Audiobook Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Magic
Publisher: Tantor Audio (February 24, 2015)
Author Info: victoriaschwab.com
Wendy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I love when authors use magic in interesting ways, especially when they develop their own elaborate systems of how magic works within their worlds. Schawb doesn’t so much give me an elaborate magic system–its use of blood magic, power words, etched symbols, etc–is common enough, but where the book does shine is in the way magic is viewed and used between the different versions of London that the main protagonist travels between.
Kell is a rare magician, one of the few able to travel this way, and we mostly see Red, Grey, Black, and White London from his perspective. Schwab does an amazing job of describing the magic by using all of Kell’s senses. Some people have a magical scent that others can pick up. In some of the Londons, magic is almost palpable even when not actively being used. In others, magic running through your veins is a commodity that people will kill for. This is where I make my inevitable comparison to Dragon Age, where magic is a major factor in the story. The different Londons and how they view magic made me think of the different countries within the continent of Thedas where magic is considered a gift by some and treated respectfully, is a powerful tool and plaything for others, or is feared altogether.
The story itself is a fairly straight forward one, though it attempts a few twists and turns. Kell, a smuggler of magical items, is tricked into returning a powerful artifact to its rightful London–that is, the not so nice London. But there is, of course, so much more at play, with some from the other worlds seeking dominance through power and blood. Kell is joined by a ruthless thief named Delilah Bard who is usually only interested in saving her own skin but is compelled to aid Kell in hopes of finding some interesting adventure. While there is a bit of a spark between them, Schwab does not dwell on this. Because, dare I say it, it’s perfectly fine for a man and a woman to work together without being love interests. In fact, the only problem that I have with the couple is, unfortunately, the voice Crossley uses for Delilah. Otherwise, his narration is very good, particularly Kell’s rough, throaty tone, and the sing-song cunning of the deadly king and queen of White London.