Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

adarkershadeofmagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Shades of Magic #1

Date Published: February 24th, 2015

Publisher: Tor Books

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. 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, 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.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, 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.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

This is, by far, one of the most hyped books I have on my shelves, which is something that would normally scare me off. However, this book beyond lived up to the hype. It promised action, thrilling adventures through parallel worlds, and of course, plenty of magic. Victoria Schwab once again proves herself to be one of the most brilliant and talented writers out there. She is resourceful and exceedingly unique in every detail that she writes. Between her beautiful writing, intricate descriptions, and skilled characterization, she has created a vivid and heart-pounding journey through the magic of London.

In this novel, we follow two main characters—a traveler named Kell and a thief named Delilah “Lila” Bard. Kell, hailing from Red London, is an Antari (one of two) who possess potent blood magic that allows him to cross through the doors between each of the three Londons—the regal and magical Red London, the dimmed and magic-less Grey London, and White London, rendered colorless and menacing by its abuse of magic.

Red London lives in harmony with its magic, respecting it as much as it does them. White London sees it as something to be controlled, turning it into something ugly and terrifying. However, this pales in comparison to the magic of Black London, the world that has been locked away, hidden and mute—that is, until a remaining piece of it’s dark past, in the form of a stone, unexpectedly falls into the hands of Kell. The only remnants of a history preferred to be forgotten, it sets off a chain of horrible events as Kell struggles to contain it and return it to its proper place, even if that means sacrificing himself in the process.

Along the way, he obtains an unusual companion, the tough and courageous Lila Bard, who becomes involved after she pickpockets the Black London stone off of Kell when they encounter each other in the streets of Grey London. Always seeking adventure, she forces Kell to take her along on his journey to return the stone and save the three remaining Londons from this all-consuming dark force. What starts for Kell as a reluctant pairing turns into a surprisingly strong partnership as they navigate treacherous obstacles on their quest.

Despite the complexity involved in the unique details of the various Londons, not once in this entire novel is it difficult to understand, nor will it leave the reader feeling lost. Schwab depicts each setting with such care and skill, sweeping her readers into the worlds. Rather than giving an information dump of all the necessary facts, she shows the reader by pulling them straight into the action, conjuring a clear picture through descriptions and tone. Not only is it easy to imagine what every feature of this narrative looks like, she also evokes the specific feelings of each setting in the reader.

One of the aspects of this novel that first caught my attention was how unique it sounded. I’ve read a lot of fantasy books and this one was unlike any I have encountered before. This is due in part to the highly unique magic system that is primarily demonstrated through our main character, Kell. The power of blood magic is a unique and intriguing system that I have not come across in any form before. That, combined with the specific language used by the Antari to conjure the power, had me completely hooked. It was—no pun intended—absolutely spellbinding.

This book was absolutely action-packed. The fight scenes were epic, magic-filled battles, featuring struggles involving both the characters that are advantageously powerful and the characters that fight simply using the strength and willpower they have inside them. I was fully caught up in every second, tearing through page after page.

Schwab is known for writing very character driven novels, and this one was no exception. From the very start, I completely fell in love with the characters she created for this story. Kell is an incredibly brave and selfless hero. He is willing to sacrifice himself to protect the three worlds and all those in them. Lila is headstrong and sassy; she is a skilled thief that has a certain distinctively human magic about her. Hilarious and strong-willed, she has definitely become one of my favorite female literary heroines.

As always, Schwab makes her characters vivid, realistic, and three-dimensional—loveable for both their strengths and their weaknesses. Kell and Lila together are one of the best pairings I have ever come across in literature. They are two halves of one amazing whole. Even the characters that lingered at the edges of the main plot were as equally three-dimensional as the protagonists.

The writing in this novel was absolutely enchanting. Schwab has a natural talent for weaving a complex storyline into a fluid narrative that easily carries her readers from page to page. The detailed world building and fleshing out of her characters are some of the most breathtaking elements of the story. She builds each world, each setting, right up around the reader, clearly defines the class system of the various Londons, and pulls the reader alongside Kell and Lila in their adventures. It is as if you are standing right in the middle of things, feeling the pull of the magic, which is both bright and foreboding.

