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A Darker Shade of Magic

V.E. Schwab is no stranger to writing for young readers. She has published The Near Witch and the Archived novels for teens and the middle grade Everyday Angel series. Last year her adult debut, Vicious, was the top fantasy pick on the RUSA Reading List.

A Darker Shade of Magic made February’s Library Reads. It is the first in a new series–a fast-paced fantasy with fascinating world-building and engaging characters. Sounds like a good readalike for Gaiman’s Neverwhere and Fletcher’s Oversight trilogy.

SCHWAB, V.E. A Darker Shade of Magic. 400p. Tor. Feb. 2015. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780765376459.  

Kell is one of only two creatures who can travel between worlds in this fantasy set in an alternate version of Regency England. There are four consecutive worlds, all unique, but all with a city called London located on a river in an island nation: destroyed Black, evil White, magical Red, and our very own, prosaic, Grey London. Red London’s Kell and White London’s Holland travel between worlds at the behest of their respective rulers. Meanwhile, in Grey London, pickpocket Delilah Bard dreams of pirate adventure. When a White London plot to overthrow Red London leaves Kell stranded in Grey London, Delilah, finding herself uncharacteristically sympathetic to Kell’s plight, rescues him, and is thrown into the adventure. The ages of the three leads are unspecified, but they give the impression of being late teens or early-20s. While there are enough loose ends to spawn a sequel, the narrative arc of this title stands alone. Readers who pay attention to detail may find the presence of a revolver in this time period, a definite anachronism, distracting. Generally, though, this is an entertaining, fast-paced, “new adult” fantasy with an interesting world and well-drawn characters. While historic rather than futuristic, this work will appeal to fans of Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season (Bloomsbury, 2013).—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.