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Publisher's Summary

Kell is one of the last Travelers - magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes. As such, he can choose where he lands. There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there's Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. There's White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. And once upon a time, there was Black London...but no one speaks of that now. 

Officially Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see - a dangerous hobby and one that has set him up for accidental treason. 

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cutpurse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. 

©2015 Victoria Schwab (P)2015 Tantor

What the critics say

"There is much more to explore in this amazing world from the acclaimed author of Vicious." (Library Journal)

What listeners say about A Darker Shade of Magic

Average Customer Ratings
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I'm In LOVE

A Darker Shade of Magic has that unique kind of ability where it pulls you in and keeps you on the edge of the seat for the entire time and leaves you wanting more once it's finished. The magic system is one of the best I have read in a long time and if anyone asks me for a fantasy recommendation, this will be the first one off my tongue. Can February come a little faster so I can have A Gathering of Shadows, please and thank you?

There is so much good in this one that I don't even know where to start. I loved all the characters (I aspire to be Lila Bard) and can't wait to see what else is in store for them in the future. I could read about Kell and Lila doing mundane tasks and still be happy about it. They have the best chemistry and give and take, both allowing the other to shine but also grow. I loved Lila's want for adventure and Kell's reluctance to let her -- or anyone else -- be hurt because of magic. They had the right mix of sarcasm and actual caring to make them into a fun duo that you were rooting for the entire time.

The plot was amazing. I loved following along throughout the different Londons with Kell -- and then with Kell and Lila -- until we reached the end. I was so nervous about the ending because there didn't seem to be enough time to resolve everything. The ending left it open but also gave closure to this story arc, which was nice. I like when the plot concludes but you can still see the characters living on after. But man am I glad there is a sequel (AND A THIRD BOOK. YAY!) I also really want to know more about Kell's back story and why he can't remember anything because I feel like that is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

The world building was immaculate. If you are writing a fantasy book right now, take note. The world building in this is flawless and seamless with the right amount of exploring the worlds and being told about the different aspects of them. As Kell traveled through the different Londons, I felt as though I was right there with him. Once explained, I could travel between the Londons myself and understand the difference, but it was nice to have Lila reaffirm the aspects of them as she traveled. It made me as a reader realize that because Kell was so used to traveling, he didn't notice some of the details the same way a fresh pair of eyes would. So having Lila travel and be like "oh everything here is so vibrant and smells so nice" was a nice touch to expanding both the world and the characters.

This is like my number one recommendation right now and forever. I can't wait to see what else Schwab has up her sleeve in regards to Kell and Lila but I know I am excited to read it.

4 people found this helpful

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Very good book, hated the narration. Bought physical copy instead.

First, the book itself is amazing. I ended up liking it so much I went and bought the physical set to read as I hated the narration.

The narrator narrated the book in a way that made it seem like a children’s novel. The way he voiced Kell didn’t feel like how Kell would speak, and other characters like Lila were voiced in the insufferable whiny brat style that narrators often default to for female characters, which is unfortunate as that doesn’t suit her at all.

Great book, childish / bad narration.

3 people found this helpful

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So good!

I tried to start this book a few years ago but for some reason, I couldn't get into it. Then I heard the second book was really good so I decided to try it again and I'm so glad I did. Now I have two more books in the trilogy to enjoy and that's a gift. The first chapter is MEH but trust me... After that it's great.

3 people found this helpful

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Fantastic female protagonist.

Characters Written like real complex people. So refreshing and delightful. I wish I had a female character like this to read about as a kid.

2 people found this helpful

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Great story..... once it FINALLY starts

I loved this book. My only complaint is that almost half of the book is spent world building before the story really gets going.

1 person found this helpful

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great read. great narrator.

great read. great narrator. looking forward to book 2. glad my wife recommended it to me.

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You'll enjoy it better in paperback.

A great story. Itriguing plot and characters. I am a fan of V.E. Schaub and I blew through all 3 in this series in about 3 weeks. BUT the narration particularly in the first book is difficult to get through. if you still choose the audio just stick with it, it's worth it.

