3.5 star, adult

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Series: Shades of Magic #1

A Darker Shade final for IreneKell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


The world sits in balance, humanity in one hand, magic in the other. The two exist in every living thing, and in a perfect world, they maintain a kind of harmony, neither exceeding the other.

With all the hype that surrounds this series, I was a bit intimidated picking up V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. But everything they say about this book is absolutely true.

Be prepared for a world – or should I say worlds – of creativity as you enter even the very first page. While it was a bit confusing at first, readers soon get the gist of how this society is run. 3 parallel worlds exist and only those with very special magical abilities can traverse between the worlds. Kell, our protagonist, is one of the only two that still exist.

[Kell] was, after all, Antari.

Magic is described similarly to how we see it in many other novels. Elemental magic exists, with control of the elements like water, air, fire, rock, etc. But there’s a difference with Kell and the kind of magic he possessed. To be short, blood magic. And who can’t say they’re slightly thrilled when hearing just those words put together? It could spell trouble, or it could just mean there’s great power and potential.

And Antari could speak to blood. To life. To magic itself. The first and final element, the one that lived in all and was of none.

Aside from the magic system, the parallel worlds is a fun addition. And aptly, Kell has named each of the worlds he can visit by a colour that represent the society.

I don’t normally explain a fantasy world so in-depth in a review but I can’t help but marvel at the uniqueness and enthralling way this world building has touched me. 3 worlds. 3 colours.

Whitea world falling apart and dying as its ruthless citizens fight for control and hold back any dangers magic may have once presented. It has somehow lost some vitality – hence colour – to it

Greya world without much magic, and its citizens have almost forgotten about its existence. It is dreary and kind of boring without the essence of magic filling up the place – probably the closest world to what you can imagine as our Earthly version of London

Reda world brilliantly flourishing with different elemental magic among its citizens, and a fairly content way of ruling and continuing as it is. Maybe that is why it’s associated with the scent of flowers and red as it reminds us of life and growth

Yet, there is more. There was once a fourth world. One that has been sealed off from the rest. But something has come into Kell’s possession from that lost world and it opened up a world of trouble right into his lap.

If that world building description and the main plot arc of the book/series didn’t get you excited, then I don’t know what will. This is imaginative fantasy making at its best, with the brilliant Victoria Schwab standing at the helm.

Even the prose is beautiful in its elegant yet simple descriptions. Not just of the world around the characters, but the individuals themselves. There were a number of names and characters to sort through – let alone which worlds they hail from – but no one else aside from Kell was as important as Lila Bard. For all her thorny masks and thievery, she was someone I came to admire. ‘Cause isn’t inside every hardened shell some experiences that made them that way? Something deep and vulnerable that doesn’t want to be seen by the light of day?

And for the first time, Kell saw Lila. Not as she wanted to be, but as she was. A frightened, albeit clever, girl trying desperately to stay alive. One who had likely frozen and starved and fought – and almost certainly killed – to hold onto some semblance of a life, guarding it like a candle in a harsh wind.

With the book broken down into several parts and short chapters in each, it was fairly easy to breeze through, especially for those who are daunted by long and complicated fantasy novels. While I have many praises to extol on this first book, I will admit that it started off quite slow. Some of it may be due to the natural progression of acclimatizing us readers to the world Schwab has built without overwhelming us with pages and pages of information dump. I certainly never felt that as I am still very much in awe of the story, even days after I’ve finished it. But the excitement and the main storyline took its time in coming and developing.

However, I have very high hopes for the rest of the series. As first books go, A Darker Shade of Magic is more than an excellent start to an exciting series. It excels at making itself stand out in a sea of such similar fantasy tropes.

The danger may seem to have been dealt with, but I get the feeling something is still stirring and there’ll be more for Kell and Lila to deal with soon.

“Aren’t you afraid of dying?” Kell asked Lila now.

She looked at him as if it were a strange question. And then she shook her head. “Death comes for everyone,” she said simply.

Overall Recommendation:

Excellent prose, brilliant plot and a world beyond your imagining, A Darker Shade of Magic is everything that people have been shouting about these past years. In a land where parallel worlds exist and only certain magical people can travel between them, danger lies when things that don’t belong in some worlds show up and remind everyone of the dangers imbalanced magic can bring. Protagonists Kell and Lila embark on a crazy quest to save all their worlds as trouble comes to them, all the while fighting something dark that may fester inside each of them. Even if you aren’t normally a fantasy lover, this book explains its world building well and will guarantee to satisfy fans of action, adventure and a tease of romance. While it can be slow-going at first, trust me, you’ll want to get through this, and feast your senses on a world with Antari.

