Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Multiple/parallel universes are one of the bread and butter staples of science fiction. So much so that it can commonly be treated in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. However, correctly done, it can make for a very compelling tale.

V.E. Schwab’s tale spans 4 Londons. Each city is named London, and each has an tavern at the same spot. But there the differences end as each is part of its own county and world, with different laws, customs, languages, and, most importantly, magic. Grey London is the one we are familiar with under the rule of King George III. Red London is filled with magic, so much s that the Thames pulses scarlet with it. White London magic is the source of power and it is jealously coveted and hoarded. Black London was consumed by an evil and was long shut off from the other three. At one point, anyone could travel freely between the London’s, but after Black London was closed off, only the powerful and rare few can and act as messengers between each city’s ruler. Kell, one such messenger collects artifacts from the three Londons he travels to. But he stumbles upon a fragment from Black London and becomes involved in a power struggle that could end his own Red London and unleash the magic from black London on the other three. With Lila, the contrary thief from Grey London, Kell must find out where the fragment came from, return it, and save the Londons from following the fate of Black London.

Schwab does an excellent job of introducing cities and setting up the conventions of magic without overburdening the reader with too many rules. Similarly, she does an excellent job of building complexity in her characters as the story unfolds. Even for those that are not fans of the fantasy genre can appreciate the careful construction and development in this interesting story.  

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