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.

ARC provided by Tor Books in exchange for an honest review.

Lyrical writing, intricate world, original thought, clever twist, nuanced plot - you must be a Victoria Schwab book.

As a longterm appreciator of Victoria Schwab's writing - both the Young Adult and the Adult kind - I am all but certain that at this point it is the sort of writing I would recognize as hers without ever needing to be told. Victoria has such bold prose - so unique to her, and so well-established - the sort of writing that flows and weaves even the most complicated stories effortlessly. If an author were to have a personal stamp, an original plot on a foundation of lyrical writing would be hers. I would always recognize her for it. And in A Darker Shade of Magic more than any of her previous work, she wields her talent like a weapon.

In Kell's story of parallel universe travel, nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems. As a traveler and message-bearer between the three different Londons, he should have mastered the finer nuances of each. Except no London is the London that it appears to be on the surface.
  • Red London, which thrives on magic and monarchy, fears magic and monarchy in its white counterpart.
  • White London, where magic is corrupt, is about as white as night, and equally as transparent in its dealings.
  • Grey London, the magicless world, should be as drab as its name suggests. But in a world of beggars and rogue, magic is found in ordinary thrills. Thieving being chief among them, as it seems.
  • (Black London, what Black London? You heard wrong. There is obviously no such thing. I said three.)

As traveler and message-bearer, Kell should have known better than to get himself caught up in a cross-universal manhunt and a specific kind of stolen treasure chase. But Kell, it seems, still has a lot to learn. And consequently, we still have a whole story ahead of us. Because in this first installment, the real fun had just begun.

This is a fantasy story to rival even Patrick Rothfuss's bard tales - made all the more impressive by the fact that in A Darker Shade of Magic, there is no bard-storyteller-protagonist in sight. Yet. (This feels like the sort of statement where one should say yet.)

A Darker Shade of Magic has never been done before. A Darker Shade of Magic has especially never been done by Victoria Schwab before. If there is a Schwab-stamp to be found, it is a complete defiance of all expectations and a continued foray into a new, original challenges. From libraries of the dead in The Archived, to criminal masterminds in Vicious, and now to the layered (quite literally!) fantasy world of A Darker Shade of Magic, it is safe to assume that Victoria Schwab is one of those authors who will never do the same story twice. She will, however, do it well. Beautifully. Lyrically. Boldly. Intricately. Shockingly at times. And always with so much promise of more.

And keys. Victoria Schwab loves keys. And we love where they usually lead.

In many ways, in fact, it felt like the story was just getting started when it had come to an end. But to cry for more after finishing an ARC is entirely too greedy, so I am choosing to wait until the release date on the 24th to begin clamoring for more. I will certainly not be in the minority.

A Darker Shade of Magic is out on the February 24th, 2014. At The Honest Bookclub, we have decided to publish this review shortly before the release date to spare everyone the agony of waiting. It's an agony that pays out, but all the same. Agonies are never very pleasant to endure. If you're looking forward to Victoria Schwab's latest, leave us a comment below, or find us on all manner of social media where we're taking over the world.