6 April 2015

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic
VE Schwab
Titan Books, 2015
PB, 400pp

I bought this book from Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh

VE Schwab's new book is action almost from the start, introducing two spiky, resourceful and confounding protagonsists who rampage through London - indeed all three Londons - on a quest combining self preservation, revenge and discovery, ending in an epic battle.

Kell is a young magician, one of a very few who can cross between the worlds, between "Grey" London (our world, bare of magic, enchanted "Red" London and bone- hued, dying "White" London. As a magician, he serves the King, carrying messages between the worlds. And he dabbles in carrying other things, too, which is where the problems begin.

Lila is a swashbuckling heroine, a thief and would-be pirate stalking nighttime Grey London in male attire and running rings round the constables.

When Lila and Kell meet, she attempts to rob him - but robbing a magician isn't easy, and Lila only steps into the trouble following Kell. Together they have no choice but to face potentially world destroying magic and hellish enemies

This was a refreshing story, told with verve and pace. While the physical detail of the fictional world is perhaps scanty, its moral and magical landscape is well mapped. As a result, from the start - even before they meet - there's a sense that Kell and Lila walk in shadow, that part of them is somewhere elsewhere, so it hardly seems surprising when they attract attention from... but that would be telling. At the same time Schwab makes them real characters - understandable, infuriating at times, but always real. They dominate the plot of the book (which in many ways is basic: sort of what Lord of the Rings might have been if the Fellowship was only two and they had hours, not months) and drive events, rather than being puppets in the hands of the author.

An excellent read, and I'm glad to see that there will be sequels.

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