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Loved the book, didn’t love the narration

The narration does kind of ruin the book. He made Kell sound like a cranky old man and Lila like a whiny brat. You’d have no idea they are actually the same age. If I had the time to actually read I’d likely just just gotten the physical book for this one. Alas I had to stick it out with the audio. It’s still really good.

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Wrong narrator

The protagonists are in their late teens/early twenties, yet the narrator sounds like he's in his 60s at least. This was very off-putting and took you out of the world.

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Love this author’s worlds

Just read my second V Schwab novel and I wasn’t disappointed. Beautiful writing, good story and entrancing characters. My only point of contention is the narrator, who, having a rich lush voice makes the female main character sound a bit like a cross dresser... like those Monty Python skits with John Cleese and the gang doing their best female impersonations. Other than that, excellent!

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  • Sara
  • 2019-03-12

Don't do that, male narrators

Dear male narrators,

You know that urge so many of you get when reading a female character? That urge to make your voice high pitched and a little whiny, thereby flattening out the character and irritating the crap out of your audience?

Don't do that.

Otherwise, a good performance.

150 people found this helpful

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  • green ice cream garden
  • 2016-12-27

Why did I wait? Worth the credit!

Kicking myself. I've had this on and off my wish list for over a year because I would read one stellar review and then one that sucked. It's the former - stellar. If you like world-building, dubious characters, and (duh) magic don't delay. This book stands out in the crowd. The slow begining is worth the ending.

24 people found this helpful

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  • withherownwings
  • 2015-08-31

social commentary magical high fantasy

I very much enjoyed this book, and not just because I got it free via the Ford Audiobook Club. It's very well written and well-paced, and was an interesting take on the old high fantasy trope. I loved the alternate dimension Londons and how they reflected different emphasis on aspects of humans and their interaction with magic. Kell's story and Lila's were both compelling and richly resonant with the themes of the books: entitlement, responsibility, the search for identity, self-reliance, social commentary, etc. I loved their banter and thought they worked very well as foils for each other. I appreciated that the romance is kept to a minimum, more a loyalty than a swooning uncertainty.

The "feel" of this book in pseudo-high fantasy historical setting, atmosphere , and writing style reminded me of Michael Sullivan's Riyria series, but Schwab put her own stamp on them. Very enjoyable.

The narration by Stephen Crossley was well done, particularly for Kell. I'd have liked a second narrator for Lila, but Crossley did fine for a single person narration.

80 people found this helpful

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  • R. J. Schultz
  • 2018-12-20

How does this have such good reviews?!

This book just is not good. It started to become really apparent by hour 5, but I kept pushing through it, convinced it must get better. It doesn't. People say it has great characters and world building. It doesn't.

Every character is shallow. Their motivations are simplistic. Their shades of grey are non existent. The closest thing to moral conundrums are simple, impulsive choices with no impactful consequence.

There is all this evil magic in the world that is outlawed, but apparently no one to enforce it. There is no mages guild. No magic police. There are mentions of punishments and blocks, but no one is ever hiding the dark magic, yet no one notices it either. In fact, dark magicians encsorcel an entire royal family with ease and there is no royal cabal to catch this out or try to stop it? That's not world building.

The girl in the story has gone her entire life not knowing magic exists. She just accepts it out of nowhere, then makes all these wild guesses about it, and is right, EVERY SINGLE TIME. There's never so much as a mage character saying, "you'd think that, but no. It's actually like this." Nope. She's just intuitively right about everything. That's just lazy writing.

This book is not worth reading. It's not an awful book. But it's not a good one.

28 people found this helpful

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  • Friday
  • 2015-06-23

Not another lame female character

I thoroughly enjoyed the character of Lilah. She was driven by real world needs and not by some stupid infatuation. She is a badass in her own right and can take care of herself in most situations. I liked how the male lead and female lead worked together without wading through layers of sexual tension. A very enjoyable listen.

110 people found this helpful

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  • Alex
  • 2015-06-11

Not a fan of the narrator

Would you listen to A Darker Shade of Magic: A Darker Shade of Magic, Book 1 again? Why?

Probably not, at least not until the next one comes out. The story was pretty simple and the narration wasn't great at times in my opinion. It seemed like he missed the tone of a lot of the interactions of the characters at times, though I'm not sure how much of that was me misinterpreting it or him.

