What’s about: The first book of V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy follows Kell Maresh, one of the last of a rare type of magician called Antari, who has the ability to travel between parallel versions of London; Red, Grey, White, and, at one time, Black. Kell is a prince adopted by the Maresh family of Red London. In White London, he serves the empire as an ambassador to the Court of George III, where there is no magic left. Unbeknownst to his royal family, Kell spends his free time as a smuggler, allowing paying customers small glimpses into worlds they will never see. Despite how lucrative it is, Kell’s side hustle has dangerous consequences — ones that he is starting to learn firsthand. When one of his jobs goes wrong, he escapes to Gray London where he meets Delilah Bard, an ambitious pickpocketer who forces Kell to take her to another world for a proper adventure. The further the two travel, the more Kell puts at risk. And now he must go to great lengths to protect his magic from him from those who seek to take it from him.
How it compares: Taking place almost exactly 100 years after Our Flag Means Death, A Darker Shade of Magic is another historical fantasy that features pirates. While it does include many more fantasy tropes than the show (such as its main theme, blood magic), one thing the book has in common with the show is the casual queerness. The book’s author, VE Schwab, has said of the series that “characters should be presumed queer unless stated otherwise.” That’s exactly the feel of OFMD — with so many crew members in same-sex or queer relationships. Also, like the show, this book is a whole lot of fun. It’s only the first of three, so buy the book, buckle in, and prepare to spend lots of time with these wonderful characters!
Get it from Bookshop or your local indie bookstore via IndieBound here