Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.
Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that 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 take her with him for her proper adventure.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.
The cover of A Darker Shade of Magic is what first intrigued me enough to pick it up. Look at the stunning cover! I recently bought the second book and the pair go so nicely together *swoon*.
The story follows two characters: a male character, Kell, who lives in Red London as a part of the royal family and is one of only two magicians who can travel between worlds; and then there is Lila, a somewhat androgynous female thief who wants to travel the world. The narrative switches between their viewpoints, starting with their story lines being separate and having the main conflict bring them together and open up Lila’s eyes to the world she had always been waiting for but never imagined truly existed.
The multiple Londons are written so well and Red London, with all of its magic and people being able to wield different element, was written so beautifully I fell in love with it. I do also have to say that, as I am currently halfway through the sequel, the world building gets even better and the I’m loving the second book even more than the first. White London is really creepy and depressing, matched in darkness by its ruling King and Queen (a twin brother and sister).
I enjoyed the main plot line quite a bit, having magic itself basically becoming a character with its own motivations. So far, the sequel is only further expanding on the conflict from A Darker Shade of Magic and is diving even deeper into the origins of magic, the balance between power and control, and the various Londons (including going to Black London, which is not explored in the first book).
I really enjoyed this book and am already whipping through the second book. Highly recommend for fans of fantasy, magic, and multiple universes.
Similar Books: Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke