Shades of Magic is a series by V.E. Schawb. When it comes to a series, I buy the first book, and if I love that one, I go buy the rest. A Darker Shade of Magic was recommended by Park Road Books, an independent bookstore in Charlotte. That bookstore is extremely incredible about recommending books.
Imagine being in 18th century London. Then place that London into four parallel, but vastly different Londons. White, Black, Red, and Grey are the kinds of London that exist- each with varying types of magic. What I love about this series is the entire world that was created, the original characters, the suspense and plot twists, etc….. You can easily tell you are London- they mention places of Windsor, Westminster, Thames River, James Park- so you know you are in London.
However, each place is so different. The Thames is in every London- but called a different name in each. Of course, there are new places due to expanding the Londons. The Stone’s Throw (a tavern) for instance and the palaces in each London.
The Antari are the only ones able to travel between the Londons. Kell, our main character, is one of them. To travel between worlds you need a token- this is going to sound strange, but blood magic is what allows them to travel. The Antari have two eyes of different colors. Kell is from Red London, which thrives with magic. It is very difficult to kill an Antari and they heal quickly. There are other kinds of magic: from the elements of Wind, Water, Earth, and Fire.
Do you know what V.E. Schwab managed to create. Not only did she create an incredible world, but a new language as well. That is pretty impressive- not many people would think to create a new language in an extensive world. I only know of one other novel that did this: Lord of the Rings (their elvish language).
Characters- Possible Spoilers
Kell- he is our main character, brother to Rhy. He is one of the very few Antari that exist. Adopted into the Maresh Empire, he delivers messages to the different Londons. His coat is one of the best parts of his appearance: think of it as a coat that has different coats. Due to being an Antari, he has one blue and black eye. The brotherly relationship to Rhy is incredible- they have such a strong bond. I do love seeing his relationship to Lila. He has a bad habit of smuggling- which is how he comes across the forbidden token from Black London: it reminds me of the Ring and The Horcruxes.
Lila- While Kell is our main character, Lila acts as the co-protagonist. She may be a thief, but there is more to her than what meets the eye. She goes on an adventure with Kell to return that forbidden token. She is quite brave and longs to be a pirate. As it turns out, she is an Antari: didn’t see that coming. She is from Grey London, a London without magic.
Holland- I really didn’t like him in the first two books. He almost acts as a secondary antagonist. He is an Antari as well: from White London. Something changes in him in the final book. In the first book, you would think he was dead, but turns out he survived. I ended up liking him in the end. However wish he didn’t die, but due to being the one most responsible for killing Osaron, it gives meaning to his death. It was his fault for releasing Osaron.
Rhy- prince of the Maresh Empire and Kell’s younger brother. It is kinda of hard to pinpoint what I liked about him. Kell and Rhy have such a close relationship that they would literally sacrifice each other to save their own brother. Rhy did nearly die in the series, but survived thanks to Kell healing him. He eventually became King due to his father and mother being killed.
Alucard Emery- Captain of the Night Spire and one of the most powerful magicians. While the Antari have a lot more magical power, the typical magicians also are pretty strong. You really see this unfolding during the Essen Tasch (The Element Games)- he ended up being the winner. He does play a role in saving Red London from the power of Osaron.
Osaron- at first, it appears as if the Black Stone is the main antagonist. However, it is actually Osaron, who lives in Black London. Once the stone got into his hands, tragedy happens. He nearly almost destroyed London- he is called the Shadow King. So, literally you don’t want the Black Stone to exist especially if it gets in the wrong hands.
The Entire World
I already told you reasons why I love this world. From the made-up language to the types of magic to Antari to the parallel but different Londons to what goes beyond London. You really see what is beyond the Londons when characters are out on sea and when nearby empires come for The Element Games. There are characters that exist that only exist in one book or just two.
If you like character-driven, suspense and plot twists, fantasy, magic, the city of London, and a fast-paced story, then you will love Shades of Magic series. I will tell you this: if you ended up enjoying or loving A Darker Shade of Magic, you automatically want to buy the rest. You quickly can finish this series- each books is divided into different books and the chapters are short. I think the most confusing part is when you come across that new language.