A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab Non-Spoiler Review

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic (Book 1)
Series: Shades of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars



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.


Once a upon a time, the four Londons co-existed and with it, Antari, magicians that have the ability to travel from London to London. The four Londons are Red, Grey, White, and Black. In present times, a lot of people think that Black London is a myth, a story that you tell your children to scare them. Kell who so happens to be a main character and Antari, was raised in Red London as an adopted son to the King and Queen. He serves the Red London Empire and is used to travel the different Londons per duty. Each London is different in its own way and while traveling to one particular London, Kell finds that he might have to pay for the consequences of his smuggling from London to London. With those consequences comes an adventure to get everything back to the way it’s supposed to be and throughout this back and forth of London’s, Kell meets Lila Bard in a not so pleasant way. However, she might be everything Kell needed to have everything in order. A Darker Shade of Magic is the story of how balance is really important with all four London’s and getting that balance restored.


For those who have been following my blog for a little while now, you all know that Schwab isn’t a new-to-me author. I have read The Archived, Vicious, and Monsters of Verity Duology. I am obsessed with Schwab’s writing style. Schwab has a very distinct way of writing where usually the beginning of each book is a slow build up. By build up, I mean she is building not only the world, Schwab is also letting us get to know the characters she’s created, and what the plot entails.

That is exactly what we get with A Darker Shade of Magic. Through dialogue and scenes, we are meeting the different types of London’s and obtaining their descriptions, we meet characters and where the plot may go. I thought this was perfectly executed because although it was a slow start, Schwab definitely builds everything up for the next books to come. Also, once Schwab sets her world and characters, she runs with the plot without slowing down to give us any descriptions for anything else.


I really loved the cast of characters Schwab presented to us. Even the bad ones were creepy and well done like those Diabolical Dane Twins as I call them from White London. Schwab described them so perfectly that they made me cringe in disgust. They are evil blood suckers who are obsessed with magic and will do anything to get what they want when they want. Since we’re on the topic of White London, we meet Holland who is one of the two Antari’s left. Holland definitely gave me mixed feelings but I won’t get too much into that because I feel like that would be a spoiler.

We also meet Lila Bard who I absolutely adored. Lila is from Grey London and she does anything possible to live one more day, even if it’s thieving. Lila’s character arc really struck a chord with me and her backstory touched me. Although we don’t get much of her backstory, Schwab definitely opens up to something…if you know what part I’m talking about, you know what I mean….I really cannot wait to see what happens with her in the next books to come. The banter her and Kell had throughout this magical fantastical world was hilarious. No matter how serious things were, Lila always had me in fits of giggles.

Kell was another character who definitely warmed my heart. A Darker Shade of Magic starts with him, and through him we got to see the different London’s. He is one of the two Antari left in all of the London’s. Kell with his good intentions and good heart always means well and goes beyond to please the King and Queen, plus his brother Rhy who we meet a few times throughout the book. Rhy (pronounced like the word ‘why’) is this beautiful boy who absolutely loves his brother Kell and wants the best for him. Rhy is charismatic and charming. I feel like I’m going to see a lot of growth in the next books to come because although we met him on the surface, Schwab gave us enough to make me think.


I absolutely loved this book! Schwab is an auto-buy author for me and I am sure that I will love the next two books. A Darker Shade of Magic was well built and I know this was only the foundation of what’s to come in the future two books. This world is dark and I love a good dark fantasy. The way Schwab wrote about magic was smooth and understandable to me. The plot was action packed and on point. A Darker Shade of Magic was definitely a page turner with very surprising elements. There were times that I gasped and was on the edge of my seat hoping for the best with some of these characters, except the diabolical dane twins, they can go straight to hell for all I care lol. Schwab created a world where if you do something that’s out of order, there will be consequences which won’t be a nice payout. And I have to admit that although some of the scenes were hard to read because I got attached to characters, I appreciate the raw honesty of it.

Overall, this a great book and this review was probably super vague but I didn’t want to mention too much..if you want to know about Black London, read the book (if you haven’t already lol)!


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thank you for stopping by! have you read this or plan on to? what are your thoughts? let’s chat in the comments!

