2 stars · 3 stars · book review

book review: A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab

2.5 stars | Goodreads

I can’t believe this book was about a powerful rock. And yes this took me more than a year to finish.

First thoughts:

– This works better as a movie.
– Lila is insufferable.
– Kell is a male Ariel
– Holland and Astrid deserved better than cheesy villain dialogue.
– I don’t get the 4 London hype. I can give you 4 alternate versions of a whitelandia suburb with more creativity than this (as a resident of one, I say small town life is romanticized and boring BUT I could make it work with the same premise but a middle of nowhere suburb).

Mild spoilers below.

I’m disappointed with how small in scale the plot actually is. Yes, it does span through 4 different realms that are somehow connected through London (eurocentric much?), but if you boil it down it’s a power struggle over pieces of a rock. This book moved slow as heeeellllll. Some people have said this before, but this works better as a movie or visual medium than a novel.

Kell is male Ariel, red hair and hoarding problem and all. I guess his relationship with his brother, Rhy, is alright, though I wish the dialogue weren’t so cliche. It’s definitely underserved in that department. I feel like a relationship with Lila is almost inevitable and not because I’ve talked with friends about spoilers to this series. I can’t trust this guy’s taste because he finds Lila’s antics amusing. He fared better than me if the plot of my life forced me to stick with this girl for 400 pages.

Lila is insufferable. I’ve heard much about you, Ms. Bard.

Lila: but you have heard of me.

To me, she is like an annoying little sister who says she has nothing to prove but acts like she sure does, so everyone with a brain knows she’s bluffing. Everytime she opened her mouth I wanted to backhand her, Batman and Robin style. She’s not badly written, per say. It’s clear she wants a fresh start and she’s stuck in a life she doesn’t want, but god she’s annoying. Her captain persona doesn’t 100% convince me of anything, especially her competence and decision-making skills. I hate it that Schwab had to be like “…Lila doesn’t exist for anybody but herself, she isn’t here to please the reader…” Well. You definitely achieved that. You’re still a protag, so there’s gotta be some goody-two-shoes plot armor for her. And it’s so obvious she’s an Antari. Come the fuck on.

Rhy – He doesn’t act 20???? Even if he’s a spoiled prince, he talks like a child. Also is this… promoscious bisexual stereotype? It’s ok if he’s flirt and that’s who he is. But hmmmm….

Holland – Wish he didn’t have cliche villain dialogue because he’s the only one I care about. The being held against your will type tragedy was enough to give me a little bit to care about and he has one of the more interesting backstories because of his roles in White London. Before I read this book, I had a crack ship consisting of Holland and Rhy, but I can dream, right?

Astrid – OK I didn’t think much about Astrid at first, but when we got to the bone floor near the end, I thought she was pretty damn cool. Again, it’s a shame Schwab gave her cliche villain dialogue because if she and her brother were the main characters fighting against team Do-Gooder Kell and Lila, I would have enjoyed the story much more.

Speaking of shame, It’s a Big Damn Shame that most of the character deaths were MEANINGLESS. By this I mean, the array of non-important NPCs in the Londons that get killed by the <i>bad magic</i> lol. We don’t care about them. Why does it matter if these random characters we spent little time with are goners? Kell and Lila will inevitably fix it. These other dudes? Eh, collateral damage.

Linguistic nitpick: I don’t understand how English evolved into the same modern English we use in Arnesia if only royals use it.

I don’t care for the elemental magic here. It’s pretty standard fare. Not particularly bad but not stand-out either. I can’t really take the magic seriously because Kell refers to the Vitari as “bad magic” LOL ok can we get some Practical Magic here? There were a couple of interesting pages about the lore of the world(s). There’s potential for Schwab to expand on in the next 2 books, and I hope she does take that and run with it. If there had been a bit more focus on the inner workings of how the Vitari ties into … whatever Schwab is trying to do, I would have enjoyed this book more. As it stands, it was kind of boring.

The name London doesn’t give me any particular romantic or fantastical feels. If you’re American and live where I live, maybe it does seem romantic or fantastical as we tend to react that way because “fancy! European!” and maybe anglophilia. After living there for a bit, … it’s alright? After so much time, just hearing the name London doesn’t instinctively give me these romanticized notions about what the place is like esp. in fantasy. So I came into the book not enamoured with the 4 London concept. I’d rather write a horror story with 4 versions of a small Midwest Suburbia.

Overall, I’m not really impressed with ADSOM. My pal, Neon, called it A Darker Shade of Mediocre and now I see why.


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