Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars
Much like another title of this author’s, Vicious, V.E. Schwab gives us an absolute thrill of a story with amazing prose, an original and creative multiverse of four Londons, cross dressing pirates, magical smugglers with fabulous/shifting coats, sadistic rulers, and dark & unforgiving magic.
And this is only the beginning…
What It’s About:
In this story, there are four Londons: there’s Red London which is rich and alive with magic, dreary Grey London which is much like our world’s version with no magic, White London that has turned into a cold, icy wasteland filled with carnage and brutality, and then there’s Black London, which is absolutely gone, it had become completely destroyed by its black magic.
The main plot revolves around Kell Maresh, who was taken in by the King and Queen of Red London, and is one of few magical beings still alive called the “Antari,” which gives him one entirely black eye and the ability to travel between the different Londons as a messenger and smuggler on the side. After a meeting with the devious duo rulers of White London, the Dane Twins, he has a package to deliver, but quickly learns that he’s been set up and is being hunted by a mysterious figure. He flees to Grey London, and meets the thief/aspiring pirate captain, Lila Bard, and together they race across all three London’s to try to get some answers.
What I Liked:
- The Characters! Kell and Lila compliment each other well and have a great dynamic. They made the journey an enjoyable one with their banter and their initial mistrust of each other. There is a little bit of romance involved, but it doesn’t detract from the actual story and we don’t spend hardly any time inside their heads as they contemplate their feelings for the other.
- The World-Building! Schwab is a master of modern sci-fi/fantasy in my opinion, and the world that she created in this story felt so fresh and new that I knew I would enjoy this book before I even picked it up.
- The Writing Style! Schwab is also clearly a great storyteller; she has such exciting prose and magnificent flow within her books, that it really transports the reader into her world drives them forward with an anxious need to find out what happens next until the shocking climax.
What I didn’t Like:
- A Slower Midpoint…I’m slightly disappointed that this title was actually a bit of a slower read towards the middle. The author did an amazing job creating a fascinating setting for the story, but towards a certain point, I personally felt like I just wanted to see what would happen next instead of learning the backstory of yet another side character. The slow build up is probably the only reason I didn’t give this book a 5 star rating.
- Lack Of Minor Character Development…Only Kell and Lila got a lot of attention, and I know they’re the protagonists and that there are two more books in the trilogy, but I’d hoped we’d get a bigger insight on some more characters, at least the ones that make it into the next book. Rhy Maresh, the crown prince of Red London is a great character with plenty of potential, but didn’t get as much attention as I’d like. I hope that we get to closer to him in the next book.
Overall, definitely a fun read for anyone who likes fantasy/action/adventure stories, and it was relieving to read a fantasy story that didn’t seem to fall under the huge shadow of Tolkien and the foundation he built within the fantasy genre. I know people are wanting the genre to start to veer away from his ideas and start becoming more original, and this story is a great option that delivers on just that!
This book is a part of a trilogy, so with everything that happened, I wonder how the next two will go moving forward. Magic can never really die, it can be locked up and contained, but I’m so extremely curious to find out! Like any great storyteller, Schwab surely left readers satisfied, but still filled with plenty of questions that will have them aching to start the next title, A Gathering of Darkness.
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell