Sunday, March 6, 2016

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

Man, colds are terrible. So are unpredictable weather patterns, neck aches, and everything else that gives me headaches. Since Wednesday's review was already going to be a shorter one I'm going to wrap it into my round-up on later today (along with last week's posts, it's going to be a long post) and instead just keep moving forward and getting some of these posts out on time (or close) for once.

I'm glad that I enjoyed all of the books I read between Thanksgiving and Christmas since it means I can still remember a lot of aspects of the stories and give them the reviews their deserve! At this point I'm still just getting started with all of the 2015 releases so hilariously enough for this book I just found out today that the sequel is already out! Doesn't change my feelings on the book thankfully (I thought I had heard/suspected from reading the book that this wouldn't be a standalone) and hopefully I'll get around to reading A Gathering of Shadows sooner rather than later.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is an Antari, he can walk between worlds and frequently carries messages from his home world of "Red" London to the unstable "White" London and the mundane "Gray" London for his royal family. Kell is young however and merely having a position in life doesn't make him feel comfortable or sure of his place so he rebels in small ways, like trading trinkets across worlds and ignoring the rules against that. As White London grows more and more unstable however Kell may have to look across the different worlds for help however, and Gray London resident Delilah is determined to have an adventure, dangers be damned so she may be the perfect help for this crisis.

This will probably sound like I'm damning with faint praise but, I feel as if I could recommend this book to a lot of fantasy readers since it feels like such a familiar book. Not uncreative and not exactly comfort reading but this book takes ideas I've seen before, puts them together, and makes a nice story of them. I suppose I wouldn't recommend this book to folks who are actively looking for more diverse reads (I believe all of the characters were white/white equivalent and straight, although I'm a little less sure on that first point) but if you want a semi-historical, semi-alternate world, fantasy that isn't over the top story then this fits the bill well.

I did like this book, don't get me wrong, although I did think it could stand to be a bit more ambitious at parts (why is it that whenever there's a story with multiple worlds that ours is the dull, "wrong" one?) and thought that a few details were telegraphed a bit too obviously. But the level of descriptive detail for Red London and White London is marvelous, between that and the fast, fluid-moving plot I can see why the book has been optioned for a tv series easily (although I am worried that they're planning 10-12 episodes, I could see 6-8 but even 10 would be hard since it just doesn't have 10, distinct episodes in it). But I keep feeling as if there was something missing from the story, that it needed something more to it. Perhaps it needed more complexity, the characters felt reasonably well-fleshed out by the end of the story but whenever I try to describe them they keep sounding like generic tropes. Maybe the plot needed to be less straightforward, it felt like a "everything was stable until one bad event happened and now everything is tumbling down" plot which I always find rather unsatisfactory. This isn't a medicore book that seems doomed to remain that way, this is a solid and good story and yet just lacks some spark!

So perhaps I haven't explained well why I plan to check out the sequel (I'm hoping to hear more about Black London and Delilah, especially once the book stopped being dense about what she really was) or the tv series (I hope that is has the budget to look as lavish as I imagined). If you are generally agreeable to the idea of reading fantasy then go ahead and check this one out, I promise it's not a bore and you'll find that I'm just being overly harsh on it.