Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Series Title: Shades of Magic

Book Titles: Book 1: A Darker Shade of Magic, Book 2: A Gathering of ShadowsBook 3: A Conjuring of Light

Author: Victoria Schwab (published under pseudonym V.E. Schwab)

Genre: Fantasy

My Overall Rating: ★★★★★


I was debating on whether or not I wanted to write an entire series review for this because honestly, I should really be moving on from these books. But I’m struggling. I’ve been trying to start a new series over the last few days and it’s not working because I’m still desperately holding on to this one.

I guess it’s safe to say that I’ve become way too invested in Shades of Magic. And I think the only way I might be able to start letting go of it is if I write a proper review (lol more like a mess of me screaming) of the series so I can finally read some other books. I know there’s more series out there that I’m going to love just as much, but right now my mind is just like BUT SHADES OF MAGIC THOUGH. It’s been a problem.

So I hope you guys enjoy this review, AKA me yelling about how incredible this was!!

My Review:

This is going done in a few different parts so I can be sure to cover all the aspects I’d like to mention. Also this entire review will be SPOILER FREE, but if you wish to go in to this series without knowing a thing about it, feel free to to skip to the last part called Overall Thoughts if you’d like.

So what exactly did I like so much about this series? A lot. And I mean A LOT (clearly). But here’s what I loved the most:

THE WORLD BUILDINGOkay yeah, I’m still in awe of how Schwab came up with this setting. This series takes place in London in the 1800’s, but not in just one London. Yes, that’s correct: there’s not one London, but multiple parallel Londons. Oooh! Each of them are called by a color and they’re also encompassed with varying degrees of magic. MAGIC, I TELL YOU. Here’s a brief overview of them:

  • Red London ≥ Home to our main lead, Kell, and ruled by the royal Maresh family. Magic is abundant here. And it’s also my favorite London.
  • Grey London A very bleak and simple city that no longer thrives on magic. This one is the actual capital of England. Also home to Lila, another one of the main characters.
  • White London Referred to as “the starving world,” this London is pretty much decaying and is always in a state of struggle.
  • Black London ≥ A mystery of a city that was rumored to have once existed, but supposedly magic grew overpowering and everything in it is now gone. Very spooky.

That’s about the gist of the Londons. Or, as Lila put it: “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London.” Very accurate, indeed.

As you can see, each of the Londons have their own unique differences and “personalities”, if you will. I really liked how starkly different each of them were, even though they’re all just different versions of each other. It’s also just ridiculously cool in general to read about one city and then to jump an alternate version of it. Really, the entire concept of parallel Londons was quite clever.

And of course, the magic system itself is astonishing. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a fantasy series, so reading about magic again was… well, magicial. I honestly felt like a kid discovering Harry Potter for the first time. I liked the incorporation of the elements (fire, wind, water, and earth) as the basis of the system. I also thought it was interesting that not everyone had the same abilities to use magic, some not at all, and how that impacted the story as a whole.

I will say I was a little nervous that I’d be confused by all this world building at first because I was like, what the heck do you mean parallel Londons, and what are all these magical terms? And like I said, it’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy series. Longer than I’d like to admit. But I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to catch on. Schwab did an excellent job with explaining this incredible world she created and I had no trouble becoming invested in it very, very quickly.

THE CHARACTERS: Besides the world building, the characters are also what made this entire series for me. They all have a place in my heart, truly. You can tell Schwab took her time with each character in this series because they’re all extremely well written and have their own distinct backgrounds, personalities and intentions. Even the characters that we see very little of have an important role in the plotline.

How much I like the characters is usually a good indicator of how much I’ll end up liking a book as a whole. They’ve always been one of the most critical parts of a story to me, so I was very happy that this series had some ones I loved reading about. There’s some especially notable characters I’d like to mention, and also my favorite ones to read, including:

  • Kell: Our main lead, and such a good one. Kell was raised by the royal family in Red London, but since he’s a rare type of magician called an Antari, that means he can actually use blood magic to travel between the Londons. Because of this, he’s the one who keeps Red London in contact with the other cities. Kell was the perfect character to follow as the main voice of the series. I never grew tired of reading about him, and you just have to root for him the whole time.
  • Lila: I kind of had a lot of different feelings about Lila at the beginning, but ended up loving her. She’s from Grey London, but there’s not much else we know about her past, besides the fact that she spends a lot of time thieving and aspiring to be a pirate (this goal is fitting for her tbh). I found her constant fierceness to be admirable, but sometimes her carelessness could be frustrating. All in all though, it’s Lila, and I freaking love her, and she grew on me way more than expected.
  • Rhy: Is it okay if I have a favorite? Because I do. And it’s Rhy Maresh, the prince of Arnes. I don’t even have words to express how much I love him. It’s just TOO MUCH. Rhy had me laughing because of his personality and hilarious lines one moment, but then crying the next because of how much he has to go through. Ugh. I’m telling you, you cannot help but love Rhy with your whole heart.
  • Alucard: We sadly don’t get to meet Alucard until book 2, but trust me when I say that he’s WORTH THE WAIT. As soon as he was introduced, I knew he was going to be a favorite. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him throughout the story and how prominent he ended up becoming in the plotline. I’ll always love him and his iconic lines. And his cat.
  • Holland: Uhh yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many complex feelings about a character in my life. Holland is another Antari from White London, and his story is definitely… interesting. I don’t think I can say much here without spoilers, but Holland is one of those that you have to pay attention to and just be willing to understand.

It was so impressive that each of these characters were so well created. I applaud Schwab for having the ability to write them the way she did. One of the reasons it’s hard to let go of this series is because of how attached I became to the characters, and I will always adore them. They’re too special.

THE CHARACTER DYNAMICS: You know what I love even more than the characters themselves though? The dynamics they have with each other. This is what I tend to get the most invested in when I read any book. It’s always so interesting to read about the interactions and complex relationships between characters. It makes the storyline that much more intriguing.

And let me tell you, the character dynamics in this series did not disappoint. There were tons of good ones I’d love to talk about, but I’ll keep it simple as possible and just tell you my top four favorite ones, which are:

  •  Kell ↔ Lila: Okay, well these two were iconic from the beginning. I was SO invested in this. What I loved the most about Kell and Lila was that things never felt overly complicated between them. What they had made sense and it only enhanced my enjoyment of the series instead of just adding drama. It was perfect.
  • Kell ↔ Rhy: NOTHING LIKE THE BOND BETWEEN THESE TWO BROTHERS. Since Kell and Rhy grew up together in the royal palace, they became family and were inseparable from the start. Their loyalty to one another, and the fact that they’d do anything for each other, made my heart happy.
  • Lila ↔ Alucard: Every conversation between these two was just pure entertainment. I about died laughing at them, tbh. I really liked how Alucard was basically Lila’s mentor, and how the two came to trust each other over time. Considering both of their pasts, I’m glad the both of them found a sort of family in each other.
  • Rhy ↔ Alucard: I can say very little here without spoilers but this is my favorite and I’m just gonna leave it at that. 🙂

Are you sick of me talking about the characters yet? OKAY, FINE MOVING ON. 

THE PACING: I absolutely flew through this series, so I’d say the pacing was generally well done. I never dreaded picking up any of the books. In fact, I was desperate to read more the entire time. And I may or may not have stayed up all night reading a few times, but I mean, it was worth the sleep deprivation.

Although I do want to mention that the second book of the series, A Gathering of Shadows, did drag a bit. It was never boring, but the plot just didn’t intrigue me as much as the others. I think it suffered a little from “second book syndrome” and was more of a bridge in to the third and final book. But, I can appreciate the pacing of it in a way, because the build up to that insane cliffhanger of an ending was pretty cool.

I’d say the first book had the most action, the second had too little, and the third had a perfect balance. But all of them were brilliant, of course. Just make sure you have the next book readily available when you’re reading, because they’re definitely bingeable and ridiculously hard to put down.

THE WRITING: These were my first Schwab books (I know, I’ve been missing out!!) but I already can say that she’s one of the best writers I’ve ever come across, and probably ever will. There’s something so incredibly enchanting and surreal about the way her words come out on paper. I’ll never forget reading these first few sentences of A Darker Shade of Magic, and realizing that I was about to get in to some truly masterful writing:

Kell wore a very peculiar coat. It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible. The first thing he did whenever he stepped out of one London and into another was take off the coat and turn it inside out once or twice (or even three times) until he found the side he needed.”

