A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

The basics

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic


Series: A Darker Shade of Magic #1

- A Darker Shade of Magic (February 2015)
- A Gathering of Shadows (February 2016)
- ADSOM 3 (2017)

Add it: Goodreads

Goodreads Summary:

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

Read a full summary of A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab below. If you can’t remember what happened in A Darker Shade of Magic and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.

in short

So there are four Londons, one of which is closed off because magic took over and ruined the place. Kell can travel between worlds and he is a messenger for the royal Red London family. And also part of their family although he doesn’t always think so. He gets tricked into taking half of a Black London Magical Stone to Red London and is attacked, but he escapes into Grey London where he meets Lila. Kell and Lila fight with Holland a bit before going to Red London together. Kell is caught and taken to Rhy, who is possessed by Astrid. Astrid makes Rhy stab himself and Rhy almost dies but IT’S OKAY BECAUSE KELL BINDS HIS SOUL TO RHY’S. *whispers* OTP. Kell and Lila go to White London and take out the Dane twins, and take back the other half of the BLMS. In the end, Kell still needs to go to Black London and Lila gets a pirate ship.


what happened in A Darker Shade of Magic?

  • Kell returns to Red London from his visit with Grey London’s king and prince regent.
  • Kell works as a messenger between the three Londons (since Black London is off limits) and he delivers official letters from RL’s king and queen. He also illegally smuggles harmless items between the worlds – something that is considered treason so shhhh, don’t tell anyone.
  • He returns to RL’s palace and it is revealed that Kell was pretty much adopted by the king and queen and grew up with them as a part of their family. But he still considers himself property. He also reveals that the first five years of his memories were removed by magic so he doesn’t know his birth name or where he came from.
  • Prince Rhy is visited by Holland and given a necklace, although the guard isn’t entirely sure what Rhy and Holland were talking about. Holland removes the poor guard’s memory of the incident.
  • Kell is sent to White London to see the Dane twins, who rule together and are hella creepy. Athos is busy torturing some boy when Kell arrives. Astrid and Athos drink Holland’s blood, and Holland can’t resist because he is bound to them and you can’t break a soul bond like that.
  • Meanwhile, Lila (from Grey London) sets a boat on fire because the owner (her landlord) tries to force himself on her. She goes back to the tavern that she was at a year ago, which is owned by a man called Barron.
  • Kell gets a bit drunk with the Dane twins and staggers back to the tavern in White London. A woman hands him a letter and a package just as he’s about to go back to RL. She asks him to deliver them to someone in Red London so Kell is like, eh, what’s the harm in that. Despite having promised Rhy that he would stop smuggling.
  • Kell arrives at the address that the woman sent him to and is attacked by two cutthroats – killers for hire – who want the stone that was in the package. He kills one and disables the other. Kell  then escapes to Grey London.
  • In GL, Kell is robbed by Lila. He follows her back to the tavern and demands the stone back. Lila summons another Kell using the stone’s magic, and it’s all cool until other!Kell attacks her for trying to send him away. Kell manages to get rid of him and traps Lila to the wall before he leaves with the stone.
  • Holland finds Lila near the tavern and tortures her in an attempt to get Kell to come to her. There’s a fight, and eventually Kell and Lila get away.
  • Kell and Lila take supplies from the tavern because Lila has convinced Kell to take her with him on a parallel universe roadtrip. Kell needs to get the stone back to Black London, where it came from, and Lila wants adventure. The pair get split up in Red London, their first stop, but eventually Kell finds Lila. They travel to the Red London version of the tavern only to find that it has been burned down.
  • Holland kills Barron because he didn’t know where Kell and Lila went. He then travels to RL, shows up at the tavern, and tries to torment Kell and Lila to come out of hiding. Kell uses the stone to cloak himself and Lila. This makes them corporeal so Holland thinks they’re not there. Lila finds out that Barron is dead and gets very upset.
  • Lila and Kell use the stone to cloak them while they go to Fletcher’s shop to get a chess piece which will act as a talisman to get them to White London. Turns out that using the stone too much is affecting Kell and so Lila takes it.
  • Fletcher turns Kell into the royal guard, who show up shortly after Fletcher alerts them. Lila cloaks herself but Kell is taken away and then knocked out. One of the guards stays behind and slits Fletcher’s throat. Lila grabs the chess piece and then goes off to save Kell.
  • Kell is taken to see Prince Rhy, except it’s not really Rhy – it’s Astrid Dane from WL possessing his body using the necklace that Holland gave to him. Lila shows up and helps Kell out, and Astrid makes Rhy STAB HIMSELF NOOOO before coming out of his body and fleeing.
  • A drunk guy called Booth has been possessed and is going around spreading the Black London Magic Virus in RL.
  • Kell takes Rhy and Lila to a sanctuary where he was taught. He has a room there, which is handy. Here, Kell binds Rhy’s life to his IN A FANTASTIC SHOW OF TRUE LOVE, meaning so long as Kell lives, Rhy will too. Kell and Lila leave Rhy behind with the owner of the sanctuary, but not before the guy comments on Lila’s glass eye. (Amber: I THINK THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR DEMON EYE REASONS, Y/Y?)


how did it end?

Kell and Lila get to White London and go to the Dane’s fortress. They split up. Kell is confronted by Athos and the two fight. Lila kills the tortured boy who is supposed to be guarding the door but he just wants to die in order to be released from his bonds. Lila finds Astrid in the throne room and attempts to kill her but is unable to. Astrid wakes up and fights with Lila. Lila gets knocked down and Astrid goes to help her brother out with the Kell situation. It’s a bit late though, because Kell has already killed Athos. Astrid pretends to be Lila but Kell sees right through her disguise and kills her in a moment that is very THIS IS FOR MY FAMILY /Anastasia.
Kell and Lila return to Red London and to Rhy. They still haven’t taken the stone back but at least they have both halves of it now. Rhy and Kell flirt a little bit and I’m pretty sure they confess their love off-screen. Lila gets a ship because she’s a real pirate now.


anything else

Antari: A world-hopper who can travel between the four parallel worlds. There are only two of them in existence – Kell and Holland. They each have one black demon eye of awesomeness.
Black London: A place of great magic, closest to the source (of all evil *cough*). It’s been closed off because people and magic went crazy and that’s why inter-London travel is no longer permitted. Except for Kell and Holland, obviously.
White London: The closest London to Black London. People here are hella creepy and they steal magic from people by drinking their blood and such. Ruled by the Dane twins until the end of the book.
Red London: Kell’s home!London. Magic exists here and people live pretty good lives.
Grey London: Magic is incredibly rare here but I’m pretty sure Lila got some.

This is a full plot summary of what happened in A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. Check out our recap list for more recaps. If you can’t find what you need, you can request a recap from us!

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  • Celantro says:

    Thanks for the great review/summary. On to A Gathering of Shadows!

  • Idah Sanderson says:

    Hahaha, I just adore this recap! I couldn’t help myself from laughing at the fangirling seeping through! (though I admit it was totally my own reaction, too) I remember something about Holland’s body going back with the stone to black London right after dying? Can someone confirm that that happened because I don’t want to go in to A gathering of shadows confused! 😛

    • Sana says:

      Yes! But Holland wasn’t actually dead when Kell sent him to Black London with the stone.

  • Maddie says:

    You left out the part where Holland stops Kell from going to white london near the end and they fight until Kell wins. You also said they didn’t send the stone back but they did send it to black london with Hollands body.

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