A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic

Book - 2015
Average Rating:
Rate this:

A Darker Shade of Magic , from #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antari -- magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes -- Red London -- and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

"A Darker Shade of Magic has all the hallmarks of a classic work of fantasy. Schwab has given us a gem of a tale...This is a book to treasure."--Deborah Harkeness, New York Times bestselling author of the All Souls trilogy

Shades of Magic series
1. A Darker Shade of Magic
2. A Gathering of Shadows
3. A Conjuring of Light

Publisher: New York : Tor, 2015.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780765376459
Branch Call Number: FANTASY SCHWAB V
Characteristics: 400 pages ; 22 cm


Featured Blogs and Events

Ep 022: From the Mixed-up Files of Lawrence P. Library

Polli and Kate explore Magic (both Big and Darker), plus books to help you talk about race and books to help you sublimate your righteous anger. This month we discuss From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler through the eyes of two mixed-up adults who missed it as kids. Bookish News: Earlier this year, BookRiot launched a feminist book club called "Persist" that takes place… (more)

From Library Staff

The first book in a fantasy series, A Darker Shade of Magic follows Kell, one of the last remaining magicians in her world that is able to travel between the four parallel Londons. An expert world builder, Victoria Schwab created a series with wild, fast paced action and plenty of magic.

Kell is one of the last Antari -- magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

August 2017- the first in a trilogy, this fantasy novel has tons of magic and parallel worlds.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
KCLS_JessicaML Apr 06, 2021

Review by Spencer, 11th Grade, Issaquah Library:
A Darker shade of magic By V.E. Schwab is a fast paced fantasy adventure that
gets your heart racing and head lost. It has one of my favorite concepts ever. Four
Londons with varying amounts of magic and strong colour imagery. Grey London has
no magic, White has to fight for all that they get, Red is filled with it, and Black fell to a
plague made of magic.
We follow Kell, he hails from Red London, he is a prince, a trinket of the royal
family and, an Antari one of the few people who can travel between the worlds. He uses
his unique abilities to Lila, our other main character is from grey, she is a thief, avid
knife collector and an aspiring pirate. She and Kell meet after Kell acquires an
extremely dangerous relec from Black London, and Lila steals it from him. Through a
fairly predictable chain of events they work together and fight to save all the worlds.
This book's only issue (in my mind) is the predictability of the plot, it is your
classic two powerful magicians fighting over a powerful object. It is a story we have
seen time and time again, the most famous example of that being Lord of the Rings.
However, this book is more than just a plot line.
The characters are all so real and personal. Lila Bard is fun, witty and quick, but
stubborn and headstrong she has goals and dreams that live outside the plot. I also
really want her coat. Evry act she makes is definitively her own, even when not
presented a choice in the matter. Kell Maresh is smart, tough, and deeply caring but
moody and at times absolutely terrifying. I would also happily take his coat.
The magic systems in this book are great. According to Kell all the magic in all
the worlds come from the same source, but the way each world interacts with it is
different, and the way each character in each world uses it is different. It is complex and
interesting, but still understandable. I do also enjoy that it is not linear, not everyone has
the same amount or abilities and it is not passed down through generations. Kell is the
most powerful in his world, and thinks he knows everything about magic. Others
challenge him on that, and in the end he was both right and wrong about it.
Each world is amazingly crafted, but the one I really would like to highlight is Red
London. The magic smells Like flowers and the river glows red, it is your idealistic
magical city with monarchies and masquerade balls. V.E. Schwab includes details such
as the city's different styles of dress, and larger features such as the languages they
speak. It is truly another London, in another empire, in another world. Red London
provides the whimsical fantasy, where white shows the gritty darker side, and Grey an
almost refreshing shot of reality.
I can not recommend this book enough, the world with all its colors and imagery,
the characters who are deeply human, and are some of my more recent favorites. I
understand that if you are not into the simplicity of the plot line then this book will not be
for you, but for anyone else it it is a well crafted and truley delightful book.

WPL_Erin Mar 12, 2021

Absolutely wonderful. So bright and vivid - and a really interesting take on alternate worlds. I can’t wait to read more about Kell and Lila!!

Nov 28, 2020

This was fine.

Two protagonists, most readers will themselves drawn to one or the other I imagine. World building and plotting all coherent. Writing is functional, never fussy ... never quite cliched though never sparkling.

Never quite...
Maybe this is a YA phenomenon: the horror is never quite skin-crawling, the romance never quite passionate, the political/class criticism never feels like it comes from concern for real suffering, clever and mysterious and fantastic plot points never quite surprise.

How much one enjoys this may be related to how much they enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean movie(s). Reads like it wants to be a purchased script to me. It's all fine. I finished the 400 pages of what could easily have been a 40 page short story; that's how Fritz Lieber would have written his two protagonist "all magic has a cost" fantasy. It could have been 100 page shorter; that's how Miéville wrote his stacked/connected cities novel.

