I’m not going to putz and pontificate here, just get right to the point. I loved this book. Adored it. My fondness for it knows no bounds. If it were a type of cookie I would eat them until I was sick. If it were a sweater I would wear it every day. If it were a color I would paint my walls with it. If it were a person I’d marry them. I think you get my point…
Usually when I read a fantasy book I have a difficult time getting into it. The world just seems fuzzy and not quite clear so the story doesn’t suck me in. With the world that Schwab created that was simply not the case. I was completely sucked in within the first few pages. The world she crafted was so clear in my head, the characters so vivid, and the story so full that I couldn’t put it down. I can’t remember the last time that I was so thoroughly engrossed.
A sharp, elegant fantasy thriller – a breathless journey in the company of characters you can only trust to charm you. -Delia Sherman, author of Young Woman in a Garden
We begin with our dashing hero, Kell. Kell has the special ability to pass between realities. There are four realities which Kell explains as being stacked together like pages in a book. They are Grey, Red, White, and Black. You can’t cross from Grey to White without passing through Red. A lot of detail gets put into the world building but I’ll try to sum it up as best I can.
Grey gave me the impression of being based on our own 17th century. A little dark, not much in the way of technological advances, and a certain brand of lawlessness. Red is bright, vibrant, rich, and full of magic. Red is Kell’s home where he is an unofficial part of the royal family. White has been sucked of all color and vibrancy and is ruled by violence and terror. It is a horrifying place and is home to Holland, the only other person that can go between worlds besides Kell. There is very little known about Black. Black had been completely consumed by magic. No one was spared. The other worlds feared that they would be consumed as well so they cut themselves off and Black was locked away. Nothing could leave that fallen world. Any artifacts from Black that had gone to the other worlds were destroyed in fear that their disease would spread.
Kell begins as mostly just a glorified messenger between worlds as he and Holland are the only two that can pass between them. He delivers notes and messages and meets with the rulers across the worlds. He does, however, have an unfortunate habit of trading small items from one world to another which is strictly forbidden. It’s mostly just little things like music boxes and games. However, he finds himself accidentally transporting a dangerous package to his home of Red.
It is a surviving artifact from Black.
With the help of a girl, Lila, from Grey he tries to rid the worlds of this dangerous item. The influence of the dark magic from Black leaks from the artifact and begins polluting anyone who touches it and the world around it. Kell is determined to save the surviving worlds with great personal risk to himself. Lila is in it for the adventure and fun but finds something more of herself. She is strong and determined and you quickly find yourself rooting for her.
I was completely absorbed the entire book. There are twists and turns that take you by surprise, evil doers you aren’t expecting, bravery, sadness, and magic. It is all woven together into a wonderful story that is difficult to put down. I plowed through all 400 pages in 24 hours. I am so happy that I stumbled onto this book and can’t wait to read the others in the trilogy.