^ I don’t even kid you. That was the book’s working title.
Its premise had me at “multiple Londons”. The wait for my preordered copy had me in mild agony. The sound of the doorbell a floor below had me leaping out of bed at my nocturnal-at-the-time equivalent of 3am on the frantic hope that it meant the book’s delivery. (For context, I have been known to sleep through fire alarms.)
So, how did the actual reading experience line up with my months of self-generated hype?
Blurb: Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands.
There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George.
Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire.
White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—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, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, 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—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, who first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.
My Thoughts: How will this end well?
With the story sucking me in, chapter by chapter, things going from fascinating to thrilling, to bad to worse, to author have mercy, everybody’s dying – with the characters (sometimes so fabulously attired that I could groan aloud with longing) getting into scrapes, tight corners, and downright ghastly situations every third or fourth step, and the stakes mounting up to take ominous shape – with the number of pages between me and the book’s back cover rapidly thinning down to nothing, every line dripping with blood and blackness and painful odds…
I start to wonder, will this end well? Can it?
But this is Victoria “V.E.” Schwab. I’ve taken this road with her before, albeit by way of a handful fewer Londons. I gave her my trust.
And she did not fail me.
In the name of all things magical, though, what does she have lined up for the sequel??
HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Maybe you didn’t hear me. I said “multiple Londons”.