Review On A Darker Shade Of Magic Series: The Tragic Characters

I hope everyone is doing well during this pandemic and finding ways to entertain yourselves. I recently finished the A Darker Shade of Magicseries by V.E. Schwab. I came stumbling onto these series through a review I read about and I knew I had to read it. The world building is amazing, each London having its own culture, story, and air made it all the more enjoyable for me. I know if I choose to talk about every little aspect of the book, this review will be too long so I’ll keep it short. Out of all the characters in the series, I had a deeper connection to the tragic characters more than Kell and Lila. What can I say? I love characters with tragic stories.  I’ll be talking mainly about Rhy, his parents, and Holland. 

The book is set in multiple Londons where each is ruled by a monarch but the ones that get mentioned the most are Rhy’s parents. We don’t really get to a backstory or anything much from their point of view until the last book which destroyed my heart. Schwab did an amazing job of portraying the pain, the helplessness, and composure of what a king and queen should be like. A king and queen should never show emotion no matter the circumstance. King Maxim believed a king should be with his people, think for the country before for themselves and know how to use power smartly. As for queen Emira, she is a very unique character where she has the power of water/ice and always broke things since she was a child causing her to fear breaking literally everyone and everything she cared for.

These two poor souls who never wanted to fall in love until they met each other was a tragedy to me. Two people that never wanted to be trapped in love, trapped to a kingdom, to be monarchs got trapped in exactly what they didn’t want the most. When Rhy came along and carried no magic in his veins, his father was disappointed and his mother treated Rhy like a flame in a wind gust, trying to guard him in her own way. I wouldn’t say they were bad parents. They were parents that loved their son so much that they took drastic action and care to make sure he was safe and sound from a distance. We don’t even get a glimpse of raw love and emotion until Rhy literally dies in front of them and it is all but a glimpse. A mother's love surpasses everything and a father's love is always there but hardly shown. Poor Rhy never realized his parents’ turmoil and love for him until their dying moments.

Rhy was born with no magic in his veins and he spent most of the first and second books blaming himself and dwelling on it. He is the crown prince to Arnes, his parents both have magic so why doesn’t he? He lived thinking his parents didn’t love him and developed a much deeper bond with his brother Kell above anyone else. Rhy believed having magic determines everything and is the most crucial part of being a king, this mindset changes drastically in the second and third book. When Rhy died and gets bind to Kell’s life, giving him a borrowed time, Rhy feels indebt to Kell and tries to find more purpose in his life. When he’s told there are different types of kings, some are powerful in magic and are meant to be on a battlefield, then there are those who are meant to excel in politics and strategy. Rhy starts to practice the skills his father taught him in being a king. 

This all builds up to the climax of the series sadly. Rhy accepting his fate in becoming a king of politics and strategy versus a king fighting on a battlefield begins to show the reader all he learned through the years from watching his father rule and his studies. Rhy has never experienced grief and betrayal. When his mentor is trapped in a spell, his parents dying one after another, and Kell far away, Rhy is forced to his breaking point. The people that he was so used to having around him to defend him, watch over him, and guide him were gone. Rhy is forced to take on the burden of a king and as much grief as he is dwelling in, an empire still needed a king to lead it. This was heartbreaking for me to see this young boy who was protected all his life, who spent all his time messing around and spinning around Kell, bloom into a king. What a tragic and beautiful fitting way to tie Rhy’s story together. 

I know there are a lot of mixed feelings for Holland’s character. He started off as the enemy to Kell in the first book. Holland had been a slave to the rulers of White London for seven years. Astrid and Athos Danes had broken him, destroyed the dreams he had for his home, and turned him into a cold hearted monster. Not a lot was revealed about Holland until the last book as we all thought he was dead after Kell killed him. In the last book, the crooks and crannies of Holland spread out before us like an open book which was great to finally see what happened to this antagonist everyone hated. Holland’s past broke my heart. Why wouldn’t it? He grew up in a London that was decaying away, his brother tried to kill him, his lover tried to kill him, what else did Holland have? All he wanted was to restore his home to its former glory, to be free from being someone’s slave, and thus he took the wrong path and turned to the darkness. 

I personally loved how Holland came back around. Not forgetting what his original intentions were. Confucius once lectured that everyone’s basic nature was kindness but through life and experiences that changed and twisted into something nasty. But as long as one didn’t forget their original intentions and nature, not all was lost. For Holland it was to save his home, protect what mattered, and do what was right. In the end, he just wanted to be free of chains and die in peace and relief, to be one with the world. His death left a deep scar on my heart. 

This series tore me up in so many ways, had so many valuable lessons that I will never forget. I would definitely recommend this series if you haven't read it!


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