Published by Tor Books on February 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Source: Owned Audible Book
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.
Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.
I love audio books. In the author’s notes on the audio version of Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, he talks about how the first stories we learn are read to us. I listen to audio books when I’m in the car, shopping, and playing Candy Crush Soda Saga or Trivia Crack.
In typical book blogger fashion, I already have a tbr shelf just for audio books. Reviewing them is a bit more difficult, because I don’t take notes and I don’t always know how to spell the characters names. So these reviews will be a little different from my book reviews.
I’ve meant to read this book from the moment I heard about it, but you know how that goes, book nerds, it’s so hard to keep up with all the books we mean to read the nanosecond they release into the wild of the bookstores or audible store. Still, I did buy the audio version last year, and had every intention of devouring it right off- but instead I waited for the Goldilocks moment- when it was just the right time to listen to it.
I noticed last month that there was a readalong planned for A Darker Shade of Magic in order to prepare of the release of the second book in the series- here was my time to finally dive into the magical world Schwab had so kindly created just for me. And I did have every intention of participating in the online readalong… but I suck at them. Just like when I was in school, I couldn’t help reading ahead. I don’t know how people pace themselves. I have no self control (as the box of Tagalong Girl Scout cookies I bought the other day could attest to, if I hadn’t eaten them all). Asking me to read a few chapters a week is like locking an 1980’s Wall Street hotshot in with a mountain of cocaine and money and telling him to make it last the whole month. Not bloodly likely.
So, I didn’t get to participate in the readalong. But I did listen to the audiobook and freaking loved it. Schwab has a wonderfully twisted mind, and I love the magic and worlds she’s created. I can easily understand the obsession fangirls have with the characters- Kell and Lila are such strong and flawed protagonists, and the setting so vivid, that it’s enchanting. Literally enchanting.
The book abounds with full on psychos, but even they’re interesting. And Holland is one of the best, most complex characters I’ve come across in a long time, and he has such a small role that he shouldn’t have that kind of depth. The description of the characters and the 3 Londons was so well done that I could see everything clearly in my head, and yet it was never heavy or weighed down by the world building.
There’s heartache, anti-heroes, epic fights, humor, a particularly awesome coat, torture, blackmail, smuggling, kidnapping, magic, fires (magical and non-magical), costume balls, royalty, mystery, so much danger, and thieves lurking in the pages of A Darker Shade of Magic. It’s simply the best kind of story.
This was my first full length novel narrated by Stephen Crossley, but I did listen to a full cast audiobook narration of Dracula, in which he played a role. I thought he did a good job, but his voice was a lot older than the main characters of Lila and Kell, so it felt a little weird at times, and I noticed that book 2 has two narrators (a male and a female) which I think will suit a bit better. But I like his voice and I’m looking forward to other books narrated by him- in fact I already own one that I plan on getting to soon!