It’s amazing what a little black rock can do…

Written by
V. E. Schwab in 2015

The Minerals Council of Australia recently released a new ad campaign, which enthusiastically tells the public that coal is good for humanity and the little black rock (coal) is amazing. Unsurprisingly, the campaign was mocked and derided widely. Except for Tony Abbott, who must have thought it was genius (well, let’s face it, recent events have proved he isn’t). But I think whoever came up with the ad campaign must have read this book before dreaming it up, because the parallels are uncanny.**

Kell is a Traveller, blood mage and all round good guy. He lives in Red London (so called because everything is red). He travels between the three remaining Londons, grey and white, using his blood magic passing correspondence between the leaders of the respective nations of each parallel world. Kind of a boring job, really.

Anyway, on his way back from what was a routine delivery, he is given a little black rock from a mysterious stranger, which turns out to be a relic of a fourth London, Black London. This was a place that magic consumed and basically faced an apocalypse of magical proportions. This little black rock should not exist, but the raw magical power contained within is now a figurative hot potato. A black magical hot potato, which Kell has to get rid of.

He is joined in this endeavour by Delilah Bard, a cross dressing master thief from Grey London (basically 19th century London) who yearns for a better life full of adventure mingled with some piracy. If only she was alive in the digital age so she could have access to Bittorrent… Anyway, the job of Lila and Kell is to put the little black rock back in Black London, so nobody can get to it ever again.

There are of course others who seek the rock, and it is also a semi intelligent entity, with its own goals and ambitions, which appears to turn everyone it wants into a series of black zombies. There are always zombies of some sort in these stories, it seems.

So A Darker Shade of Magic is basically a left field kind of novel that you would not expect to be as enjoyable as it is. It combines quite a lot of different concepts into a well written and fun adventure, allowing you to explore different worlds all in a short space of time. Well worth a go, this book.

** Now, I unequivocally derided the ad campaign too, and thought it was a ridiculous waste of money to boot.


Fun and ridiculous fantasy novel. But that makes it better.

Read this if you…

Thought that blood mages are awesome and you need a bit of dangerous magic in your life.

Don’t read this if you…

Are in the Circle of Magi surrounded by Templars.


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