In one word: Even-keeled
This book was a gift from Cannonball Gift Exchange this year (thanks Deborah!) so I thought it a fitting first read and review of the year. It was on my to-read list, though I had no recollection of it which makes it a perfect gift! I’ve been getting more into fantasy and magical tales lately so was excited to dive into a new series.
Schwab has written a magical tale with interesting world-building but in the end, I think that the setting ends up being more interesting than the characters, who are sort of paint by numbers. Four parallel Londons exist in this world and Antari (magicians) are the only ones that can trael between them. This is a bit of a predictable and comfortable book if you’re used to reading tales of fantasy and magic. My one word “even-keeled” relates to the fact that there aren’t any real issues with the novel, it keeps a steady pace throughout, but there is nothing in there that wowed me. (Also, I mean, I just love the wordplay of even-keeled and Kell, the protagonist). Kell is a bit even-keeled as a sort of lapdog for the royal family, i.e., not quite family, not quite a servant but somehow both. He follows his orders and does as he is told delivering messages between the Londons and protecting the Prince except…he has a penchant for smuggling items between the different Londons. When he is pick-pocketed of a valuable and mysterious object by the intrepid Lila, their stories intertwine and they have to work together.
Overall, I’m intrigued by where this story is going to go. This book gives me both Hunger Games (districts vs Londons) vibes as well as Crooked Kingdom (magic vs non magic) vibes, interesting because Kingdom was published in 2016 and this one was 2015, but I read them in the reverse order. I wonder what I would have thought if I’d read them the other way around. Whereas I would quantify Crooked Kingdom as a “can’t put down” book, I didn’t find this one as compelling.
There are unanswered questions about Kell and Lila that have set up some interesting things for future installments of the series so I plan to continue the series, but it wasn’t so dramatic or fierce of a cliffhanger that has sent me running to the library. If you’re looking for a solid fantasy read or something to suggest to someone trying to get into fantasy, this is a solid and approachable story.