A Darker Shade of Magic | V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic
V.E. Schwab
Titan Books 9781783295401

3.5 star

I discovered this book through the “others also liked”-feature. I’m usually a bit weary of them, because I am of the old school persuasion that believes computer generated tag links don’t hold a candle to a book buyer’s intuition. It might think that I like book tagged with “magic”, “fantasy”, “YA” and “multidimensional”, and that is true, but books have a way of combining the same tags in unusual and very differentiating ways. For all that I am a computer geek, I don’t think it can predict what I like when based on simple algorithms from a website that keeps showing me books I already bought from them. You would think a reliable system also tracks what you actually do buy, not just what you look at. Because I look at a lot of books I end up not buying.

But that is of course, not the question at hand. I’m stalling a bit, because i find it difficult to pinpoint what it is I think about this book. What you must know about me is that I started with hardcore fantasy reading. Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss and the like. It wasn’t until a year ago I also strayed sideways into YA and found that I like that genre as well. YA was a bit getting used to at first, It doesn’t delve so deep into a story world, its characters follow more of a straight line because there are not as many words used. It is certainly not true for all of them, and I found myself truly emotional at the hands of a YA story more than once. I’ve come to see that it focuses on issues that relate more to the teenager still trying to find their way in the world, rather than the adult that wants to know where another choice or life will lead them.

This story, to me, should have been written as hardcore fantasy. The idea of the different Londons is so good, that it deserved much more words in description and story building. I liked both Kell and Lila, but as they go on a merry chase through the Londons, there is not enough time to focus on who they are, or their respective relationships to the different worlds. It could have been big. That, I think, is my feeling about A Darker Shade of Magic. Its potential is not wasted, but sits largely unused behind the words on the paper. You feel that there is more to this story that you are not reading, and I sorely wished I was reading it.

For me, it has been a long time a YA has made me feel this way, because I usually think they choose very well the stories that they do or do not put on paper. I don’t enjoy all of them as much as some, but A Darker Shade of Magic had me thinking back on when I first started reading YA, when I found it a shame they used too little words for too big a story. I am basing this review on the first book, and have not yet read the second novel (or even know if there is a third forthcoming). I am curious to find out what happens next, which to me says that I did enjoy the reading experience. I would certainly recommend it to those who are not avid hardcore fantasy readers. They will probably very much love this, because the bones of the story are very well put in place. The characters are compelling, and you understand their motives. The storyline is a bit linear, but because the Londons follow in a certain order, that is strangely very fitting. I do not hold the opinion that it is a flaw or should be changed. I liked it.

The true conclusion is: I liked this story, but I wanted so much more of it. Had it been written as a fantasy novel, I think it would have blown my mind. Right now, I just like the book as is, but I can put it away quite easily. The world does not stay with me, the characters do not linger at my side, and I had wanted that from this book. I honestly want that from every book, but that is a very unrealistic wish.  So, I would surely recommend, but be advised!

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