At this point, I think the fact that I completely and utterly fell in love with this novel is fairly clear. This is basically the epitome of my literary-loving heart and soul. I would very highly recommend this story to everyone, especially if you love magic, parallel worlds, and magnificent writing. Victoria Schwab has an unbelievable amount of natural talent, and is a superb figure in the current literary world. There is no cliffhanger ending for this novel, but it will still leave you craving further installments.

5.0 TARDISes

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Top 10 Tuesday – March 15th, 2016

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten books on your spring TBR. As always, the gigantic general TBR that I have makes this a very easy list to come up with books for! I’ve been picking up a lot of new books lately, so this spring I’d really like to focus a bit more on some of the novels I’ve had sitting on my TBR for a while as well.

Let’s do this spring thing! 😀 (yes…I’m lame 😛 )

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1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – I read my first V.E. Schwab novel—Vicious—at the end of last year, and since then, I have been dying to read more of her work. This trilogy is the most appealing to me right now as I’m really in the mood for some magic and parallel worlds. I absolutely can’t wait to dive into the story—and to get more awesome V.E. Schwab-ness in my life!

2. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – My explanation for this choice can be summed up in two words—Gillian Flynn. The only reason I have been putting this one off is due to the fact that I want to make sure I’m reading it during a time where I can give it 110% of my attention. Now that I have emerged from my slumpishness at the beginning of the year, I’m ready to devour the crap out of this novel! Also, I’m fairly certain Gillian Flynn is my spirit animal. Just saying… 🙂

3. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – I just wrote a review for A Monster Calls last week, and now I’ve got a massive urge to read more Patrick Ness. Back when I read A Monster Calls for the first time, I adored it so much that I immediately went out and bought almost every Patrick Ness novel in existence, which included the entire Chaos Walking trilogy. I’m hoping I can finish the entire thing before the end of the year, so it’s about time I get on it! On a side note, I also partially blame Heather from The Sassy Book Geek for reminding me the other day that I still need to read this trilogy! 😛

4. More Than This by Patrick Ness – Speaking of Patrick Ness… Look, sometimes you just need to go on a Patrick Ness binge, you know?

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5. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – I picked up a copy of this novel last year right when it came out (and when I saw those black pages, to be completely honest!). Since then, I have heard nothing but fantastic things about it, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what I think. I’ve also had Leigh Bardugo’s books on my radar for quite a while now, and this series definitely seems the most like my type of story. It sounds absolutely awesome!

6. Beastly Bones by William Ritter – I read and really loved Jackaby at the beginning of last year, so I’m excited to continue on with these books. This series is hilarious, creative, and honestly just plain fun—it should hopefully be a nice, chill read, which is something I’ve been really needing lately. On top of that, the next book in the series is coming out this summer, so I need to catch up ASAP! 

7. Doctor Who: Borrowed Time by Naomi Alderman – A bit of a random choice, yes, but we all know about my love (*cough*obsession*cough*) of everything Doctor Who. There are a number of these novels on my TBR at the moment and I want to start making my way through them. They are nice for a entertaining, quick read each month, and this is the one I’m most in the mood to read next. Also…Doctor Who… ❤

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8. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton – This is one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and is going to be one of the next books I read. Yes, I know I said at the beginning of this post that I’ve been getting too distracted by new releases lately, but I just can’t wait for this one! And…you know…one more can’t hurt, right? We’ll just keep this between us… 😛

9. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – Another one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and a book I’ve had on my TBR since January. I’ve had to keep putting it off each month, so I’m determined to finally get to it soon. Last week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic also made me realize that, though I completely love stories about time travel, I’ve not actually read all that many. Clearly, this is something I need to fix, and what better way to get started?

10. Love, Lies, and Spies by Cindy Anstey – I just recently discovered this one and am definitely intrigued. It sounds like it might be a fun read, but I will say, I am slightly iffy about it because it sounds like it will be a little more focused on romance than my typical reads. I feel like this might be a novel that I’m either really going to love or just not be able to get into, but I’m interested to see what I think!

What are some of the books on your spring TBR? Do we have any in common? Let me know in the comments!

