Victoria’s Perfect Day IRL
It all starts with tea.
Actually, it starts by sleeping late and yet miraculously waking early, which is impossible I know but this is my perfect day so I’m going with it. Then there’s tea, a banana, and some peanut butter. Okay, to be fair, that’s how all my days start—I’m quite particular about breakfast foods—but this would be a perfect cup of tea. Then I’d sit down to the computer, and the words would just…flow. Without having to shore myself up against self-doubt, without checking email and websites and other forms of avoidance. I’d write all morning, and get my words down before lunch. Then I’d watch an episode of the Flash, eat a sandwich, and take myself off to a coffee shop with friends. We wouldn’t talk much, just sit and read and be alone together (can you tell I’m an introvert). While we’re sitting there I’d see someone sitting alone in a booth, reading my book, a small smile on their face, and that moment would make everything—all those days of doubt, all the deletions, all the wondering if I’m doing the right thing—worth it. I’d swing by a bookstore on the way home, and sign some stock of my newest book, and then go home, take my dogs for a walk and think about what an amazing job I have, and answer some emails before settling in for the night to watch a show and read a book.
And here’s the thing: that day above, that’s just about a perfect day. And I’ve had it. Maybe not all at once, maybe not in that order, but I’ve had all the pieces, and they add up. Because I’m lucky enough to do this crazy, amazing, hard, wonderful job, and I’m grateful for it every day.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups
Every night of the year, the market lived and breathed and thrived. The stalls were always changing, but the energy remained, as much a part of the city as the river it fed on. Kell traced the edge of the bank, weaving through the evening fair, savoring the taste and smell of the air, the sound of laughter and music, the thrum of magic.
I’m already a Victoria Schwab fan after reading her good vs evil superhero urban fantasy novel – Vicious – so I couldn’t wait to get reacquainted with her addictive writing style, complex characters and wonderfully-conceived fantasy worlds. As it turns out, A Darker Shade of Magic was even more than I’d expected.
This book feels more like traditional fantasy than Vicious with the style, the invention of a new language, the large cast of characters, the magic, and the focus on royal/political dynamics. And yet, to use the word “traditional” anywhere near this novel is an injustice because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before.
The characters are weird and colorful, somehow without feeling gimmicky. We have a protagonist – Kell – who is strong and badass enough to root for, but also complex and layered enough for us to truly care about and relate to at times. Plus, he has a coat that has many sides, which he turns around depending on how he wants to look – insane, unique, wonderful. Schwab’s imagination clearly knows no bounds.
We also have a cross-dressing pirate who happens to be a tough, infuriating and lovable female character – Lila. And a promiscuous prince, villains who are blood slaves, evil twin rulers and much more.
And then there’s this bizarre world that just played on every one of my senses. The author asks us to believe in a setting that is incredibly farfetched and yet she breathes life into this world with evocative language and makes the unbelievable something we can picture in our heads. She shares little stories from this world’s history to flesh out the picture:
The infamous Krös Mejkt, the “Stone Forest,” was made up not of trees but of statues, all of them people. It was rumored the figures hadn’t always been stone, that the forest was actually a graveyard, kept by the Danes to commemorate those they killed, and remind any who passed through the outer wall of what happened to traitors in the twins’ London.
What’s all this about the “twins’ London”? Well, in this world there are four different versions of London that only the Antari like Kell can move between. Technically, there are only three these days because Black London fell, consumed by its own misuse of magic. The others are Grey London (the one we know), Red London (the one Kell is from) and White London (ruled over by the sadistic Danes twins).
Everyone, it seems, is out to use magic for their own selfish goals in this book. And when a mysterious relic from Black London – a relic that should have been destroyed – reappears, Kell and Lila must do what they can to protect it from all those who wish to claim it as their own.
Nothing short of a wild, fast-paced adventure.