A Darker Shade of Magic, by V. E. Schwab

Review copy provided by Tor.

A Darker Shade of Magic is the story of four parallel worlds with very different outcomes. One of the protags is one of the very few people who can move between the worlds, and he has color-coded them to keep track of which one he’s referring to–Grey, Red, White, and Black. The divergence of the worlds is not random but refers to their relationship with magic.

That all sounds a bit technical and inside-baseball; the book is anything but. It was such a fast read that I was 2/3 of the way through before I even noticed I should probably do things like move around and stretch occasionally. I am not one of the genre readers who is a sucker for thief protags, but the thief Lila was brave and useful and entertaining. And the two princes were just what they ought to be (errm, sorry, child of the nineties)–that is, they were sympathetic and comprehensible in their relationship with each other, their parents, and the rest of the world. While not everyone has a fully filled-in backstory, ramification from background is the name of the game–each world shapes its denizens differently, for good or ill.

And there are music boxes and magical artifacts with minds–or at least wills–of their own. And burning ships.

Fun story, hurrah, would read author again.

One note: the city in which all this takes place is London, with the Thames as an important thing. If you pick this up hoping for another immersive London fantasy, it will not deliver. There is not a heck of a lot of our-London historical detail in this book. For me, this was not a disadvantage–I have plenty of Magic London Books and not a lot of good recent parallel worlds magic stories. But best to know what one is getting into in advance: set in London, yes, Magic London Book subgenre, not really, no.

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