See what I mean? I was intrigued from the very start. I thoroughly enjoyed the way she described all of the strangely magical aspects of this series, like Kell’s coat, because it just felt so unlike anything I’ve ever read.

Also, the way Schwab brought imagery to each setting was completely fascinating. It really felt like she was bringing each of the places she wrote to life. This was one of the descriptions that was most memorable to me, the first time we get a glimpse of White London:

This struggle had a side effect, and that effect was the reason Kell had named White London white: every inch of the city, day or night, summer or winter, bore the same pall, as though a fine coat of snow -or ash- had settled over everything. The magic here was bitter and mean, and it bled the world’s life and warmth and color, leaching it out of everything and leaving only the pale and bloated corpse behind.

Seriously. It was like I could actually see White London as I was reading this, and genuinely feel just how chilling this city really is. I loved how Schwab’s writing made this series feel like I was watching a movie instead of reading a book.

I know for a fact that this series wouldn’t have been nearly as good if it wasn’t for the writing style. It was astounding how well written it was, and I’ll definitely be reading more from Schwab soon. Because if her other books are just as well written, and I know they are, then count me in for that please.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: I, without a doubt, loved this series with everything that I am. More than I am able to explain. To put it one way, out of all the books I’ve read in my life, I only have 15 shelved as all time favorites on Goodreads. Two of those books are now from this series.

The world building was beyond excellent, the characters ones I will forever hold close to my heart, the writing masterful. EVERYTHING WAS SO GOOD. Seriously, reading this was an experience I will never forget. It was actually magical.

I’d encourage anyone to read this, even if you’re reluctant because of the hype or are unsure if you’d like it. It’s worth it. It’s so worth it. And I could never recommend it enough.

Alright, that’s about all I got. I mean, not really, because I could talk about this series forever, but I’ll stop here lol. It was good to write this though.

And also if any of you have any series suggestions, please do let me know. I’ve been trying to play catch up this month on hyped fantasy series, but this one has put me in a mini slump agh. Which has lead me to reread Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virture (so good though). But I’m dying to read another series soon!!

Hope you guys have been having a good weekend, and also a good September, and that you’ve been reading lots of great stuff lately. 🙂

And thanks for always letting me rave about books on here, especially this series!! ❤️

40 thoughts on “Series Review: Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

  1. Great review! I swear I’m going to get to this series one day. I literally haven’t seen a single book blogger who dislikes these books, only heaps of praise lol.

    Think you might have a typo in the first quote with Kell’s particular ‘quote’ instead of ‘coat’?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!! Ah yes please do read it when you can! I was pretty worried it was being overhyped because of all the praise it gets, but it’s actually so good. Hope you love it when you read it! 🙂

      Haha oh no, thank you so much for catching the typo!! I was thinking ABOUT quotes when I was writing that, but still… oops😂 There’s always at least one lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! I seriously need to read more by her. I’m actually planning on reading Vicious sometime this month since the sequel is out soon! Which of her books have you read??

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve read the Monsters of Verity duology and Vicious! And omg Vicious is amazing. I honestly can’t decide whether I love it or This Savage Song more. (I had a few issues with Our Dark Duet that made it less enjoyable personally even though it was still an excellent book.)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ooh I have This Savage Song on my TBR. I seriously can’t wait to read that one too, but I’m probably going to read Vicious first 🙂 Glad to hear you enjoyed both!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much😊 It makes me so happy that you’re still loving the series. And oh my goodness Alucard is so great, right?? Can’t wait to hear what you think of the rest!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh yes it is SO worth the hype and I hope you get to pick this series up soon!
      Yess the the way the magic is written made me feel the same 🙂 It was so much fun to read about it again.
      And RIGHT?? Brotherly bonds are so underrated. You’ll LOVE this one, it’s so great!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my reading goals for this year was to finally read A Darker Shade of Magic, and I still haven’t done it! I still have 4 months left so fingers crossed I actually do it haha
    I haven’t read any books by V.E Schwab so I was debating whether my first one should be Vicious or ADSOM, but I feel like people generally prefer ADSOM! I know I’ll be hitting myself over the head for not reading it sooner when i finally do LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same!! It took me forever to pick up ADSOM, but I’m so glad I finally did😃 Ooh Vicious is supposed to be so good too, I’m planning on reading it soon because the the sequel comes out this month! I hope you end up loving Schwab whenever you get a chance to read one of her books😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review!! AHHHHH I LOVE THIS SERIES SO MUCH!!!!!! The characters are just so perfect!! ❤️❤️❤️ And agreed, the DYNAMICS between them are just spectacular!!! Rhy and Alucard is obviously my favourite (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!), but I love all the others too!! Rhy and Kell are just so sweet and precious together, and I love their relationship! And Kell and Lila are awesome! And Lila and Alucard’s banter is so fun! Also I really love the dynamic between Kell and Alucard… I was just living for their scenes together. This is probably a bad thing, but… I just loved reading their interactions!

