Dueling Reviews: Giving an Author a Second Chance

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Dueling Book Reviews
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Last year, leading up to MidAmeriConII, I saw a lot of buzz about V.E. Schwab. I was sucked in by the buzz and ordered two of her books so I could get free shipping on some other books I was purchasing to get signed at the convention. Well, it took a little less than a year to clear A Darker Shade of Magic and Vicious from my shelves and I did it in preparation for Phoenix ComicCon.

book review darker shade of magic ve schwab

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I tackled A Darker Shade of Magic first because it seemed more up my alley—a sort of alternative fiction world set in one of my favorite cities (London). The characters were compelling. As the owner of a baker’s dozen worth of jackets (thanks to Castle and Stana Katic for that obsession), I’m secretly hoping that Kell’s magical coat exists somewhere. His mysterious ways and lack of knowledge of his own heritage provided me with enough meat to keep reading hoping to learn more about him and the Antari.

And Lila? Her devil-may-care attitude reminded me of Peter Pan. She’s all bravado and pluck, but secretly scared that her actions may impede on her obtaining her dream. Lila is certainly a character I admire.

Sadly, for me, A Darker Shade of Magic fell short on the plot. The story was all characters and in the end, the plot was two-dimensional and a bit predictable; it was as if NOTHING happened 400 pages. The book was just 400 pages of getting to know Kell and Lila; and I seriously doubted the need to read another book by Schwab.

book review vicious ve schwab

Book Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

I’ll admit I’m a latecomer to the whole superhero world. I thank my husband for sharing his love for D.C. and Marvel even though I still couldn’t tell you which character belongs to which universe. Over the years, I’ve come to learn that I like my superheroes and their rivals with a bit of angst. What makes a person (outside of some genetic mutation or radioactive accident) a hero or a villain? Is a hero’s strength the villain’s weakness?

Vicious grabbed my attention almost immediately. Victor and Eli wrestle with the philosophy of what makes a person a hero or a villain. There’s a bit of science behind the creation of an ExtraOrdinary person and beyond the actions of the different characters in the story provide the philosophical base for driving the plot of Vicious forward. There’s moral gray area throughout the entire story. Who is in the right and who is in the wrong? Which character, Victor or Eli, will I side with in the end?

The philosophical debate provides a base for the plot, the way the story is told creates the tension and drives the story forward while looking back. A unique blend of flashbacks and a ticking clock (Victor and Eli’s final battle is scheduled for Midnight) gives you insight into what is motivating the characters both in the past and the present. And that motivation appears to be simple, but as the flashbacks gets closer to present time and the present time moves closer to Midnight, you realize that nothing is simple in Victor’s and Eli’s world. This score will not be settled easily.

And the Winner of the Duel Is…

In my reading world, Vicious surpasses A Darker Shade of Magic. Vicious appeals to my love of a solid, dark superhero story and I’ve always been drawn to stories that have flashbacks. The unique twist of having the present timeline countdown to Midnight created tension that kept me reading. I can’t wait for the release of book two in this series.

Readers who love more character driven stories might enjoy A Darker Shade of Magic. Kell and Lila certainly shine in this story, but the plot fell flat and didn’t come together for me. As a result, I won’t be reading the other books in this series.

The real winner of this duel is me…the reader! By giving V.E. Schwab another chance, I discovered a new author and a new series that provides a new twist on the superhero/villain mythology. I’m glad I tackled Vicious after reading A Darker Shade of Magic. My reading world has been expanded as a result.


The Quick Book Review

Dueling Reviews: Giving an Author a Second Chance

A Darker Shade of Magic

Author: V. E. Schwab
Published on: February 24, 2015
Pages: 400
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Goodreads • Amazon Affiliate Link
My Rating: Thumbs Down

Dueling Reviews: Giving an Author a Second Chance


Author: V. E. Schwab
Published on: September 24, 2013
Pages: 364
Series: Villains #1
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Goodreads • Amazon Affiliate Link
My Rating: Thumbs Up

About V. E. Schwab

Victoria is the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, she has been known to say "tom-ah-toes," "like," and "y'all."

She also tells stories.

She loves fairy tales, and folklore, and stories that make her wonder if the world is really as it seems.

(from GoodReads)




2 responses to “Dueling Reviews: Giving an Author a Second Chance

  1. I’m glad you gave the author another shot and that it paid off! I do enjoy character driven books, but I still need to feel a good plot happening, so I’m thinking Vicious is more likely to be better for me than the former. I had to laugh because I also couldn’t begin to tell you what character belongs to what universe. I still get frequently surprised by characters that belong to a universe. Like X-Men… I’m sorry, I had no idea they were Marvel/D.C/whatever… to me they are just XMEN! Great reviews Terri – love this style 🙂

    • Thanks for the complement, Berls. It isn’t often I read two different books almost back-to-back by the same author. I’ve done series reviews before, but nothing like this (that I can recall). I hope you give Vicious a shot.