A Darker Shade of Magic – V E Schwab

This is an intriguingly different fantasy novel, that I fairly raced through. The central protagonist is Kell, one of the last of those with the talent to magically transport himself from one London to another. There is Red London, Kell’s own, where he is in the service of the ruling king. Meantime, in Grey London, a mad king George III is on the throne. And there’s also White London, where a couple of homicidal plotters jointly rule. Once there was a Black London, but then…

Kell travels between these Londons – each with its own attitude to life and magic – acting as some kind of messenger. The rationale behind the messages is less than clear – one of the weakest parts of the book – but it does set up the scenario that sees Kell thrown into the center of a dastardly magical plot.

The magical aspects of this fantasy seem well constructed, and the writing flows beautifully most of the time. As the tale unfolds, the reader gets a better understanding of Kell, and the worlds he travels between.

I was impressed by the author’s imagination, and the ability to construct such an interesting and enthralling fantasy setting. The characterization was good, as well, with Lila, a thief from Grey London, developing into a strong supporting foil for Kell. The baddies are less deeply drawn, but still believable and fit well into the setting and the story.

This was fresh, fun, reasonably well paced, well told, and thoroughly enjoyable. Highly recommended.