Shades of Magic, Vol. 1: The Steel Prince (#1 – #4) by V.E. Schwab & Andrea Olimpieri

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“Here, our story begins…”

I read the entire A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy, and I ended up giving them all three stars. I am absolutely obsessed with Victoria’s mind and worlds, and her characters are truly some of the best I’ve read, but the plot and events always held me back from completely loving them. But when I found out we were going to get to learn more about Rhy’s father (adoptive father of Kell) and the events that lead him to being King, I knew I couldn’t resist. But here I am, still surprised that I ended up giving the prequel graphic novel series start three stars.

Maxim Maresh is only a prince in this brand-new graphic novel series, but he is the sole heir and the king in waiting in Red London. Yet, he wants to be so much more than that, and he wants to prove that he will be capable and earn his rightful place as king one day. Maxim and his family are also people of color, with obvious dark brown skin, but it is never stated what ethnicity in this made up alternate historical London. And he has earned himself the title of The Steel Prince because of his magical affinity with steel.

But in this bind-up, Maxim gets involved with pirates, and magical tournaments, and figuring out who he wants to be. Yet, this first volume barely mentions the parallel Londons, which (to me) is the coolest part of this world, completely. And then with this elaborate magic system finally being visualized, it just felt clunky, and like it missed the mark completely on something that could have been groundbreaking.

“You fight like a royal. Like the weapons are made of wood. Like no one means to hurt you. But this is not London, your highness.”

But my biggest problem with this graphic novel was honestly the art. Trust me, it kills me to say this, but I just never grew to like the style of this book. And especially with something as cool as the world of ADSOM, I feel like an artist really could have turned this into one of the most aesthetically pleasing series of all time, especially with red, grey, black, and white having such a pivotal role in this world. But I don’t have an art degree, so don’t listen to me. I’m just stating what I would have liked more for this story! The artist is still very talented. And if this is your favorite art style of all time? You are valid.

I still really enjoyed this bind-up and I can’t wait to see where the story goes next. I hope we get to see more cameos of characters we love, too! And if you are already a fan of VE Schwab and this breathtaking world, I bet you will absolutely love this addition! Content and trigger warnings violence, blood, and torture.

Okay, so like with every graphic novel that I review, I always do a breakdown on what happens briefly in each individual issue. So, the next portion of this review will have SPOILERS! Obviously, I won’t give away anything too pivotal, but I will talk about some of the themes that each issue had inside.

ISSUE ONE:
We get to meet Maxim, the prince and sole heir to the throne. We also get to meet the king, and his dad, Nokil. And we also get our first glimpse at Maxim wanting to be more than the prince in waiting, and he wants to prove himself and his fighting abilities.

ISSUE TWO:
We are introduced to Arisa, the pirate queen, and we get to learn about a tournament where the winner will fight her to prove themselves worthy. Also, we get to see the Black Torch, and you know my pub loving heart was so dang happy.

ISSUE THREE:
Isra, the pirate queen’s niece, and Maxim are both battling in the tournament where we see so many different magic abilities, and we learn there are no rules and anything goes.

ISSUE FOUR:
Things do not go Maxim’s way, but he is rescued. Then, after, he receives a letter from his father, asking him to come. But he declines because he still has so much more to learn.

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Vicious (Villains, #1) by V.E. Schwab

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“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.”

Friends, this is my fifth book by VE Schwab, and I’ve three starred every single one of them. At this point, it is glaringly obvious that you should take my review(s) of her work with a grain of salt, because it is obviously a “me” thing. I will say that I adore the author, and I want so desperately to fall in love with a book of hers. And even though I thought Vicious would be the one, it sadly wasn’t.

But this is a book about two college roommates who are literally experimenting with life and death and that tiny, minuscule, grey area in-between. Ten years later, a story of revenge, heartbreak, and anger is born. Yet, we still get glimpses into what happened at college ten years ago to bring these current ramifications into fruition.

“I want to believe that there’s more. That we could be more. Hell, we could be heroes.”

This book does raise the fascinating question, both in literature and in real life: what makes a hero and what makes a villain? Is it just the light the story is told in? Is the difference that monumental? Is it only a matter of perspective? Victor and Eli really challenge this question, and I adored it.

Victor – Fresh out of jail and will stop at nothing to exact his revenge; the slower the better.

Sydney – My favorite character, who needs to be protected at all costs, and is just trying to find her place in a world that has constantly made her feel like she doesn’t belong.

Mitch – I highkey loved this hacker and Victor’s soft friend.

Eli – I actually hated Eli, and I think that’s the point of this book, truly, but his crisis of faith was just too much for me.

Serena – To me, Serena and Sydney were truly the bright, shining stars of this story. And Serena has the coolest power of all the EOs, in my opinion.

And these five people’s paths all cross; some because of tangled pasts, but some because of brand new beginnings. And these characters quickly prove that developing superpowers could be pretty damn frightening. Especially when the powers you develop are rooted in who you are and what you need.

One thing I do want to briefly mention that I adored was Victor’s love for blackout poetry. I’ve actually never seen a book character have a passion for it, and it really warmed my heart. Every time he would create something, it really would take my breath away. It was such a bright light in the story for me.

I read this with a few friends, and the reading was broken down over the course of five days. Day one and day five were both, easily, five star reading days. I loved the start and end of this book more than words. Again, Victoria Schwab is so intelligent, and her ideas are truly a tier above the rest. Sadly, the middle three days I just felt a bit bored, and it only got worse by day four. But the ending? God, I know I shouldn’t, but I desperately want to read Vengeful now.

