August’s Book Club: A Darker Shade Of Magic

A Darker Shade final for IreneThere’s something about reading outside on a beautiful day that soothes the soul. Combine that with the promise of magic and well-developed characters and I’m sold.

I’m going to be honest before starting my review, I had a hard time getting through this one and almost put it down after the fourth chapter. A Darker Shade of Magic started very slow and told (instead of showed) the reader as much as it could about the world before introducing the plot.

For argument sake, let’s take a look at the Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman. In the Golden Compass, Lyra is introduced to a world beyond Jordan College and everything that is familiar to her. While this is happening, you as the reader are being introduced to the world as well, it feels gradual and natural. As Lyra finds herself with questions, you find yourself with similar ones. The Subtle Knife is similar, despite new worlds and characters being introduced to the story. Pullman’s ability to world build is what makes His Dark Materials so fantastic. This slow introduction to the world is why the Golden Compass movie was such a flop despite the number of fans for the series and the cast — it threw you into the world without regard to the journal through it that Lyra’s perspective provided.

Harry Potter is another example of a series where the author introduced the world in a way that provided an enjoyable experience. So is The Final Empire. My point here is that it can, and has been done successfully.

With that being said, another problem that I had with the book was the “multidimensional” characters that I was promised. Kell was literally battling a dark magical force and it didn’t seem like much of an inward struggle. Lilah wanted to be something other than a thief but couldn’t help herself. The villains just wanted more power. Everyone had simple motivations for doing what they did, nothing like the dimension that was suggested.

Next, so little happened in this story when you think about its length. Kell is given a stone, he bumps into Lilah who steals it from him, this gets her into trouble, Kell saves her, they go to red London, everything is crazy, they go to white London, they battle the villains, the story is over. For those of you who have read Harry Potter, just think about all the events leading up to an eventual Voldamort encounter. Honestly, it makes the movies fall a little flat when you think about how much meat was cut from the story.

Also, I hate mind control as a plot mover. Re: Final battle scene and Lilah’s ability to walk into the Queen’s throne room. I feel like this could have worked in other areas of the story as well….

I kept reading the story because I kept expecting it to get better. Now that it’s over I’m happy about one thing: Kell and Lilah never get together. They never lust after each other and they never waste time thinking about what it would be like to be with each other. Even with a scene where a shopkeeper mistakes them as a couple! This is awesome and strengthens Lilah’s role within the story as being something other than an opportunity for romantic interest. (The remaining books in the series could ruin this…)

Ok, ok, end rant.

September’s book club will feature The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. A recommendation that my coworker made about a year ago now. I could use a good murder mystery now that Summer is winding down.

36337550Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed… again.

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

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