I've heard glorious things about Victoria "V.E." Schwab, but it's taken me ages to actually pick up one of her books, and all I can say is "hello, new addition to my "favourite authors" shelf.
As soon as I found out that the story took place across multiple Londons (my favourite city), I knew I had to read A Darker Shade of Magic. Add in a magician with different coloured eyes, a cross-dressing lady pirate, a roguish prince, and a couple of vicious villains, and you get a recipe for perfection. If you don't finish this book thinking "I wish I was as cool as Lila Bard", we probably can't be friends. Because she was awesome - flawed and tough and emotionally fragile and badass like you wouldn't believe.
The prose was beautiful - ordinary words that somehow seemed extraordinary in Schwab's capable hands (and she's only a few years older than me!). I'd compare it to Neverwhere which is one of my favourite Neil Gaiman novels, both in the general atmosphere (different Londons) and the way the story carried you along at a stately trot - a little slow at the beginning, but speeding up toward the end. The last hundred or so pages had me gasping and stressed out because WHAT IF SOMEONE DIED? and HOW ARE THEY GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS MESS? and IS LILA WHAT I THINK SHE IS? (I still don't know the answer to that last one. I NEED TO KNOW.).
I liked that there was only a hint of romance, that the story didn't revolve around Lila and Kell falling in love (they were a BIT preoccupied with saving the world(s), you know), but I also kinda sorta hope it will evolve into something more in the sequel, A Gathering of Shadows. And I'm hoping Rhy will have a bigger role, because I couldn't help loving him in the few scenes he was in.
Basically, this was an incredible starts to a series, and I can't wait to find out what happens next!