What did you like best about this story?

I liked the concept of the story. The idea of multiple London's was cool, and I liked a lot of the backstory of the characters. As far as how events played out in the story, I think there was some weird stuff that happened that maybe wasn't a direction I would have expected but that's not necessarily a bad thing, and it definitely kept things interesting. I was concerned by about the halfway point because it seemed to me like the story was slow to start, but overall I was satisfied with how it turned out. Towards the end I didn't want to put it down.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The performance was ok, but at times I found it hard to listen to. For certain things like spell names and words in fictional languages I understand it can be hard to have a good interpretation of what things should sound like, but I definitely found it difficult to stay with the narrator when he was reading them. I appreciated some of the things he added, with details such as a mostly clear voice for each character - though like I mentioned earlier it seemed like the tone was not always conveyed correctly to me. Also accents for some characters sometimes seemed like they were slipping - which I also acknowledge can be difficult to keep straight. It didn't ruin my enjoyment, but there were definitely scenes where it took me out of the moment.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

There were definitely a few moments which made me crack a smile but nothing extreme like laughing or crying.

Any additional comments?

I'd say it is a worthwhile book to pick up if for no other reason than it's a cool concept. I'm probably likely to at least try the second one when it comes out for what it's worth.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Tango
  • 2015-04-26

Shades of Gray Magic - This one's a bit dull

Victoria Schwab starts this high fantasy with a great concept. Four parallel worlds whose only commonality is a central city called London. When Black London is consumed by magic, all the other Londons are sealed off from each other to prevent the spread of the consumption leaving only the Antari who can travel between the 3 remaining Londons. Oh, and there are only two Antari left. One of the Antari, Kell, travels regularly between the Londons delivering messages between the monarchs and doing a bit of smuggling on the side. But Kell's side job leads him into a trap that sets up the plot and introduces him to Lilah who joins him in the adventure.

I think this basic scenario could have been developed into a really interesting tale, but that potentiality is NOT realized. First, it takes a full 4+ hours for the book to progress to the real starting point; more than four hours to find out almost nothing more than I just wrote in that first paragraph! Schwab writes with some classy, lyrical prose, but just doesn't really say much. She is downright stingy with information so you get a lot of description, but little understanding about the characters, the magic system, or the point of anything.

The two Antari, Kell and Holland, seem like they might be interesting, but Schwab seems to want to keep these two so mysterious that you don't get a chance to know them. It's hard to invest in characters you don't know. Lila has a lot more personality, but she's hardly likable. A cut-purse and occasional cut-throat, she's very cavalier about taking a life.

Steven Crossley has a nice voice, clear diction, and decent character voices (fitting accent for Lilah especially). Only one minor bone to pic with the narration. Crossley uses a rather rough voice for the character of Kell which made me picture a man of 35 - 45, but Kell is actually very young. I was shocked to remember this a couple of times when the author referred to the character as a youth or a young man because I kept picturing him as much older due to Crossley's voicing of the character.

Ultimately, I spent 11+ hours with these characters and this story and just never got engaged - at all.

160 people found this helpful

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  • Jeffrey
  • 2015-05-27

Great book, could have used 2 narrators

A great first read for a new fantasy world, with interesting characters and excellent world building. The narration was nuanced and smooth, but the one downside is that Crossley has a gravely deep British accent that makes his female characters just a bit tough to identify with. This is one of the sacrifices of single narrators though, and after a while you stop hearing the Monty Python men-dressed-as-women effect!

37 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Shantell
  • 2015-09-13

Who picked this narrator?!

Why did they have someone who's 60-70y/o reading for characters who are mostly in their 20's??? Plus he made all the women sound so whiny, every time Lila talked a cringed. Thank god this was free. I'll listen to the second book of they have a different narrator, otherwise I'll just get the book.

66 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Jonathan Cook
  • 2019-08-26

A Dreary Shade of Magic

What a disappointment. The author lazily relies on the setting of royalty and magic to make up for thin characters and a drab plot line... and doesn't even succeed with the setting. Never has magic been so dreary. There's so much possibility for imagination in the framework of this story, and so little realized in the writing. A Darker Shade of Magic is a dreadful story, poorly told.

4 people found this helpful