I also really truly loved how the first and last chapter began. I’m always a sucker when authors mirror events and phrases throughout their book(s) and I feel like VE Schwab always successfully does this. And I get goosebumps each and every time.

Overall, I get that there is some kind of disconnect between me and this author’s books. And nothing is changing that because, believe me, I truly want to love her work so badly. Like I said above, take this review with a grain of salt because so many of my friends adore this book, and I really implore you to check out some of their amazing reviews: Em, Adriana, CW, Hari, & Mari!

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Content and trigger warnings
for talk of suicide, attempted suicide, overdosing, self-harm, drug use, murder, animal death, abandonment, and depiction of panic attacks.

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3) by V.E. Schwab

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1.) A Darker Shade of Magic ★★★
2.) A Gathering of Shadows ★★★

“Love and loss,” he said, “are like a ship and the sea. They rise together. The more we love, the more we have to lose. But the only way to avoid loss is to avoid love. And what a sad world that would be.”

I have read one book in this series every year for the BooktubeSFF Awards. And every year I enjoy what I’m reading, I close the book pretty pleased, and then I sit down to write my review and start thinking about how these are such big books with so little happening. And I know they are character driven. One of my favorite books of all time is the most character driven thing out there, but for some reason I just don’t love this series like everyone else does.

A Conjuring of Light is the third and final novel in this trilogy that surround four different parallel Londons:
Grey London – is like our real world’s London, with no magic. Delilah Bard is from this London.
Red London – is the home of the main protagonist, Kell, where he and his royal family rule. There is an abundance of magic in this London, most coming from a red river which lights up the whole city.
White London – is a city in war with itself. It was ruled by evil twins, but now has a new king. Everyone in this London tries to fight for magic and power within this corrupt city.
Black London – and is still basically a mystery. It is essentially a lost city, since regular people cannot travel between worlds.

And after the brutal cliffhanger ending that was A Gathering of Shadows, A Conjuring of Light picks right back up after the events! And without saying anything too spoilery, since this is the concluding novel and all, our main character, Kell Maresh, and his home, Red London, are in serious danger. But with the help of a ruthless thief/assassin, Lila Bard, a swoon-worthy pirate, Alucard Emery, the best prince to have ever lived, Rhy Maresh, and a very morally grey Antari, Holland Vosijk, they are trying to save everything they’ve ever known and loved.

“Life isn’t made of choices, it’s made of trades. Some are good, some are bad, but they all have a cost.”

And even the idea of four different color coded Londons, with a handful of magical people who can travel between them, is so damn genius that I don’t even have words for it. Also, V.E. Schwab is such a talented writer. The way she echoes phrases from different books, or even sentences from previous chapters, is so powerful and is able to evoke all the emotions from me. She truly can weave and craft paragraphs together so expertly and I’m constantly impressed with her writing.

I just feel like not a lot happens in her books. Like, a few big, key, important things happen without question, and storylines get completed, but I just feel like it is such a longwinded journey to get there. And these books are so easily consumable that you don’t really realize until after you’ve closed the book. I mean, at least for me and my personal reading experiences. Seriously, go back and look at my other two reviews; I say the same thing. Also, the big bad villain just fell so very short for me. The magic started off so dang well, but the villain really ended up feeling lackluster to me.

But my biggest complaint about the other two installments in this series is that they don’t read or feel adult to me. But you know what A Conjuring of Light reads and feels like? Adult, without question. Also, just a little caveat, if an author says their work is in a certain age bracket/genre, then it is. I am just saying A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows don’t feel or read like adult fantasy to me, but I’m not saying they aren’t. But ACOL did give me those brutal moments that made me go “okay, this isn’t YA” quite a lot.

Also, trigger and content warnings for abuse, torture, abduction, slavery, captivity, talk of suicide, violence, gore, heavy blood depiction, abandonment, and depiction of grief and PTSD. Oh and I guess sexual content, too, but nothing too graphic. (Also, hello, perverted Melanie here to report that that sex scene was 11/10 and was so smooth and sexy and I actually loved it!)

“I have never known what to make of you. Not since the day we met. And it terrifies me. You terrify me. And the idea of you walking away again, vanishing from my life, that terrifies me most of all.”

But my biggest love for this series is Rhy Maresh, who has completely and without question stole my heart. He is easily my favorite character in this series. My beautiful, pure, cinnamon roll, unbreakable boy. I stan one man from this series, and it’s him. And he deserves everything good in the universe.

Breathtaking art meliescribbles

“We don’t choose what we are, but we choose what we do.”

Overall, take this review with a large grain of salt. I am for sure in the minority with not loving these books as much as everyone else. And even though this isn’t my favorite series, I think Victoria is incredibly talented and I can’t wait to see what she does next. And I truly think that these books get better and better, with A Conjuring of Light being my favorite in the series, and the last couple chapters of this book had me smiling from ear to ear in pure happiness. And I ultimately do feel really fulfilled and happy with the ending. Plus, I’m very interested (especially after gushing with my friend Julie) with reading the graphic novel series set around a character from this world. Also, I have the highest of hopes for the spinoff that Victoria is working on. I just hope I fall completely head over heels in love, instead of only just enjoying.


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Buddy read with Julie! ❤

Readalong for the BooktubeSFF Awards which is being hosted by:
🌑 Samantha from Sam’s Nonsense
🌒 Frankie from Frankie Reads
🌓 Kaitlin from Kitty G
🌔 Rachel from Kalanadi
🌕 Thomas from SFF180
🌖 Connor from Connor O’Brien
🌗 Sam from Thoughts on Tomes
🌘 Chelsea from TheReadingOutlaw
🌑 Elena from Elena Reads Books