It took me a while to get into A Darker Shade of Magic as almost the first third of the book is spent setting the scene, introducing the two magicians, Kell and Holland, the last of the magical race known as the Antari – easily identified by having one entirely black eye – and explaining that there are four parallel Londons. There is Grey London where magic is waning; Red London, where magic is comparatively ordered and balanced; White London, where magic is chaotic and cruel; and finally the ruins of Black London, where magic became corrupted, and the city eventually had to be sealed off to prevent the corruption from spreading. One aspect of the story that I really enjoyed was that magic is not just a force to be used as in most fantasy stories but had a will of its own and could be downright dangerous to those who came into contact with it.
The story follows Kell, who acts as a messenger carrying correspondence between the rulers of each London until he is tricked into transporting a forbidden relic from one London into another. Along the way, we’re introduced to Kell’s counterpart and rival, Holland, who serves Astrid and Athos Dane, the tyrannical rulers of White London, and Lila Bard a thief from Grey London, who reminded me of the Artful Dodger in the best possible way. It takes around 100 pages for anything interesting to happen, but after that this tale becomes a gripping adventure as pretty much everything that possibly could go wrong for Kell and Lila does. The rest of the story is so full of suspense, action and humour that it more than made up for the slow start.
The ending wraps up most things neatly, but there’s an almost throwaway comment about part of Lila’s appearance that hints towards the possible direction of her character development and somehow I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the antagonist Holland, I can’t wait to find out how the rest of this trilogy unfolds. Have a lovely week! X