Welcome to my re-read of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. This is the first part of my weekly re-read posts. If you have read ADSOM, come re-read and discuss it with me. If you never read it, I highly recommend it especially if you like fantasy books, sarcastic protagonists, kick-ass heroine, and fabulous coat. Even though it’s a re-read, I will do my best to avoid spoiling future chapters in the post itself, which is quite easy because most of the time, I didn’t remember what happened. So even though this is the first time you read ADSOM, you could follow along. However, please note that although the post itself is spoiler-free from future chapters, the comments section are spoiler zone, where you can talk about anything including the plot twist and the book conclusion. Without further ado, let’s sail through A Darker Shade of Magic. All aboard!
This week I covered Part I The Traveler, which consists of three sub-parts (I refer to them as Chapters).
By the way, if you’re still on the fence whether you should buy A Darker Shade of Magic or not (well, you should), you can read the first two chapters for free here. Please do note that Part I has three chapters, instead of two.
The first part of ADSOM introduced us to Kell, a blood magician, or antari. As an antari, he is one of two people who can travel between worlds, the magic wealthy Red London, the magic hungry White London, and our Grey London. I imagined them as parallel universes. In the past, there was a fourth London, named Black London. Something terrible happened to Black London and now it’s no more than a fairy tale to scare your children. Kell himself is from Red London and acts as a messenger for the royal family in Red London.
In the first part, Kell paid a visit to our world, …well our world in 1819. First, he went to pay his courtesy to the current King of England, George III, then he went to see the Prince Regent, who will be known as George IV, and lastly he went to a tavern called The Stone Throw. In this tavern, we found out that besides being a messenger, Kell also has a more dangerous hobby, he smuggles things between worlds. He barters items to get tokens from the other worlds. At the end of Part I, he used his blood and a token to get home to his Red London.
I cannot remember when was the last time I fell in love with a book or a character this fast. It was basically love at the first sight. And now I’m falling in love all over again.
The book is written from third person POV. Schwab certainly knows how to pique people’s interest. She doesn’t do boring introduction, but jumps straight to magic (and coat!) She also did a very good job on introducing us to one of the main characters, Kell. Indeed, there are some scenes that are truly enjoyable such as when he made up the content of the letter supposedly written by his queen and flattered himself in the process. The knife, though, was a curious thing especially since it bore two letters, K L. What is K L? Is it his initial? What does the L stand for? AHH, so many questions already.
What really interests me about Chapter I was how Schwab smoothly blended fantasy with real history in the form of King George III. I’ve only known King George III for two things: a) he went mad (and blind apparently) b) he lost America. (Please don’t kill me. I’m neither British nor American and my main references were the musical Hamilton and Wikipedia).
I appreciate ADSOM for portraying him from another angle, as a king imprisoned in his own castle. In A Darker Shade of Magic, the king has gone mad and was in his final years (it was 1819 and he died-according to wikipedia-in January 1820). In the book, George III was described as magic-thirsty, but not in a murderous way. At the end of Chapter I, Kell left Windsor palace to meet the Prince Regent.
In Chapter II, Kell went to St. James to deliver a correspondence from his queen to the Prince Regent, whom I immediately dislike. Here, Schwab took her time to teach us history (if it’s history in a fantasy world, would it still be called history?) about Black London. We also get to understand a little more about Kell. Apparently, he has one blue eye and one black eye, which he usually cover with his hair. (and I was like, “THE HAIR SERVES A PURPOSE BESIDES MAKING PEOPLE SWOON”) The Prince Regent initially asked him to stay for dinner
date, but finally let him and his black eye go after being subtly threatened by Kell.
So, this Kell, he likes to collect tokens from the worlds he visits. That’s basically like us buying souvenirs to take home during our trip, just slightly more dangerous because he basically commits treason by doing that.
Kell, darling, you could face prison! (I suppose he could just use his magic to get out from our jail, but hey)
In Chapter III, he barters a child’s game from his world with a music box with a Collector. (Okay, so he’s also a bit sentimental. And smells like flowers. Have I mentioned he smells like flowers?) He also met a guy named Ned that he identified as an Enthusiast. So, what did Kell do? Why, flexed his magic of course. The Enthusiast left empty-handed at the end of their conversation. However, why do I have a feeling that his encounter with the Enthusiast is going to bring trouble for him? Also, he is a blood magician, and apparently there are only two of them left. What happened to the antari? Who are Kell’s parents? Who is Kell and how did he inherit such a powerful magic? Why does he smell like flowers? Who is Rhy? What actually happened to Black London?
No matter. He’s off to Red London now, where hopefully we’ll get some answers.
He occupied himself by drumming his fingers on the edge of the gilded table. Each time he made it from pinky to forefinger, one of the room’s many candles went out. “Must be a draft,” he said absently
“Check the park.”
“Prince Rhy, on the other hand, continues to impress and infuriate in equal measure, but has at least gone the month without breaking his neck or taking an unsuitable bride. Thanks be to Kell alone for keeping him from doing either, or both.”
That’s it for this week.
Next week, I’ll continue with the second part, Red Royal. Until next time!