5 star, YA

Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Series: Shadow of the Fox #1

shadow of the fox -julie kagawaOnce Every Thousand Years…

Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near…and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret.

Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune shapeshifting powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has…and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

A wish will be granted and a new age will dawn.


5 Drink Me Potions


**Shadow of the Fox comes out October 2, 2018**

Thank you to Indigo Books & Music and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Finally, another masterpiece by Julie Kagawa. I haven’t felt such admiration for her work since the first book of The Iron Fey series came out a decade ago.

A piece of art steeped in Japanese folklore and legends, Shadow of the Fox was a delicious, sometimes even creepy, romp into a Japanese-centric world of samurai, honour, and a refreshing heroine who doesn’t have the answers to everything right off the bat.

Initially, I will admit, the Japanese words and terms can get a little bit confusing, but eventually they become a part of your vocab like you naturally use them. Fans of Japanese animes and mangas may be a little more accustomed to how individuals refer to each other, or the words for demons, ghosts, and other supernatural beings that are a part of Japanese legends. Our protagonist, Yumeko, is a kitsune. A type of fox demon. Regardless of the negative connotation that the word demon normally brings out, this girl was raised in a temple by monks. Yes. Monks. You would think that those wouldn’t go together, right?

If you thought she made for an unlikely heroine, meet our other protagonist. Kage Tatsumi, an infamous member of the Shadow Clan with a dark burden he carries in the form of a sword, is otherwise known as the demonslayer.

Half fox demon and a demonslayer. Unlikely allies. My book senses are already tingling.

But wait! That’s not it at all.

These individuals meet due to strange circumstances. A time is drawing near where the possibility of great evil may emerge. And the only one to stop it from destroying everything they know of this world? A half-kitsune fulfilling a vow she made. Yumeko embarks on an adventure she never asked for, bringing along Tatsumi as they search for a piece of a scroll that could NOT fall into the hands of evil.

For a book this length, there were surprisingly few names that we meet. Yet it works well for this kind of story. A good portion of the book was just the alternating POVs of Yumeko and Tatsumi as they venture towards their next destination in their quest. Other individuals come along, both good and bad, and their company may even grow as they continue. But at the heart of it, this novel really spends a good amount of time developing our 2 protagonists and the main supporting characters. At the end of the day, I felt like I knew this company of unlikely allies and friends. They may each come from different backgrounds, and different secrets or motives may abound between them, yet there is loyalty and might I say, even friendship, that ties them so strongly together.

Romance wasn’t an important part of the book, although those of you who enjoy some elements of it should still be pleased with the little moments between Tatsumi and Yumeko. I personally enjoyed the individual growth each displayed. Yumeko was a naive girl who never knew what the world outside the temple was like. From fighting demons (oni) and ghosts (yurei) and other awful evils intent on preventing them from fulfilling their mission, she learned more of what she could do as part kitsune but never let any of this evil change the caring and trusting heart that she had. Tatsumi is your mysterious, emotionless guy that is quite typical in YA writings. But he’s not as simple as that statement sounds. Throughout the events that unfold, there’s this anticipation building as we watch him balance this fine line of controlling the inner demon inside of him (quite literally).

The depth of world building was by far my favourite. Japanese folklore brought to life, Kagawa really described this land and the magical, mystical creatures that are just a part of Japanese culture. It’s not just your simple samurai (whoop-dee-doo) either. One may be tempted to make comparisons with Renee Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist series, but I personally think this book goes into it a lot more. The protagonists aren’t your honourable samurai warriors, but rather a ragtag group of people who are normally on the outskirts of this kind of Japanese society. Kitsune, shinobi, ronin.

While the plot was a mere adventure towards the first stop in fulfilling the mission and completing the Dragon scroll everyone is searching for, it sets the foundation for a lot more excitement. The climax of the story answered a few things, although many more questions were opened up. I wouldn’t say it was a cliffhanger but there are definitely teasers hooking me in for more of what’s to come in book 2.

Shadow of the Fox is the book I’ve been waiting for from Julie Kagawa since I read her debut novel. This is the piece of work that I feel describes Julie maybe even more than The Iron Fey books did. And I cannot wait for whatever is to come from what was set in motion here.

Overall Recommendation:
Shadow of the Fox is a remarkable adventure through Japanese legends of spirits, gods, demons and other supernatural entities. Julie Kagawa has drawn us into this Japanese-centric world with unique characters on a mission for pieces of a scroll that hold the key to great wonders or evil. Following unlikely allies Yumeko and Tatsumi on their quest, secrets abound, dangers unfold and more questions open up about who to trust in this world of samurai and oni. I would recommend this book to anyone in search of a book that piques a sense of adventure and amazing world building.

4 star, adult

She Felt Like Feeling Nothing by R.H. Sin

This is not a traditional review either. It seems that only poetry books can draw this out of me as I’m normally not a poetry reader.

she felt like feeling nothing -rh sin

I came across this wonderful book by random, flipping through these pages. And in an instant, my heart was hooked. Painfully. For there on the first page were words that wholly described me. Even after 5 years.

Have you ever been in a relationship where the one you loved just never seemed to love you back? No matter how hard you tried, no matter how much you gave of yourself, it was like you were never enough.

This is exactly what she felt like feeling nothing was. And the sad thing is? Having these words still resonate so deeply within me suggested that maybe I hadn’t let go of all that I thought was in my past.

As we move through the stanzas that I’ve selectively chosen from this short but encouraging book, I’m leaving behind on this page a bit of honesty of who I was and where I hope to be one day. To all you women out there who understand this as well, know that you’re not alone. To all of you who may not fully understand it, I’m happy that you didn’t need to go through such an ordeal and I hope you’ll hold onto those who unfortunately have.

what happened to your soul

i see the bruises and the scars

he never deserved to touch your canvas

how’d you forget that you are art

i know it fucking hurts

but i’ll just say this because it’s true

any man who hurts your heart

is incapable of falling for you

This was the first poem in the book that drew me in. A part of me still wonders after all these years if those bruises and scars on my heart have fully healed or if I just cauterized them and pretended that it was good enough. And if only the younger, more naive version of me could’ve understood that someone who made me cry for 3 years would never be able to say yes in the end.

i think there are times

where you miss the version of yourself

who never knew

what it meant to feel betrayed

Looking back, I wouldn’t necessarily undo the pain I’ve been in. It’s changed me into who I am today. But there are times when I find myself wondering who I could’ve been without this hanging over my past. Would I have made better choices later? Would I have been a better person?

a man who is unsure about

the way he feels for you

is unworthy of a space

in your heart

If only the 17 year old in me would’ve believed such words. If only I could’ve learned to let go in my heart.

you are something

that someone

has been waiting

their entire life for

And yet, maybe I have never believed that since. Is there a way back to such a belief?

you’ve hidden so much

of what you’ve felt

in the corners of your heart

refusing to open up

out of fear of being hurt again

To risk one’s heart for something that could be great, but could also bring a world of pain? To feel worthy to be loved? Am I still capable of that? If he was staring right in front of my face, would I be brave enough to reach out and open up my heart?

to love and not be loved in return

is the most destructive kind of love

that type of love is a love

that causes us to lose love for ourselves

In other words, unrequited love. If you thought that sounded romantic, it falls very far from that…

i think you’re just

this beautiful misfit

nothing wrong with being different

in search of something real

in search of someone who will listen

someone who will care

someone who will stay

a love that brings you closer

a love that never strays

I was once a romantic, but now I’m not sure what that even sounds like. Yet I see the stars and the flowers in the spring and find myself wishing the grand stories of love could be true for a mere misfit like me.

it’s hard to forget someone

who used to make your soul smile

but it’s even harder to remember

everything they used to be

Reading this whole book has dredged up a lot of memories for me. Maybe they’re things I should’ve dealt with a long time ago. Maybe it’s a good thing to finally air it out, no matter how hard it is to remember how it once was. The way he made me smile. The way it felt as easy as breathing once upon a time. Until it didn’t.

If it’s anything, taking this trip down memory lane has opened up the floodgates for me. And I’m not saying this book may be for everyone, but it surely was for this still-healing girl here.

Maybe it’ll bring healing. Maybe it’ll hurt worse before it gets better. As I look at who I am now, yes, I’ve made mistakes and I took down with me people who didn’t deserve that. But I’ve grown stronger and I’ve gained perspective and I’m no longer that 17 year old girl.

Maybe someday soon, I will learn to love myself more. And believe that I am worth loving by someone I took a risk for.

But that day just isn’t today.