    And the world(s)!!! And the writing! And Red London! I would like to live in Red London please!

    And I adore her writing style so much!! It’s gorgeous in her other books too!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! I love your enthusiasm for the character dynamics because S A M E. I love every single one of them, ESPECIALLY Rhy and Alucard. And oh my gosh I wanted to include Kell and Alucard too but this review was already getting so long. But I agree their interactions are HILARIOUS lol those were some of the absolute best scenes.

      Red London is so cool ahh I want to live there too! And just literally everything about this series is outstanding. I don’t think we will ever stop talking about how good it is but I’m okay with that😂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review as always Brianna! This is actually really helpful because I feel like I just got a guidebook to the series (lol without this I’d probs get really confused). And thanks for making it spoiler free (I would have cried if it wasn’t 😂)
    I just bought ADSOM recently, so I’m going to read it soon (hopefully) 😊
    And lastly, OMG CONGRATS ON REACHING 200 FOLLOWERS lovely! You definitely deserve all the love 💞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much & I’m glad my review was helpful!! Haha I know right, this series honestly deserves its own guidebook because of all that goes in to it😂 I promise it’s pretty easy to catch on though! And I’m SO SO excited that you’re planning on reading it soon. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and to talk about it with you!!

      And ahhh thank you, thank you, thank you!! You are too sweet!!!💗

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome 💞
        I can’t wait too! I’m currently reading SoC for the first time, so I need to finish that…and I plan on reading Strange The Dreamer afterwards, but ADSOM is definitely after! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yaay! And ooh how are you liking SoC?? I want to read it SO BADLY. And I’m also planning on reading Strange the Dreamer soon since the sequel is out at the beginning of October!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Soc is really good so far! I’m only 90 pages in, but honestly it’s pretty fascinating.
        I hope you enjoy SoC and Strange The Dreamer when you read them. We’ll have to talk about them together 😊

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much!! Ah yeah Holland, he’s definitely an interesting one. You’ll get to know him a lot better, especially in book 3! Hope you enjoy the rest of the series❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I kind of skim read this because I’m currently reading book 1 and I don’t want to know too much going in (I’m literally only one chapter in) but this was a great review and im really excited to read the series now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t blame you; sometimes it’s best to go in to a series knowing very little! Thank you so much and I hope you love the rest of the series 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad to hear you love it too! I hope you enjoy the rest; the third one was probably my favorite of the trilogy. And thank you so much 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, what a detailed review, I love it! Also, I like how you chose to review the whole series, instead of book by book. I think this gives a better idea of the whole story, verses doing it piece by piece. I hope that makes sense. I read the first book a while back, but never continued onto the second book, for whatever reason…maybe it wasn’t released yet? In any case, I want to read them all now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words and feedback!! I debated doing individual reviews of each book, but I thought doing a series review would end up being better for getting general idea of the whole thing. I’m glad you liked that 🙂 And ooh I do hope you continue the rest of the series if you get the chance because it’s worth it!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great review! I’m planning on (finally) reading this series after my Throne of Glass read-a-thon because it’s about dang time. I’ve had these babies sitting on my shelf forever but I was super intimidated by all the hype… I know – it’s terrible! You’ve got me very excited to read this though 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much 🙂 And ah no worries, I was reluctant to start this series because of the hype too… it was totally worth though! I hope you end up loving it. And thanks for the nice comment! 💞

      Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG SORRY THIS COMMENT WENT TO SPAM AND IDK WHY. lol I’m sorry this review made you want to reread :’) Writing this was the only thing I did for days after reading the series and it was not helping me move on from it ugh


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