A Darker Shade Of Magic
Release Date: OUT NOW! 400 pages | Paperback Author: VE Schwab Publisher: Titan Books
Why settle for one alternate history London? VE Schwab’s urban fantasy, set in the Georgian era, gives us four different versions, each with a different relationship to magic.
There’s Grey London ( our world) which has largely forgotten magic; Red London, an opulent place with a healthy relationship with magic; White London, where people crave magic; and Black London, a closed- off world of wild magic.
Kell, of Red London, is one of a dying breed who can move between worlds, which he does at the bidding of the Red King and Queen. An illegal hobby of smuggling artefacts between worlds makes him an unwilling pawn in a deadly power play. Help comes from an unlikely source; a Grey London thief and wannabe pirate called Lila.
It’s hardly the most earthshatteringly original scenario, and the book is slight in terms of plot, but Schwab injects energy and life into it with snappy dialogue, lively characters and excitingly written derring- do. At times it reads like the pilot for a TV series, and some of the magical imagery seems to be influenced by familiar CGI trickery. It might also have helped if “our” London felt a little better researched, as it feels almost as fanciful as the others.
It could do with being a shade darker, but it has a certain magic. Dave Golder One of Schwab’s favourite words is “boketto”, which is Japanese for “gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking”.