reviews, The Nick Fury Seal

Help, I’ve fallen for Kell Maresh and I can’t get up | A Darker Shade of Magic series review

Well, when I say review what I actually mean is emotional flailing and desperately trying to get everyone in the world to read this, so that we can discuss, I can drop to my knees screaming HOLLAND in public places and people will understand and I can finally figure out who I love more, Kell or Lila #bisexualproblems.

So, here’s the thing, I am a little behind the times with this series, I read book one, A Darker Shade of Magic a while ago and absolutely loved it. But you know how it is, I bought the whole series with a book voucher from my birthday, but then other books happened and as much as I missed the world and these characters, I just never finished the series. Until now.

A Darker Shade of Magic is currently in production to become a feature film, so I picked it up again. And then I read A Gathering of Shadows and well, with that ending I couldn’t not move onto A Conjuring of Light. And now here we are. I am bereft. So, let me introduce you to the world. Here’s the blurb for the first book so you don’t get spoiled and then I’ll give you some very good reasons why you should be adding this to the top of your TBRs immediately.

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. 
Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.
Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

A Gathering of Shadows then picks up four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic and A Conjuring of Light starts where A Gathing of Shadows ended, literally the same day.

Right, lets give you some very good reasons why this book is amazing.

The World Building

V E Schwab is NEXT LEVEL when it comes to world building, especially in this series. What we have is essentially a multi-verse, there are four Londons all parallel to each other, and only two people in this universe that can travel between them because they are Antari, or blood magicians, they’re a dying breed.
There is Grey London, the one that we know, ruled by King George the third and his son, the Prince Regent, it is the capital of England, in a world that no longer has any magic.  There is Red London, a world rich with magic ruled by the Maresh dynasty, the jewel in the crown of Arnes. There is White London, a violent and unstable place where you’ll find the terrifying Dane Twins in charge and then there is Black London. A London so full of magic that it consumed itself. No one goes to Black London, not even Kell and Holland, the only two who would have the ability to do so. From the very first page this world is completely accessible, immersive and so rich in the different cultures and traditions that you don’t have any reason to question why there are so many places called London or why Kell is the only one we follow through them. We’re introduced to Antari words, Arnesian words, the sharpness of the White London languages and of course, the ones we understand in Grey London. All of this is so intricately and yet subtly explained that you feel like this has always just been fact. It is quite an achievement. I covet your amazing writing skills, Victoria Schwab.

Also, me during this series went a little like this:

“Help, I’ve fallen for Kell Maresh and I can’t get up.”

“Oh, HELLO Delilah Bard”

“God I love Kell.”

“Kell who? idk her. Its all about Lila.”

“Honestly, Lila Bard could rob me blind, wrestle me to the floor and then use me to wipe her boots and I’d actually thank her.”

“Can I have both of them? At the same time? Is that allowed?”

Which leads me onto…

The Characters

I love these characters so much, each and every one of them is so complex and has their own baggage, even the minor ones are so 3D it’s almost like you’re actually meeting and hanging out with them. The series is told in multi POVs and there are a lot of characters, but you’ll not once get confused, not because each section is headed with the character’s name, but because each one has a distinctive voice and everything from the tone to the sentence structure lets you know straight away who is living this part of the story all while V E Schwab’s own style is there in the background holding it all together and making it flow. SHE IS A WRITING GOD I CAN’T. Also, this is a diverse and interesting cast of characters. They’re not all straight, they’re not all white, one of them only has one eye which technically makes them visually impaired. There is a lot going on here.

The series’ ‘main’ protagonist is Kell Maresh, an Antari orphan who has been raised in Red London’s Royal Palace by the Maresh family, being Antari means he can travel to the other Londons and he is mainly employed as a messenger between his King and the royals of the other cities. He does also do a spot of smuggling, which isn’t allowed but he’s almost twenty and rebelling because he is the only one of his kind and though he lives in the palace and considers the prince to be his brother, he doesn’t feel like he really belongs there. He wants to know who he is, where he came from, who is parents were and kind of feels a bit like he is a possession rather than a family member. He is ginger and angsty and I feel that you know? Also I love him. I don’t know if you can tell?
The other Antari in the series is Holland, he is in the employ of White London and I can’t tell you too much about him, one because it will cause me to start wailing his name and secondly because Holland and all his complexities need to be experienced first hand. Holland is the redacted of this series and his redacted is so, so redacted.

In Grey London, Kell meets Lila Bard, a thief who dreams of adventure and being a pirate and is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. The two have a great meet-cute which ends up with them having to save the world. You know, pretty standard stuff. Oh Lila Bard, how do I love thee, let me count the ways…. Lila is the HBIC, she is sassy, strong, brilliant and well, I don’t know if I want to be her or be on her, but I do know that Lila makes me feel things. And I love her. Did I mention that?

Out of all the various royals, we know the most about the Maresh family, because Kell lives with them. They are described as being dark skinned, dark haired and dark eyed, which might be another reason why poor ginger Kell feels a bit like an outsider. Rhy is the Crown Prince, he is charming, flirty and a precious little cinnamon roll. The bond between him and Kell is so beautiful. I love him too. In fact I love everyone.  Another great thing about Rhy is that he is an out and proud bisexual and literally EVERYONE knows, his parents, the guards, the people, and not one of them cares about this. Although his mother does mention wanting grandchildren at some point, but like, still. DIVERSITY DOESN’T OFTEN HAPPEN IN FANTASY SO I AM HERE FOR IT. There are other characters who aren’t white or straight too. They come along as the story progresses and I kinda love all of them too. Even the evil Dane twins because they’re just so audacious. These characters, I miss them so much now I’ve closed the final book. It’s like I’m missing a lung or something.

Also someone made a whole playlist on spotify about Kell… So, go listen to that.

I should probably wrap this up soon because my word count is growing and I still have SO MUCH TO CRY ABOUT with this series. So, let’s go for less is more.

V E Scwab is a genius.
A Darker Shade of Magic is an amazing series that is a permanent favourite of mine.
I’m planning to add some Antari words to my sleeve next time I go get a tattoo.
Delilah Bard is the level of badassery that we should all aspire to.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you, let me leave you with this: This is a book about magic, power and PIRATES.

Ok, Leah out.


Psst, here’s the Nick Fury Seal of Approval, just in case you didn’t think I was being serious with this.




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