jueves, 5 de febrero de 2015

A Darker Side of Magic, by V.E. Schwab (a Sneak Peek)

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to A Whiter Shade of Pale, by Procol Harum (Spotify, YouTube).

In the past, I have reviewed novels which I had not read in their entirety, but in each and every case they were books that I chose not to finish because I wasn't enjoying them at all. A Darker Side of Magic, by V.E. Schwab, on the other hand, is a novel I'd very much like to read completely, but I had to stop at page 130. Why? Because in my excitement to get the new novel by the author of the wonderful Vicious (review in Spanish here) I didn't realize I was not getting an ARC of the full novel but only a sneak peek.

Anyway, after my initial disappointment (I wanted the book so bad!) I decided to give it a try and at least get an initial idea of what the novel is like. What did I learn? Well, I think that in this case 130 pages are too little to reach solid conclusions, but keep on reading if you want to know what my first impressions are. 

The (possibly) most prominent and (surely) most interesting feature of these few first pages is the universe in which the story is set in. We find a handful of parallel worlds and in all of them there exists a different version of London. There is magic in all of them, but the relevance and treatment it receives varies greatly from one to another. This is perfectly explained in the following paragraphs:
The maps were a remainder. The three canvases were tacked side by side, the sole decoration on the walls. From a distance, they could have passed for the same map - the same outline of the same island country - but up close, only the world London could be found on all three.
Grey London. Red London. White London. The map on the left was of Great Britain, from the English Channel up through the tips of Scotland, every facet rendered in detail. By contrast, the map on the right held almost none. Makt, the country called itself, the capital city held by the ruthless Dane twins, but the territory beyond was in constant flux. The map in the middle Kell knew best, for it was home. Arnes. The country's name was written in elegant script down the length of the island, though in truth, the land on which London stood was only the royal empire.
Three very different Londons, in three very different countries, and Kell was one of the only living souls to have seen them all. 
We are also introduced to the two characters that will most likely be the main protagonists of the novel. We get to know Kell, the mysterious traveller between worlds, and, to a lesser extent, also Lila, the petty thief that wants to be a pirate. They are both interesting and very likable characters, though slightly clichéd (Kell is yet another orphan with a mysterious past and a talent for magic).

The book is easy to read and to follow, and the prose flows very well, but the beginning of the novel is a bit slow (it lacks the gripping pace of Vicious) and the excerpt ended just when interesting things were beginning to happen. Thus, I can comment little on the plot. It seems that the book will have 400 pages, meaning that I've read almost a third of it, but since it was mostly devoted to introducing the characters and the setting it is still not completely clear what the main focus of the story will be. There are some clues, though: the growing tension between the different cities, the mystery of the origin of Kell, the progressive changes in the nature of magic and the fate of the disappeared fourth London (the Black one) will most surely be of great importance later in the book.

So, did I like this sneak peek? Do I want to read the whole novel? Will I be reading it when it comes out? Short answers: Yes. Yes. I don't know. Long answers: 1) Yes, I quite liked it, but I was not really blown away as I was with the beginning of Vicious. 2) Yes, I'd like to know what happens with Kell, Lila and the four Londons though I'm not exactly holding my breath. 3) I don't know if I will be buying the novel when it comes out. The list price of the ebook at Amazon Spain at the moment is €12.99 (and a staggering €17.29 at Kobo Spain). That is more than $15 (more than $20 at Kobo) or, as ebooks seem to be usually measured, about 13 cups of coffee where I live. Way more than I am usually willing to pay for an ebook. And even worse, there is a print edition (from a different publisher) with a list price of €10.13. Since I can't buy print books for a number of reasons, I think I will wait to finish reading A Darker Shade of Magic until the price of the ebook gets lower.

Note: After I wrote this review, a new ebook edition was announced, and its price is much more reasonable (€5.91). That I think I will be buying.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)  

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