The Shades of Magic series is entrancing and cements VE Schwab as one of the great fantasy writers of this generation.
Series Rating: 4 Stars
Shades of Magic Series
A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, A Conjuring of Light
Author: VE Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Synopsis for ADSOM: Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands.
There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, with one mad king—George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered—and where Kell was raised alongside Rhys Maresh, the roguish heir to the throne. White London—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London…but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, he’s a smuggler, a dangerous, defiant hobby to have—as proven when Kell stumbles into a setup with a forbidden token from Black London.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, who first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.
Shades of Magic is one of those series that sticks with you long after you’ve finished it. I first finished reading the series back in the summer of 2017 and for the next two years I would constantly tell people that I couldn’t wait to reread it. Schwab has a way with words that just enthralls you and never lets you go. Her command of characters is masterful and the world she builds is familiar and frightening and fantastic.
Schwab crafts a dark and wondrous world with her four Londons: Red London (vibrant and full of magic), Grey London (dull and without magic), White London (cutthroat and starving for magic), and Black London (dead because of magic). Each London has its own characteristics and is almost a character of the story on their own. The magic system is interesting, but not the most complex that I’ve read.
Where Schwab really excels is her characters, in particular, Delilah Bard and Holland. Delilah, aka Lila, is a very love her or hate her character. Lila is tough as nails and suffers no fools. She can be viewed as harsh and unlikeable, but she just emotes differently than others. I would argue that Lila cares deeply for certain people, but please don’t let her know I said that. Holland is one of the more complex characters I’ve read in a good long while and you’ll just have to read the series to find out why.
There are more characters that I could discuss at length (Alucard Emery!), but I could never do them justice. Schwab is one of those authors that I almost hate to review because there is no way that my paltry words can encompass the magic they write. There are moments where the writing falters a bit in my opinion, but it doesn’t take away from the sheer enjoyment of reading these novels. Schwab brings forth such images with her words that reading her works are an immersive experience. I truly believe Schwab will be a heavy hitter in the fantasy world for years to come.