I’ve been in a bit of a fantasy slump lately, and I must admit I was a little worried when I got this in last year’s Cannonball Book Exchange. It was a lovely thoughtful gift – what if I didn’t like it?? Thankfully, it appears my slump may be over, because I enjoyed it immensely.
Kell is an Antari – a person with powerful magic in a world where magic is not as plentiful as it once was. There are four worlds, and four Londons, each with varying levels of available magic and niceness. He lives in Red London, with a happy populace, a good king and queen and prince, and fairly free-flowing magic. Grey London is the grimdark nonmagical version, White London is full of scary vicious people fighting for scraps of magic, and Black London was sealed off from the others because the magic had gone wrong. Only the Antari can move between worlds, where once the doors were open and freely used.
When a talisman from Black London makes its way out into the other worlds and starts to wreak havoc, Kell jumps into quest mode and starts trying to figure out how to return it. Lila Bard is a pickpocket from Grey London who gets more than she bargained for when she steals the talisman from Kell. The two become allies, dodging sinister plots, evil royals, and bad magicians.
Kell and Lila are great, and the variety of dangers they face felt fresh and interesting. It didn’t feel as cookie-cutter as a lot of fantasy books do (which is what caused the slump in the first place). I was invested in their plight, and legit worried at points (usually it’s a pretty safe bet that the heroes will make it, and not enough suspense). Plus, I wanted to know more about this world: Kell is tied to London, but what else is out there? So I was delighted to get to the end and see a chapter from the next book, which I will totally be seeking out.