By Courtenay


In anticipation of A Conjuring of Light, the concluding installment of the Shades of Magic Trilogy, released on Feb. 22. I decided to re-read the first two books in the series.

To start this off, I really enjoyed A Darker Shade of Magic when I first read it. I finished it in 2 days, which means I did not spend a lot of time in this world. Which means when I was trying to recall the story, I couldn’t remember much. I’m usually pretty good about remembering big plot points, but I could only really remember what happened in the end. I recall that loved the premise of parallel worlds and the clear magic system that allows Kell to traverse them. Kell and Lila’s relationship was the most compelling aspect of the story. Other than that, I did not remember much of the plot. Turns out there wasn’t much of a plot to remember.

A Darker Shade of Magic follows Kell, one of the last Antari, who has the ability to walk through parallel worlds, with a focus on parallel Londons and Delilah Bard, a crossdressing thief looking for an adventure. Through Kell’s duty as a messenger between worlds for the royal family of Red London, he comes into the possession of an object that places him and all the worlds at risk. The rest of the story follows Kell and Lila attempting to return the item to where it belongs.

I forgot how simple the plot was. Upon re-reading it, it felt like one of those run and fetch video game quests, which keep forcing you to do more things in order to get to the one thing you needed in the first place, but the ultimate premise never changes in its complexity or intricacy.

Schwab’s writing and characterization makes the story compelling despite the lack luster plot and world building. Schwab’s pacing is near on perfect, she doesn’t spend too much time on any one aspect of the story, but moves it along at a good clip. I do wish that this book had been a little longer to incorporate some of the secondary character’s relationships to Kell and Lila. You don’t get to see much of the social workings of Red London, which I would have liked more of. The secondary characters also fell flat, as there is little to no character development or focus. I know this changes in the second book, but I felt disconnected from the Rhy, Holland and the other characters that populate the tale.

Overall, A Darker Shade of Magic is a good introduction to a new series and probably a good introduction to fantasy for those who aren’t use to reading the genre. Schwab has very clear rules for her worlds and she sticks to them.  It also helps that Lila eases the reader into some of the more magical aspects of series. You learn about the world as she does, which makes it easier to parse out and find similarities between the worlds. Having now finished the conclusion of this series, I would say that it is a must read. Look for my reviews on the next two books as well as a series review coming soon.