There are two types of books that I always find a little confusing; time travel books and Multiple Dimension books. It may have something to do with how these types of books are written, but I always find them hard to follow. Which is sad, because I am fascinated by both time travel and multiple dimensions.
Recently, I read a book that fell into the multiple dimension category and absolutely loved it.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is unique in so many ways.
The dimensional aspect of the story is well explained and although it permeates the book, it does not over take everything with complex explanations. These color coded parallel dimensions simply exist and Kell (the main character) is one of the few that can transverse between them.
Kell is an interesting character. Quietly flawed. Quirky. Likeable. Although, he does fall into the one-of-the-few-people-able-to-do-a-thing-archetype, I didn't feel that he was written to be overly special. There was a sort of underlining humility to him. Plus, I felt comfortably detached from him. Because of that voyeuristic detachment, I wasn't super invested in his character. It caused me to be much more invested in everything else.
What do I mean by everything else? There is so much else to talk about, from the detailed descriptions of coat pockets; to the caste of outsiders that are not outsiders at all. Although, the world building is subtle, Schwab defines enough to allow the readers imagination to run wild with possibilities. You taste the darkness of one parallel world and you wonder what is magically possible in another.
The characters are inclusive. Rhy (Kell's brother) is a sort of poly pansexual that may or may not be a bit frustrated with the day to day struggles. Lila (the cross-dressing-street-thief-pseudo-pirate-love interest) is skilled, obnoxious, and suitably reckless. The bond that forms between her and Kell reflects the simple affection that can come from extreme circumstances. This is not an all out romance, of slow burning sexy bits, don't read it if that is what you are looking for. Holland (Kell's counterpart gone awry) is twisted and lost in all the right ways. You find yourself wanting him to find is way out of his stoic little tragedy. The Dane twins (the bad guys) are truly sadistic and good stories always have legitimate monsters pushing that plot along.
The plot was simple and I appreciated that the plot line's catalyst (the threat of dark magic) came together to create something surprisingly unique. Even more unique than Kell being a sort of diplomat between dimensions.
The reason that this book was a total win (for me) was that everything felt nuanced -- not spelled out in excruciating detail. It was like watching parts of a dream, instead of being totally immersed in a dream. That somehow set it a part for me and I think that same feeling could put others off to the story. However, I loved it. Five. Stars.