I dived into this book not really knowing much about it or what to expect. The beginning was a bit slow in that it took a few chapters to get into the mechanics of the worlds and how the main character travels between, but once it picked up, it really picked up! A great first book for a series that keeps the reader itching for more, something we need more of in today’s fantasy publishing’s.
While there are characters that are relatively young in age, this is not a young adult novel, it is a fantasy novel (also confirmed by the author, depending on which name she uses on the book will determine the target audience).
Kell is one of the last Antari, a magic user that can travel between worlds. There are four worlds, although one has been seemingly destroyed by dark magic. The remaining three worlds exist like sheets of paper, one placed on top of the other, and they have absolutely nothing in common save for all the worlds have a city named London in a similar place geographically: Grey London, Red London, White London, and the no longer existent Black London. Each of the London’s has its own unique features. Grey London is just that: grey, boring, and lacking magic (somewhat reminiscent of the London we know in our reality). Red London, Kell’s London, is bursting with festivity and magic and the ruling empire is flourishing, while White London is controlled by whoever is the strongest, whoever can kill and murder their way to the throne.
When Kell is given a package to deliver to another London, he is nearly killed in the process. Opening it to find a half jagged and half smooth black stone, Kell recognizes it as an implement of black magic, a relic from Black London that must go back. When his stone is pick-pocketed by a young thief, Delilah Bard, he must get it back, and expose the secret of magic to the citizen of Grey London.
Lila seeks adventure. She would love to have her own pirate ship one day, but when magic is introduced to her world, she aims to follow Kell in his trek to return the black magic stone to Black London. Kell can only travel between worlds if he has a relic from the world he is traveling to, a piece of that world that will allow him to connect. Black London is at the bottom of the stack, and getting there means moving through each of the London’s.
When the rulers or White London are found to be responsible for harboring the black magic stone in the first place, Kell and Lila must join forces to bring down the evils of White London and to get the stone back to the destroyed Black London from whence it came.
After starting this book and not knowing what to expect, I was drawn by the craft and characters that Schwab lays forth in her novel. Kell and Lila are both vastly interesting and unique characters that make me want to follow their adventures into the next book. The chapters are written episodically with a title for each section to get the reader thinking about what might be coming next. I would highly recommend this book for not only fantasy readers, but readers who enjoy a fast-paced adventure with great characters, so yes, you SHOULD read this book! I am looking forward to following Kell and Lila in the next part of their adventure in A Gathering of Shadows, the second book in the trilogy.