Three stars from me - just ok. Lots of folks rate it higher, find it a thrilling ride. How many of the PotC movies did you see & how much did you enjoy them?

Aug 09, 2020

Once you understand the concept, there's unfortunately nothing special here.

Aug 01, 2020

“A Darker Shade of Magic”, by V. E. Shwaub, is about 4 Londons, each coexisting alongside each other, each extremely different. Grey London is essentially our London, with nothing special. Red London is a place full of magic and vibrance. White London is a place half corrupted by magic, with people thirsting for it, and desperately casting spells to keep it within them. Black London doesn’t exist. It was taken over by magic a long time ago. The main character, Kell, is one of 2 people who can travel through these worlds. He is an Antari, or a blood magician, who can use his blood to perform special spells that help him travel through worlds. He is from Red London, and is part of the royal family. Delilah Bard, or just Lila is another character who is from grey London. She is a thief, who dreams of sailing as a pirate. She crosses paths with Kell, when he is travelling to her world, and she steals a very precious object. Later, when Kell comes to take it back, he is forced to drag Lila along to destroy the precious object, as it is threatening to tip the balance between the worlds. Along the way, they meet new allies, find new enemies, and witness the deaths of their close friends. This book is very detailed, and does a good job creating the plot, and making it flow. It is a must read fantasy book for people who like magic, action, and mystery. But if you don’t read every page carefully, you might miss something that later makes the story confusing. This book contains lots of violence.

Jul 24, 2020

"A Darker Shade of Magic" (Shades of Magic, #1) by V.E. Schwab, tells the story of a power and magic, love and manipulation. Kell is one of the last of his kind. They can walk through "doors" between 4 parallel Londons. After being tricked to bring a powerful magic to Red London (where magic and people are in balance), he must escape to Grey London (where magic no longer exists) and work his way back through Red London to White London (where magic is a slave) to dreaded Black London (where magic consumes everything). Though I did not like him at the start, he did grow on me and I really enjoyed the other characters. It has some interesting takes on magic and is a book worth reading.

Jul 11, 2020

This book was so much fun. Provides a much-needed escape to a different world(s) in some trying times.

Jun 25, 2020

Excellent and interesting world building, which was careful and detailed, but not too much as to be bulky. I also found the premise interesting, particularly the way that magic manifests / is used, and Kell’s traveling through dimensions.

Character development was a weaker area. The main characters are interesting enough, but conventional (lone warrior / Han Solo, bratty prince, sneaky assassin, sailing privateer, etc.) I found Kell’s counterpart in White London the most compelling character, as he fights with all of his strength for his people, even when he makes bad choices.

The plot arc in this novel, and the trilogy as a whole, is pretty simple and sometimes predictable. It was the world and its magic that carried me through the trilogy, and I did find it enjoyable, so I recommend the entire series.

May 01, 2020

I have never read anything by Schwab before but I loved this book because not only did it have a fast-paced plot, but the characters were people you wanted to connect with immediately. The world she builds is unlike anything I've read before and I loved going through the four separate Londons and learning about them. I'm looking forward to reading the second and third book in the series.

Apr 03, 2020

As you can tell by my 2 star rating, I'm in the minority about this book. I didn't hate it, but didn't like it either. I liked absolutely zero of the characters (okay, I kinda liked Kell, but that's it) and felt that most just kinda fell flat. Especially the villains. The start of this was so promising too! But, in the end, I figured out most of what was going to happen way before it did and honestly? This entire book just felt kinda tropey and not even the fun kind of tropey. Just the boring and predictable kind of tropey. Such a disappointment.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability
Feb 06, 2021

white_fox_629 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Jan 11, 2021

dstradling thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Jun 16, 2018

rapunzel454 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Oct 15, 2017

humbleworm thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Dec 02, 2016

akzfineart thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

Nov 13, 2016

PayetteStAmour thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Feb 06, 2016

mariahnightfire thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Nov 16, 2015

Pipthekat thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

DreamerDreamsOn Jul 28, 2015

DreamerDreamsOn thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over


Add Notices
Nov 13, 2016

Other: There is an attempted rape scene early on in the novel.

Nov 13, 2016

Frightening or Intense Scenes: People being turned into monsters, the main villains torture multiple characters throughout the book.

Nov 13, 2016

Sexual Content: There is a vaguely detailed sex scene.

Nov 13, 2016

Violence: Several fight scenes, a lot of death.

Nov 13, 2016

Coarse Language: Several curse words are used throughout, including the f-word.

mvkramer Apr 28, 2016

Violence: Torture, magic battles, and lots of stabby-stabby.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at LPL

To Top