-Ariana

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Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

viciousVicious by V.E. Schwab

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Villains #1

Date Published: September 24th, 2013

Publisher: Tor Books

Pages: 340 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

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I read this in a buddy read with Heather from The Sassy Book Geek. I had an incredibly fun time discussing this book with her, and I absolutely can’t wait to do this again in the future. Click here to check out Heather’s review of Vicious!

I am finding it extremely difficult to come up with the right words to accurately describe just how much I adored this novel. I completed it well over a month ago and I am still constantly thinking about it. This was my first experience with Victoria Schwab’s work, and I was completely blown away by her talent. It has been quite a while since I was so quickly pulled into a novel. I found this incredibly hard to put down once I started reading; it’s one of those stories where you sit down to read a chapter or two and, before you know it, you’ve read a third of the book. This is due primarily to Schwab’s impressive abilities in character development and storytelling.

Vicious follows the story of two best friends turned archnemeses, with a narrative that jumps between the present day and their time in college together ten years prior. During their study of extraordinary abilities, things get out of control, landing Victor in prison, bent on getting revenge, and Eli attempting to wipe out every super-powered person in existence. In alternating time periods and perspectives, the story of their falling out is gradually filled in, and the mystery pieced together in a fast-paced and suspenseful way.

Victoria Schwab is an absolutely brilliant writer with an incredibly addicting writing style that flows beautifully. Her innovative ideas, particularly in the depiction of the super-human abilities, make a well-loved topic into a remarkable and unique reading experience. It is extremely difficult to base a story around villainous characters and requires major skill—which she clearly has—to do so. She is spot on with her level of detail and description when it comes to her world and character building, and she masterfully creates a dark, chilling mood and atmosphere all the way through. Her words, her details, her plot points, everything just flows so nicely.

Early on, I had my doubts about the way the novel jumped around in time so often. That is something I typically do not enjoy, as I have found that I tend to get lost and confused easily in books that skip around too much. However, this did not happen at all as I was reading this book, and I actually ended up loving the style. In general, this can be a rather dangerous and risky way to write a novel, but Schwab executes it perfectly and completely nails this method of storytelling.

Since the plot is so connected to the past and the history of the characters, being able to jump back and hear first-hand what happened to them definitely contributes a lot to the novel as a whole. Schwab does this in a way where she essentially creates two storylines—a past one and a present one—and the jumping between them alternately causes tension and suspense in both. There is also plenty of suspense within each chapter to boot. All of this really succeeds in fully immersing the reader in the story and making them want to read on.

The character creation and development is one of the strongest and most important aspects of this novel, and is definitely some of the best I have ever come across. This is not your typical tale of good versus evil—in fact, what makes this story so intriguing is the lack of clarity and specificity when it comes to the definitions of both. It is a novel about villains, revenge, and the dangers of extreme power. The characterization relies heavily on moral ambiguity, and no one is truly heroic in the traditional sense of the word; there is typically an ulterior motive behind each character’s actions.

Schwab works hard to create vivid and complex characters, and she presents the reader with a comprehensive portrayal of every single one. This is one of my personal favorite elements to see in a story. Clearly displaying a character’s good qualities as well as their flaws will always make for a far more memorable and three-dimensional character that your reader will take an interest in. And whether they are hero or villain, this connection is essential. No matter what side their loyalties lie on, every character needs to be relatable in order to have an impact on an audience. 

Vicious contains a very flawed group of individuals, and none of their negative qualities are sugar-coated. Their flaws are a driving force in the plot. This is the type of story that requires messed up and imperfect characters—ones who are not distinctly good or bad and whose motives are questionable. That is exactly what she has succeeded in creating here, and it adds a great amount of depth to the story. Whether you like them or not, they are utterly fascinating, and you find yourself fully captivated by their plotlines, constantly wanting to know more.

This book is filled with many magnificent examples of antiheroes, and what comes from this is an absolutely enthralling character study. Victor is one of the most amazingly well-imagined characters I have ever read about in my life. His characterization was brilliantly done, and his storyline was absorbing from the very first page. He is that villain that you hate to love, and potentially even love to hate—and though his actions are not always entirely permissible due to his focus on revenge, you find yourself siding with and rooting for him anyway. Overall, Victor is a surprisingly relatable and likeable villain, and an impeccable choice for a main protagonist. He was by far my favorite character in the novel.

