Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: February 24th, 2015
Standalone/Series: First book in the Shades of Magic trilogy
Genre: Adult – Fantasy
My rating in stars: 4,5 stars
My rating in words: LOVED this book!
What it’s about:
Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.
Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that 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 take her with him for her proper adventure.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.
“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”
This is one of those books that I was terrified of starting because it was so massively popular and praised by the masses. And it kind of scared me, because I’ve never ready any V.E. Schwab before and I was afraid I might not like it for some reason. And while yes, it did honestly take me a bit to get into the story, I should not have worried AT ALL. Because this book is just all sorts of amazing.
Where do I even begin to explain? I don’t think I can find a single negative point here, so why don’t I start listing all the positive points?
First of all there is the amazing worldbuilding, or should I say worlds-building?. Because this book doesn’t only have one fully-developed world, it has three! Grey London, Red London and White London. Well, actually four, but we don’t really see Black London, so I’m not counting it as developed yet. Even if I have a sneaking suspicion we will learn more about it in the next few books. But even though this may sound complicated, it’s actually done very well! The worlds are so vividly written that they seem real. Each and every one of them is just so realistic, even the ones with magic, which is something I hadn’t expected and so I can only applaud.
The plot itself is really just one big adventure. After a short introduction of the worlds we are thrown immediately into the action and it doesn’t stop until the end of the book. It’s a whirlwind and I loved being along for the ride. It’s also one of those books I could just see play out on a screen while reading. I heard that it’s been picked up for tv anyway, so that’s both amazing and terrifying because I have high hopes and a very clear visual already in my head!
Now let’s talk about the characters. Because these are some of the most unique and wonderfully flawed characters out there. I honestly don’t know which of the main characters I loved most. We have Kell of course, our main protagonist who has made some bad choices but is still such an overall good guy. Then there’s Lila, who I think may win the contest of favorite for me at the moment. The tough thief who want nothing more than to become a pirate is the perfect counter for Kell and this makes each and every one of their interactions PURE GOLD. Seriously, I could watch these two banter all day long. I was also immediately fond of Rhy and his brotherly bond with Kell. I just need more of him in book two. Also, I need more scenes with him and Lila. (I just want Lila in every scene with everyone, okay?) And don’t kill me, but I kind of liked Holland as well. As in, I REALLY liked him a lot. He was a complex and intriguing character and I also have a sneaking suspicion we will still learn more about him. And finally, the Dane twins were just these perfect villains that I also felt like they stepped straight out of a movie.
Overall, I loved this book and would recommend it to everyone. I love how the story kind of concludes nicely, but there are still so many things to learn and discover in the next few books, so I can’t wait to get my hands on book two, A Gathering of Shadows!
“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
Her smile widened. “Everything.”
“I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”
“I apologize for shooting you in the leg. I was myself entirely.”
“Would you tell them?” asked Kell.
Rhy sighed. Kell watched him try to answer several ways before he finally said, “There is nothing I would not give you.”
Kell’s chest ached. “I know.”
“You are my brother. My closest friend.”
“Bad magic, Kell had called it.
No, thought Lila now. Clever magic.
And clever was more dangerous than bad any day of the week.”
“Are you ready ?” she asked, spinning the chamber.
Kell gazed through the gate at the waiting castle. “No.”
At that, she offered him the sharpest edge of a grin.
“Good,” she said. “The ones who think they’re ready always end up dead.”
“You know so little of war. Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out… Kingdoms and crowns are taken from within. The strongest fortress can withstand any attack from beyond its walls, and yet even it is not fortified against an attack from behind them.”