travel and commerce and magic used to flow between them unhindered. Now Gray London is magicless, White London is gripped by cruelty and power struggles, and only Red London remains a haven of life and magic. No one speaks about the downfall of Black London, and travel between the realms has been cut-off, except for a very select few who have the power to travel between.
Kell, from Red London, is one of only two of his kind of magician who can make the crossing. Officially, he carries correspondence between the monarchs of the neighboring Londons. Unofficially, he smuggles artifacts between the worlds. As one might expect, eventually he carries something he shouldn’t, and finds himself neck-deep in a plot full of treachery and magic that was supposed to have been lost with the fall of Black London. Chance leads him to cross paths with Delilah Bard, a pickpocket from Gray London dreaming of larger adventures- like magic. They form a tenuous alliance, working to stay alive and unravel the plot before the remaining Londons fall the way of Black.
This was a fun read! The world setup was unique, and the distinct atmosphere of each London really seeps through in the writing. Kell and Delilah are engaging characters, if not the most complex. And for once the book doesn’t get bogged down in predictable romance. The plot was a tad obvious in places, and certain things hinted at for subsequent books were also a bit heavy-handed. But overall I found the world and happenings interesting, and enjoyed the read. I will probably pick up the next book, just because this was refreshingly different from your normal fantasy read. And I’m curious to see if I’m right about how certain plot elements will develop. 😉