A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab (Tor, Feb. 2014)-Kell is one of a two people (that he knows of), called Antari that can move between Londons (think early 1800s): White London, Grey London, and Red London. There is a Black London, but no one dares to go there anymore. Kell makes his home in Red London with his adoptive family who just happen to be the King and Queen, and is very close to his adoptive brother, Prince Rhys. He is an ambassador between the kingdoms, delivering missives back and forth between the worlds (using tokens for each world, and brandishing a coat with many sides), and in places like White London, ruled by the cruel and murderous brother and sister duo Astrid and Athos, danger is never far away. When Kell is approached by a stranger and asked to deliver a message to another London he’s given a token of appreciation: a black rock that seems to be the vessel for a very dark power. He soon realizes he’s been lured into a trap, and he jumps to Grey London, where he runs into Lila Bard, a lady thief that poses as a man and whose pickpocket skills she uses to steal the stone from Kell. Lila has quick hands and a quick mind, but in her wildest dreams (including a distinct longing for adventure, preferably as a pirate) she never could have imagined the worlds, and possibilities, that Kell can show her.
I love the idea of the multiverse that includes distinctively different Londons, and Schwab fleshes them out wonderfully and makes me want to know much more about each world. She can mine this for a long, long time (here’s hoping.) A Darker Shade of Magic also has the flavor of almost old fashioned adventure. Astrid and Athos are as creepy as they get, and Kell and Lila make an interesting duo, without a whiff of romance, which is refreshing. Lila is stubborn, has sticky fingers and she’s a survivor, yet she still dreams of something bigger, and of course, the next adventure, wherever it may lead her. And I love that. I loved this book, too. Get your hands on this one, pronto.