A Darker Shade of Magic

After I had my kid last year, I was kind of in a reading slump.  A good 80% of my reading was being done only on my Kindle between the hours of 11pm-6am while feeding the little Jedi, and I was reading mostly Regency romance novels.  There is nothing wrong with romance novels; it is simply a very uncharacteristic choice for me, a habitual reader of fantasy and sci-fi. In any case, I felt like I was missing something.  I guess I was missing the way I used to read.

A Darker Shade of Magic was the book, and then the series, that released me from my slump.  From the first chapters I knew it was going to be special, just as countless other bloggers and readers had told me.

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. (Goodreads)

As an ambassador (and the adopted son) of the king of Red London, Kell is tasked with visiting both the brutal monarchs of White London (and their Antari Holland) as well as George III of Grey London.  But he also runs an inter-world smuggling business on the side, and when a hand-off goes wrong he gets mixed up with Grey London street thief Lila Bard and a magical conspiracy that spans all four worlds.

This series has many strengths (world building and a neat magic system, an exciting and suspenseful plot), but to me its biggest asset is its characters.  Kell and Lila are so well crafted they feel real, and the supporting cast has wonderful depth as well—particularly Holland, Kell’s brother Rhy, and the pirate Alucard.

Kell with red coat
A Gathering of Shadows Final
Lila with knives

Kell is probably my favorite character, and he reminded me strongly of another favorite character of mine: Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist.  Both Kell and Ed are completely dedicated to their brothers, willing to do anything to protect them.  They both have serious personalities, their default expression generally being kinda frowny.  They both do magic by drawing circles.  And of course, they both have awesome red coats.

Edward Elric from FMA

Lila is another fun one.  Her dream in life is to have a ship and be a pirate, and she prefers wearing men’s clothes.  I pictured her in my head looking a bit like Tilda from Into the Badlands because of her hair and knives, but her personality is really more like MK, impulsive and a bit immature.

Image result for tilda into the badlands
Tilda with sharp objects
Related image
You should watch this show, too.

I loved the pacing of the trilogy, because a lot of the plot structure remind me of the Star Wars original trilogy.  Vitari and Osaron kind of reminded me of the first and second Death Stars.  The Essen Tasch in the second book was like Lila’s version of Luke’s Dagobah training.  And the cliffhanger ending of that same book, where Lila rushes off to help a captured friend, is straight out of The Empire Strikes Back.  I loved that cliffhanger, which is such a weird thing to say when normally people hate them.

My only real complaints about the series are that I didn’t get a real “Regency” vibe from it, especially Lila who’s from our London but doesn’t use any thieves’ cant or anything, and also that perhaps the last bit of the third book was not quite as tight as the rest.  But I felt satisfied with the ending.  I’m already planning to buy the series so I can see those beautiful covers sitting on my shelf and relive the magic whenever I want.

10 thoughts on “A Darker Shade of Magic

  1. saraletourneau July 4, 2018 / 6:46 pm

    What a great series to get you out of a reading slump! I love the Shades of Magic series, and for many of the same reasons you gave. The characters really do make the first book, and the series as a whole, so memorable. Not just Kell and Lila, but also Rhy (for his sense of humor and his overall growth) and Holland (his character really grew on me during the third book). I do agree, though, that the third book felt a bit too long at times (not just at the end, IMO), but like you I also couldn’t have been happier with how it ended. I may have also gotten weepy when a certain character died…

    So what’s next on your reading agenda? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei July 4, 2018 / 8:22 pm

      In a bunch of reviews I read, people who didn’t really care for Kell or Lila still really liked Holland.

      This summer I’m tackling a few more books in the Expanse series and a few books from the Great American Read list (halfway through Rebecca right now).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. starwarsanon July 6, 2018 / 2:42 pm

    Okay adding to my Goodreads list! You’ve convinced me. And don’t you love it when you come out of the baby-feeding slump? The book that did it for me was Clan of the Cave Bear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei July 6, 2018 / 3:36 pm

      Oh, that’s on my to-read list also!


  3. NovEllaandBanannabelle July 8, 2018 / 6:02 pm

    This series sounds intriguing! “Once upon a time”… is there any strong fairy tale connection?


  4. jenchaos76 October 10, 2018 / 8:30 pm

    I have this ordered with the library

    Liked by 1 person

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