There are four parallel London’s lined up like pages in a book. The dull, magicless Grey London; vibrant and magic rich Red London; power-hungry and ruthless White London; and the dangerous, infectious locked away Black London.
Kell is Antari – one of the very few magicians blessed with blood magic and the ability to travel between Londons. Acting as Ambassador between the Royals of each London, Kell is also secretly smuggling trinkets between worlds when treachery changes the stakes and puts everything he loves in danger.
What I liked: Schwab creates an instantly compelling world of magic where the skill is innate, variable and connected to the elements. She is asking the reader to believe in parallel worlds and quickly builds those worlds around you, bringing the different London’s to life with detailed and suggestive descriptions.
The characterisation is strong – our protagonist Kell is confident, self-assured, magically skilled and wonderfully flawed. He is unquestioningly loyal to those he loves, takes responsibility for his actions and is willing to put his life on the line to protect the London’s from destruction. His partner in crime, obnoxious, thieving, good-hearted Lila is clearly flawed, but her dreams and her grudging protection of the small or unloved, make her instantly relatable and very appealing.
The plot moves quickly, jumping straight into our own familiar history with the Mad King George (I’m so sad to exist in Grey London) before moving into the bright spirited world of Red London where their version of the Thames actually glows red with magic. The narrative efficiently introduces the main characters with swiftly paced scenes that set up the plot, build out the London’s without passages of exposition to catch the reader up on the rules of magic.
What I Didn’t Like: I feel like I was missing some of the motivation of the villains in this story. They felt cruel and blood thirsty for the sake of being cruel and blood thirsty. Power and dominance felt like their only desire and it didn’t quite feel like enough when everything else flowed so naturally.
Conclusion: I’m heart broken that my library doesn’t carry the sequels and my city is still in lockdown. I’ve placed an order for the trilogy that won’t arrive until the end of the month! Can’t wait to dive into them.