I was drawn to this book not only by prospects of magic and fantasy, but by the invention of four different versions of London, of which I was very intrigued.
There is Grey London; tired, dirty and devoid of magic, ruled by a mad king. Red London is thriving and full of magic with a revered royal family presiding.
White London is a drained, colourless empire where the throne is ruled by whoever is strong enough to take it and magic is a rare possession. There is also Black London, of which nobody speaks of.
The main player in this story is Kell, a traveller with magical abilities and able to traverse the doorways between the worlds, which few are able or permitted to do.
Used primarily as a messenger, it is his side hobby of smuggling other worldly trinkets that lands him in hot water when he comes into contact with a dark and forbidden magic. As he strives to get rid of the dangerous artefact, he must also prevent it from falling into the wrong hands; all the while the magic has a mind of its own. His path crosses with a human thief, Lila Bard, and it is their unlikely alliance that is needed to try and accomplish the risky task that faces them.
For me, in this kind of fantasy tale, world building is so important and this story is fantastically crafted. The idea of the four Londons interlinked and yet each so individual was pure genius, and with each journey, the narrative immerses you in the sights, sounds and smells of the new London. I especially liked the idea of magic having their own unique scents, for example Red London smells of flowers.
On top of the vibrant world created here, the characters are brilliantly portrayed and I found Kell to be a particularly likeable lead. There was almost non-stop action once all the main elements of the story had been introduced and the exciting plot really keeps you engaged.
There were a few things that were set up and never explained, or continued in the story, so I really hope that there is a sequel to this novel, as there is incredible potential for further stories.
A Darker Shade of Magic is magnificent tale about the power of magic, full of fun, action and sparkling creativity.