A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book ends with the supposed good character (not all the POVs are “good” per se) committing an act of pure selfishness – it ends up being tantamount to murder. How the hell did that get past an editor? It’s inconsistent and incoherent as a character choice.

I like the opening but quite aside from the fact that the MC’s jacket (the “hook” which opens the book) is never explained, there are a lot of weak plotting issues and massive inconsistencies running through this novel. There are also very basic errors throughout the book (like calling an English king/queen “your highness” – it’s supposed to be “your majesty” ffs. Presumably the author couldn’t be bothered to do even a cursory google search?)

I notice some people have asked if it’s YA; it certainly has a YA feel in scope and tone, and perhaps I would be more forgiving if it had been marketed as such. I honestly don’t understand why it gets rave reviews, though. The characters are paper thin/inconsistent, the world building is abysmal, the metaphysics don’t even attempt to make sense, and nothing interesting is explained. It doesn’t feel like “period” fantasy either, because everything is decidedly modern. I don’t mean just the language, which generally I would expect to be modern, but sensibilities and relationships and behaviours are those of modern American college students, transplanted into a city which is 1800s London in name only.

Period settings can be a powerful place to explore fantasy concepts but in this case, the author has used it only as a limiter rather than a versatile stage, by which I mean she has primarily used it to limit the technology and options available to the characters, and to add as cheap window dressing to the novel.

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