The Shades of Magic series and the Monsters of Verity duology, by Victoria (V.E.) Schwab
I’ve met V.E. (Victoria) Schwab on a few occasions, and each time I’m more convinced that she’s an author every writer should aspire toward. The final book in The Shades of Magic series, A CONJURING OF LIGHT, debuted last month, and if you haven’t read this series yet, DO. It’s a fast-paced fantasy filled with unique world-building and gorgeous writing.
Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.
There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.
It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.
THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.
WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?
WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.
WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.
While you at it, also check out her Monsters of Verity YA duology–the second book, OUR DARK DUET, comes out this June.
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.
Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.
You’ve said that while you don’t dislike romance in YA novels, that romance doesn’t necessarily have to be the only thing that drives the stakes in a story (which I completely agree with). What kinds of stories resonate most with you as a reader and why?
The stories that resonate with me most—or more precisely the relationships in those stories—are the ones that involve antagonism and adversaries. I love putting people who DON’T obviously match up. Either rivals or siblings, strained family pairings or those with philosophies at odds. I love being surprised by characters, being won over. I’m all about the long con when it comes to relationships in books, and I can’t stand stagnancy. I want the relationships to evolve and change in realistic ways, whether that’s coming together or shoving apart.
That’s a good thing to remember when crafting characters–and likely why yours have such great voices. A CONJURING OF LIGHT is the last book in the Shades of Magic series. In what ways, if any, did the final plot threads twist in ways you didn’t expect?
I plan and write the ending of my books first, so I knew where each and every thread would end, and only one plot thread (a character arc, actually) surprised me. I can’t specify which one (spoiler) but suffice it to say that what I wanted as the writer and what I wanted as the reader went to war for a bit. I’m really, really happy with how the ending turned out, but it was harder to write than I anticipated.
The best stories are usually the ones we struggle most with as writers. Speaking of struggle, I love how your novel VICIOUS explores the point-of-view of villains. What did you find most enjoyable about exploring alternate moral perspectives?
My goal when I set out to write VICIOUS was to write a book without heroes, and then to make the reader root for one of them. It was an exercise in the theory that it’s not about what people do, but why they do it. My favorite aspect of the process wasn’t just writing the villains themselves (though it was wonderfully refreshing to write characters unburdened by morals) but watching readers struggle with their own moral compass while reading!
Indeed we have, and it’s one of the things that makes VICIOUS stand out most. What are some of your current projects?
Well, right now I’m finishing up copyedits on OUR DARK DUET, the second half of the Monsters of Verity duology, which comes out June 13th! I’m also working on a middle grade series I’m really excited about, and about halfway through my next adult novel, VENGEFUL (a sequel to VICIOUS). As you can probably tell, I’ve never been good at sitting still.