A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”
Kell is one of only two people with the ability to travel between parallel universes and the three different Londons: the dull, magicless Grey London, the enchanting, magical Red London, and the bleak, desperate White London. Because of his rare abilities he acts as an official messenger between the different Londons, but unofficially he is a smuggler, a hobby that gets him into a lot of trouble. When he accidentally smuggles a relic of the long dead Black London between worlds, he and Delilah Bard, a Grey London pickpocket, find themselves thrown together as they fight to quash the rising of a sinister branch of magic that threatens the safety of all the Londons.
A Darker Shade of Magic is yet another one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for literally ages, seen as its been huge across the blogosphere, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. I’ve even owned a copy for months, so I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to get round to reading it! It may partly be because I read This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab a while back and didn’t love it as much as I had hoped, and the hype around A Darker Shade of Magic has been even bigger…
So it’s fair to say I approached this book with caution, but thankfully, for the most part it lived up to my high expectations. For starters, the world of the book (or worlds, should I say!) was one of the most imaginative I can remember reading about in a long time. I loved the idea of the parallel Londons, and only select people being able to move between them, and I liked the way they were all so different. They were so intricately painted by Schwab, through her beautiful descriptions and her level of detail – even little things like the many different languages and different currencies between worlds.
I also adored the two main characters, Kell and Lila, and their interactions with each other. I liked how Kell is one of the most powerful magicians in the several universes of the story, yet hates it and the attention it brings him, and I think the one rebellious thing he does – smuggling between worlds – helped make him a truly rounded character when he could easily have become a dull, goodie two-shoes character. Lila, meanwhile, has to be my favourite character, as I loved her bravado and swagger, yet how you could see that underneath it all she’s really quite vulnerable and tries to protect herself by not letting anyone get too close. Like Kell’s smuggling, her inability to trust people was a flaw that made her seem really human, when she could so easily have been your stereotypical ‘tough girl’ character.
I also liked that similarly to August and Kate in This Savage Song, Kell and Lila remain just friends throughout the novel. Whilst I definitely think there is a romantic relationship simmering between them, it is much more of a slow burn than in most books, which makes a change from the ‘love at first sight’ trope you see so often.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, and was glad not to be disappointed. I do still think that the hype affected my reading of it, as I wasn’t as immediately drawn into it as I had hoped originally, although I can’t quite put my finger on why. I’ve since started reading the next book A Gathering of Shadows though and have found myself immediately sucked in (and I’m liking getting to see more of Rhy, who I was intrigued by in the first book!), so I think I’m really starting to get into this series now, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends! I have A Conjuring of Light all ready and waiting on my bookshelf for when I’ve finished A Gathering of Shadows…
A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
“It’s a rare person to face who they are and not run from it – not be broken by it.”
Warning: Minor Spoilers.
Following the events of A Court of Mist and Fury, Feyre is once again at the Spring Court, but this time everything is different. This time she’s there as a spy, determined to gather information on Tamlin and the King of Hybern’s plans, to take back to the Night Court where her heart truly lies. A war is coming, and Feyre must stay one step ahead of her enemies if she’s going to protect everything she holds dear…
As with the impending release of any Sarah J. Maas book, I was super excited for the release of A Court of Wings and Ruin, as A Court of Mist and Fury was easily one of my favourite books of 2016! I preordered the book on Amazon, hoping it would be there waiting for me when I got home from work, but unfortunately there was no one in to accept the delivery (my family members nipped out at the pivotal moment…they were picking up my niece to be fair though, so I’ll let them off!) and so I had to wait a whole 24 hours longer to get it!
Thankfully, it was worth the wait though, and I had finished it within a matter of a few days! I don’t think I loved it quite as much as the previous book, but it was a good addition to the series, and I feel like there was a huge amount of character building for some of the side characters that I really appreciated! Of course, we got plenty more of Feyre and Rhysand, which I liked, as I loved them as a couple in A Court of Mist and Fury (although I know a lot of people hated Feyre’s jump from Tamlin to Rhysand), but we also got to learn more about Rhysand’s inner circle of Cassian, Mor, Amren and Azriel, and as I had hoped, we got loads more of Lucien!
Feyre’s spy mission in the Spring Court lasted less time than I had thought, but I liked her flight with Lucien, and the way they bonded more over the journey, and the delving into Lucien’s backstory that accompanied their crossing through the Autumn Court. I also liked seeing his reaction to the members of the Night Court, and his conflicted emotions when he finds out that the Night Court isn’t the stuff of nightmares as he had always been told. Also whilst his reunion with Elain was disappointing in his eyes, I liked how they didn’t just jump straight into each others arms, especially as I’m still not really sure about them as a couple (I’m sort of shipping her and Azriel!).
In fact that’s one thing that does sometimes irk me with Sarah J. Maas’ books: everyone always has to be neatly paired off. It happened in the last Throne of Glass books, and it seems to have happened here, seen as each of Feyre’s sisters has been immediately coupled up with one of the available males…like Cassian and Nesta, for example. I also wasn’t sure about them as a couple! In fact I found Nesta kind of annoying full stop, and I was glad when she started to warm towards the group a bit as opposed to sniping at them at any given opportunity.
There was also more cringey sex scenes in A Court of Wings and Ruin, which is another flaw I often find in Sarah J. Maas’ writing, but overall I really enjoyed this book! The plot was fast-paced and there was always something happening, and I liked the way the war with Hybern began to heat up fast. I also liked getting to properly meet the other High Lords of Prythian, and particularly liked Kallias and Viviane, as well as Helion. I also thought the rounding out of Tamlin’s character was much-needed, as it did seem kind of unfair to cast him as an out-and-out villain after the events of the first book.
I had for some reason always thought that this series was going to be a trilogy, so I was glad to see that there will be another book next year, which I’m already looking forward to. Thankfully there’s another Sarah J. Maas book coming out in September to tide me over (I think it’s a novel about Chaol Westfall?)!