Spellbinding: A Darker Shade of Magic

When I read the Night Circus 5 years ago, I was enchanted by the storytelling and the magic that was entwined into each page. With this in mind, I didn’t think a magical world could really be created in the same way, with the element of mystery that keeps the reader hooked throughout. However, I was pleased to find that A Darker Shade of Magic sat in this same category, providing a world that is very familiar, with a twist of the fantastical.

And before all you Harry Potter fans cry out about overlooking Hogwarts, this genre of magic sits in its own category away from the adventures of the Chosen One.

I found the narrative descriptive enough to immerse you in the ritualistic performance of magic, whilst not weighing the reader down with description. This meant that you had plenty of capacity to imagine new characters, new worlds, and new adventures.

Following a soul who was born with magic running through his veins, we are transported between Grey, Red and White London, each with its own characteristics and traits.

As with most fictional stories, there is a fight between good and bad, with the all-consuming dark magic being cast as the villain of the tale. Although this is predictable, particularly with its character being cast in jet black, the childlike belief that good reigns supreme helps to justify your hope that the dark will be defeated.

Kell is not only the guide for the characters within the book, but for the reader, as he instructs how to use magic in these differing worlds. And as in most texts, he is a flawed protagonist, who can’t help but feed a dark trait to smuggle artifacts between the worlds, only serving to land him in an unwanted situation; he’s a perfect example of how there’s good and bad in us all.

Sometimes, particularly in times of crisis in our very real world, it’s nice to enter a magical one within the pages of a great book and to see how in the end it is the good that wins the battle.

A Darker Shade of Magic: V. E. Schwab

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Running Like Clockwork: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

The Watchmaker at Filigree Street has been on my shelf for well over a year and I’ve been waiting for the opportune moment to read it. And finally, that time has come (no pun intended).

Set in Victorian London, an era I can soon become weary of, the narration painted a fantastic picture of this steampunk world. I found that rather than becoming tiresome of the intricate details that can often be associated with period drama pieces, these flourishes of character added to the atmosphere that was being created.

The magical nature of Mori pulls you into his world of intricate and mystical clockwork, whilst remaining an enigma and mysterious force. In addition, Katsu, a mechanical octopus, becomes a welcome friend as he appears sporadically throughout the tale.

With it being a mixture of both mystery and magic, love and suspense, this book would be enjoyed by a variety of different people; what more could you ask for?

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street: Natasha Pulley

Game On: Ready Player One

I don’t know how I missed the hype on this, but I thought I’d somehow uncovered a hidden gem once I started reading Ready Player One. Of course I had, but what I didn’t appreciate was the immense following the book had already built.

Working in marketing, I am constantly challenged to look at the new trends and fads that are taking hold, which at the moment of course is virtual reality – there’s no escaping it.

Therefore I was taken aback at how relevant this book is, even for the year 2017. With no distinction between reality and the virtual one, this book takes a glance to our future and makes a very justifiable stab at how we may be living.

This in itself is quite a terrifying thought. We are awestruck by the virtual worlds we can create in 2017, and it only takes a couple more leaps-and-bounds before Ready Player One is no longer a sci-fi novel but a factual text.

The fantastic entwining of the past in 1980 and the not-so-distant future of 2044 perfectly shapes the novel. We are able to look back in history and nod at these details, whilst dreaming about the paths we may take in 30 years time.

Having grown up in the 90s, although the references are firmly rooted in the disco decade, I see parts of my childhood creeping into the pages; the etch-a-sketch, Ferris Bueller’s Big Day Off, and a DeLorean with a Ghostbusters logo printed on its famous winged doors.

Ready Player One is an enticing sci-fi adventure, with (geeky) wit, a lot of pop-culture references, plenty of action, and a climatic finale. So it comes as no surprise that we’ll soon be seeing trailers for the Steven Spielberg adaptation, which will no doubt take the world by storm.

Ready Player One: Ernest Cline

No Harm Done: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Having read a number of quite dark crime thrillers recently centering around grizzly themes and twisting plots, it was a nice change to be immersed in a lighthearted yet puzzling mystery novel.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep for me draws parallels with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and To Kill a Mockingbird, with youthful protagonists being the most obvious link. Grace and Tilly are both endearing narrators and guide you through their world with an innocence reserved only for children. Equally Mr Bishop is the Boo Radley of the avenue; ostracized and made to feel blamed for the mysterious happenings.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I was left at the edge of my seat, or that I couldn’t bear to put the book down for fear of not reaching it’s conclusion quick enough, yet I would argue that sometimes you need to step away from the thriller shelf from time-to-time. I looked forward to reading the next chapter, without craving a dizzying high of adrenaline-fueled pages.

I had no trouble in enjoying this debut and look forward to reading the next of Joanna Cannon’s work.

The Trouble of Goats and Sheep: Joanna Cannon