I keep seeing this pop up everywhere, with everyone pretty much wibbling over it and so, on taking a rare break from reading of real world murder and misdeeds, I thought I’d give it a punt. I’m glad I did, as it turns out that it’s fantasy brain candy of the highest order.
A Darker Shade of Magic introduces us to parallel Londons. There’s Grey London – our own in the time of George III, magic-less and crime-ridden. There’s Red London, a prosperous kingdom where magic permeates everything, White London, ruled by ruthless tyrants where everyone hungers for magic, and Black London, long over-ran by magic and now cut off from all of the other Londons. Although, to be fair, all of the Londons are cut off from one another, except to a select few – Antari, people born with a rare affinity for magic who can travel between worlds. Kell is one of two Antari left, and an ambassador for Red London who finds himself in possession of a powerful artefact that could rip down the walls between all Londons, threatening the lives of every world. As he tries to return the artefact from whence it came, he discovers he’s not the only person interested in it, and that those in pursuit will stop at nothing to get it.
I really enjoyed the concept of the parallel Londons and the characters brought to life here – particularly Delilah Bard, a young thief from Grey London whose wits and bravery are more than a match for those around her. The book may be nowhere near as epic or complex as the types of fantasy that I normally read, but that also meant that I got some respite from the stressing out that I do over the fates of the characters in those. Instead, I settled in for an enjoyable ride that I’d be more than happy to take again. And as its successor was on sale for just 99p in the Kindle store, I’ll be doing so soon.