This review originally appeared on WorldOfJoel.com
Over the last couple of years, I've been searching for a fantasy novel to break free of the shackles of the old time tropes. After reading something like The Name of the Wind, it's hard to go back to the rather straightforward fantasy novel. Going into A Darker Shade of Magic I had heard such great things that I really thought this might be a new fantasy series to get behind.
As you might be able to tell by my tone, A Darker Shade of Magic has such an interesting premise that it falters from the weight of it. The main idea is that there are different parallel worlds, all with the constant of the city of London. They don't really explain why London is in every world but it is. Each of these worlds is slightly different, some with magic, others without. However, the main protagonist Kell, is one of the few who is able to traverse the various worlds.
There's something that happens early on in the book that could upend the entire safety of all London's and Kell along with his new friend Delilah are there to save the day. It's not the most interesting setup for a fantasy novel, nor did it compel me early on. However, what kept me going through A Darker Shade of Magic more than anything was the characters. Both Kell and Delilah are easy characters to get behind and as they develop throughout the novel you really do start rooting for them. It's just unfortunate that the novel around them is just so bland. I didn't find any of the plot developments particularly engaging or original.
A Darker Shade of Magic was the definition of a middle of the road fantasy novel. The one thing that tempts me to give the second book a shot are the characters. Although their plight was rather bland, their interactions together are pretty great. For me, though, A Darker Shade of Magic didn't leave a lasting impression.
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