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43 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab Non-Spoiler Review

  1. I have only heard ravings about this book and I’m so glad you loved it. I haven’t read any book by this author yet but I’m hoping to pick it up next month. Loved your review.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Seriously an amazing review, i can’t wait to find out whay happens along the way. After reading this Schwab has instantly become an auto buy for me because her wrtiting is amazing ! I am looking forward to reading the rest of this series and uncover the future of these worlds. Great job with the review .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review! I’m about to start ADSOM and your review got me super pumped and excited to read it! I can’t waittt😁! I really like beginnings the way you described them to get to know everything and everyone before getting super intense.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is one of my FAVOURITE series, so I’m thrilled to see you enjoyed it! I adore Lila and Kell too, the way Schwab characterises them is wonderful and they’ve made their own little place in my heart. I’ve just started the final book so I’m preparing for brilliance and heart-break in equal measures. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kate! I really look forward to reading the rest of the books sometime in September. I hope you enjoy the 3rd installment, I have heard from a couple of people that it is a tear-jerker. I love Lila and Kell so much! I also really enjoyed Rhy’s character =)


  5. Great review for this book Gretchen, and I am so beyond thrilled you loved this book as well. Personally I think the Shades of Magic series is Schwab’s best, so if you’ve read all her other books then you’ve definitely save the best for last. Also this way you won’t have to wait for the last book in the series to be released and, trust me, after you’ve read AGOS you’ll understand why the wait for the third book was such torture. 🙂
    World-building is definitely Schwab’s strong point, and I didn’t really notice the slow start because I was so immersed in the world she was creating. 😀
    Again great review, so you plan on starting the second book in the series soon?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Beth!! Scwhab has an amazing way of creating worlds and building up her characters/plot. She does it smoothly and knows when to transition. She’s an excellent writer.

      I have a few ARCs to get too and as much I wanted to marathon the series, I knew I wouldn’t really enjoy them with the thought of having those ARCs in the back of my mind. You know? So I am hoping to start AGOS and ACOL in Mid-September – early October. I really want to take my time with these books and devour them without any interruptions lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s all right, and she really does doesn’t she? I feel like it’s pretty much a guarantee by now that I’m going to love anything and everything she releases.
        Oh I know the feeling, I have an ARC I need to get to. Always better to keep up to date on them rather than let them pile up right? Well in that case I am going to very excited for you to get around to both mid-September! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • I completely agree! That it is a definite guarantee that we will like everything she comes out with. I don’t read middle grade and I am really excited for her middle grade book lol. I also cannot wait for the second installment of Vicious. EEEEEEEK! I love those characters so much ❤

        I rather the ARC pile calm down so I can fully enjoy my books without filling ARC pressure lol. Hope that makes sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh man the second installment of Vicious is number one on my must-have list. The second I finished Vicious I wanted more! 😀
        Sounds like a good way to go, it’s what I’m trying to do as well. Keep on top of my ARCs so I can enjoy all the other books I have to read. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. One of my favorite series ever! It took me a long while to get over this series and seeing this review, I miss it! (Maybe a re-read soon? Haha) I love your review and like you, Schwab is an auto-buy to me too! I haven’t read Our Dark Duet but I’m very excited to get my hands on it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Seeing only positive responses from everyone on this series is really making my day! I cannot wait to read the next two books in this series. I really hope you enjoy Our Dark Duet, although I am sure of it since you like Schwab!! eeeeeeeeek

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “except the diabolical dane twins, they can go straight to hell for all I care lol.” DYINGGGG @ my desk! LOL! but I completly agree twin! that scene wher ethey were introduced was so perfectly written that they did come to life for me making them all the more scarier. I actually have them listed somewhere in a tag as one the most villainous characters I’ve come across lol. Wonderful review as always, I am so glad you enjoyed this first installment 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • lmfaooo they’re just super creepy. like the level of creep that Schwab wrote them on was top notch. and you have a great choice for that answer. i’ve seen aesthetics for them on tumblr and it doesn’t do it any justice to what i see in my head. gemelos diabolicos!!!!

      i can’t wait to read the rest of the series in september-october after i finish these arcs. ugh!!


  8. Welcome to the Shades of Magic fandom 🙂 This series gets better and better with each book, so I can’t wait for you to read the next books. A Gathering of Shadows (book 2) is probably my favorite, it reminded me a bit of my love for the 4th Harry Potter book… If you loved Lila in this book, she’s even more of a bad ass in the next two books!!! Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Amanda! I cannot wait to read the next two books and see Lila grow more. I know there’s a secret that should be revealed with her, I feel it on my bones lol!


  9. Awesome review, Gretchen! This was book I read by V.E. Schwab and I’m so glad I did! The entire series was fantastic! Her writing is so captivating in the way that she builds up tension and suspense so skillfully. Her characters are definitely the highlight in this book. Kell was a fantastic MC and though it took me a while to get used to her, Lila was an amazing character and female lead. I LOVE Rhy and I actually didn’t know his name was pronounced like “why.” I’ve been thinking it was “Ree” this entire time haha. Learn something new everyday. And the Dane Twins were perfectly cruel and creepy and Holland was one of my favorites because of his complexities. So happy to see such a rave review! Can’t wait to read your thoughts on the next two books!

    Liked by 1 person

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