On the opposite side of this, from the very first time we see Eli and Victor together, something about Eli immediately rubbed me the wrong way—and as the story progressed, my opinion of him most definitely did not improve. Though he is an intensely dislikable character, his plotline was fantastically well executed. Schwab wrote it in an incredibly interesting way, making it one of those stories where, depending on one’s point of view or position, Eli might not necessarily be a villain in everyone’s eyes.

As a reader, we are meant to feel that he is entirely immoral. His actions are not at all condonable, nor is there any justification for anything he does. And we as the reader are correct in thinking this, because his inhumane actions are not and should not be justifiable; he is a monster. However, it is also easy to understand why he justifies his own actions to himself.

Eli believes that he is doing right, that he is being heroic and fulfilling God’s will, and it would be impossible for anyone working under that type of extreme delusion to see their own—or potentially someone else’s—immorality. While neither Eli or Victor are truly heroes, Eli’s delusion of heroism and inability to see his own inhumanity makes him not only more villainous, but also far more dangerous.

Victor is much more aware of what he is doing and, though he does questionable things primarily for his own motives, that is not the definition of all of his actions. He has far more restraint and humanity left in him—more of a conscience than Eli has. There are certain actions each do individually that it would be hard imagining the other doing. Victor is certainly more aware of the consequences of his actions, and though that might not prevent him from ever doing evil, he has limits and never has any misconception about his purpose in life.

Schwab also fills this book with an all-star set of secondary characters. Sydney is a downright lovely character, and by far the most purely endearing and innocent of the bunch. On top of this, the role that she played in the story was fascinating, and her powers were an element that served to create a lot of mystery and suspense throughout. Another character that added to the huge amount of suspense in the plot was Mitch. Mitch is one of the only other truly lovable characters in the novel, and the juxtaposition of his natural talents against the others’ powers was a highlight for me.

Serena falls more toward the Eli side of the scale of villains. She is quite dislikable from the very start, and while she remains that way throughout the novel, you begin to understand her actions as more information about her is revealed. As with Eli, it is impossible to condone what she does, but you do begin to get an understanding of how aspects of her life—such as her powers—would cause her to act in the way that she does. All in all, though these three are all supporting characters, they are no less vivid or complex than the protagonists, and their plotlines are fully conceived.

Victoria Schwab has produced an absolute masterpiece with this novel. Her three-dimensional characters and unique plotlines work together to create a truly engrossing and addictive read that will stay with you long after you’ve finished it. Whether or not you are a superhero/supervillain fan like myself, this book holds something for everyone to enjoy. If you have not read this yet, I very highly recommend giving it a go. I’m not sure what to expect from the sequel, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what happens next; I cannot wait to be back in this world with these characters. Vicious, without a doubt, now holds a place on my list of all-time favorite novels.

5.0 TARDISes

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Top 5 Wednesday – December 30th, 2015

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey at Gingerreadslainey. Every week, book reviewers all over the world are given a bookish topic and respond with their top 5 books (or elements of books) that relate to that topic. Click here for the Goodreads group if you would like to learn more about Top 5 Wednesday and join in!

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is your top 5 favorite books that you read this year. While I didn’t read nearly as many books as I had hoped that I would, this year was pretty fantastic in terms of quality of books read. It was difficult to narrow this list down to just five, but there were definitely a few novels that particularly stuck out this year. These have not only become some of my top favorite novels of all time, but all of these authors were new to me and are now on my favorite authors list as well!

5. Jackaby by William Ritter

jackabyThis was pitched as “Doctor Who meets Sherlock”, so of course I had to read this immediately—and thankfully, it did not disappoint!

Click here to check out my full review!

4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

cinderThis was my first read of 2015 and an absolutely brilliant way to start off my reading for the year.

Click here to check out my full review!

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gonegirlThis was my first Gillian Flynn book, and by far one of the most intriguing and captivating novels that I read all year.

Click here to check out my full review!

2. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

thememoirsofsherlockholmesThis is my first time making my way through this series and I am kicking myself for having put these novels off for so long—they are fantastic!

Click here to check out my full review!

1. Vicious by V.E. Schwab

viciousThis was my most recent read and my last completed book of the year—and it was definitely my favorite of them all!

Review coming soon!

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