Hello. Hi. Cheerio readers and welcome back to the table! This week we’ll continue our tour de force through worldly dishes! I honestly didn’t plan on this but it’s also been really fun to have it work out this way. So, anyway, back to why we’re all here. Today I’ll be bringing you a review of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab along with a traditional London recipe for Fish & Chips! We’re stepping away from the healthier meals and bringing you a special treat this week! So, we’ll say this has 0 calories for the body and 1 million good for the soul points.
While we continue our tour around the world by way of recipes I wanted to keep my reviews ranging as well. I’ve brought you thrillers, contemporary fiction, historical fiction and science fiction so today I’m bringing you fantasy. One of my favorite things about reading is the ability to transport yourself anywhere you want to go – worlds, time periods, stages of life – the possibilities are endless!
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Kell is an Antari – a rare form of magician with the ability to not only wield all elements but to travel between parallel worlds (read: parallel Londons). There are three main players in this multi-verse and those are: Red, White and Grey. Once upon a time there was Black London, but it was lost to decay, time and legend… or was it?
Gray for the magic-less city.
Red, for the healthy empire.
White, for the starving world.
The world building here is epic – Schwab wasn’t just building one fantastical world but four. One of my favorite aspects of the entire fantasy genre is the world building. I’m left in awe of the imagination of these authors and it leaves me speechless at their ability to paint such vivid imagery of things I’ve never even seen a semblance of.
Kell travels between Londons for diplomatic purposes and to keep the peace between these worlds. He’s one of two Antari left with the ability to do so. The other is Holland of White London. These worlds are dangerous, gritty and brutal and still Kell picks up a side habit of smuggling trinkets between Londons (for which he could be tried for high-treason if caught).
They had music in Red London, and music boxes too, but most of theirs played by enchantment, not cog, and Kell was rather taken by the effort that went into the little machines. So much of the Grey world was clunky, but now and then its lack of magic led to ingenuity. Take its music boxes. A complex but elegant design. So many parts, so much work, all to create a little tune.
Kell is an incredibly charming and likable protagonist. You can’t help but root for him. He comes from an unknown past and carries the burden of an immense magic that he must learn to wield and understand on his own. While he isn’t the only POV we receive, his was certainly my favorite.
Things really get cooking when Kell (the softie) agrees to smuggle an unknown item through the worlds as a favor to an ailing woman. It isn’t until he has brought this artifact through the veil between worlds that he realizes it was a trap. Not only a trap, but a con to have him bring a dangerous piece of magic from the lost Black London into his beloved home. This magic is cruel and cunning, it’s infectious and deceitful. This magic almost becomes a secondary character and it added an intoxicating suspense that drives the second half of the book.
Enter: Delilah ‘Lila’ Baird. She’s a cutthroat pickpocket, she’s spunky, sassy and full of gumption. As the saves Kell’s life she unknowingly thrusts herself onto a path that will take them both on an incredible journey through parallel worlds, trials and triumphs neither had anticipated.
I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.
As Kell struggles with this dark magic and to set right the terrible mistake he has brought upon his home, Lila is there to back him up. The two work together and compliment each other as two halves of an ever-humorous whole. While the story in it’s entirety is fairly dark, the banter between these two MCs created some wonderful comic relief that added another layer to an already incredibly complex story.
This is the first in the serious so it’s par for the course that this novel laid a lot of groundwork. While on the whole it’s an entertaining, fast moving and genuinely fun read I was left hoping for a bit more from the climax of this story. The complexity that goes into building not just one world but four is evident not only in the detail but in what it lacks as well. The development here went into the world versus the characters and I was left wishing for a bit more back-story and understanding of many characters but most notably, Kell. I think this will be delivered in future books but I would’ve loved for this to not have been contingent on another installment.
“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
Her smiled widened. “Everything.”
All in all, I quite enjoyed this book and already have an inquiry into my local library for the second installment. It was well-paced, complex, incredibly unique and kept me guessing the entire time. While I did hope for a bit more from the first of this series, I was not left disappointed in the least. The prose were whimsical and magical but still grounded in what felt like reality and that is a feat difficult to accomplish in a fantasy novel.
Long Story Short:
Suggested For: Anyone who loves an epic, sweeping fantasy series. Those looking to dip their toes into the fantasy genre without going full regalia into crazy creatures and the “otherworld”.
“As Travars,” he said. Travel. Alright folks – lets As Travars our asses on into the kitchen and get cooking!!
Traditional London Fish & Chips:
- Servings: 4
- Prep-Time: 5-10 minutes
- Cook-Time: 20-25 minutes
- Pans Required: 1-2 (if you want it done faster, use 2 pans. One to fry your potatoes and one for the fish, but using only one cuts down on what you have to clean!)
- 4 cod or haddock fish fillets
- ¾ cup of plain flour
- 8 ounces of beer
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ of a lemon (juice)
- ¼ – ½ cup extra flour
- 4-5 red potatoes
- Oil or cooking fat for frying
- Malt vinegar (optional)
Easy edits to make, per preference
- I made this for 4 people (so first, shoutout to my friends for eating all this rando stuff I make) and 4 large cod fillets were still way more food than needed.
- If I could’ve done this over, I would’ve cut the cod into strips to keep each piece a bit crispier over a softer/flakey inside. We really don’t fry anything in our house so this was outside my realm a bit!
- As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer red potatoes because you don’t have to peel them. You can use any potato you prefer!
- I made fries because I don’t have the right tool to make chips – however, you can cut the potato into any shape that suits your preference!
- I added a little bit of malt vinegar to my batter because I love the taste – it’s not required so feel free to leave it out!
- Malt vinegar is also yummy to dip the fish in after you’ve finished!
- Cut / slice the potatoes and place in bowl of water. (You should honestly do this for all potato dishes – it makes them crisper when cooked!)
- Remove potatoes from water and dry thoroughly. We’re going to do the good ol’ double fry – this makes your fries (AKA ‘chips’) extra crispy. Place in hot oil (320° F/160° C) for 3 minutes – you want them soft NOT colored. Remove, drain and set to the side.
- Dredge the fish fillets thoroughly through the flour. This is one of the most important steps! It keeps the batter secured to the fish when you fry it – if you don’t do this it’ll slide right off. Set to the side. *If fish fillets are large cut into “tender” like pieces to create a crispier fry if preferred.
- Combine flour, baking soda, salt and pepper into a large bowl and mix. Add beer gradually and stop when you have a thick coating of batter. *Give beer to husband or drink the rest yourself* Whisk/stir until smooth and no lumps remain. Add lemon juice and a splash of malt vinegar. Mix thoroughly again.
- Get your plate / newspaper ready!
- I don’t use a deep fryer (I’ll give you one guess – yup! Enameled cast iron!) but you want your oil at about 320° F/160° C
- Take one fillet at a time and swirl gently around in batter until well coated.
- Place fillet into oil immediately. As soon as it has crisped up and set, add another fillet one at a time. You’ll want to be taking out the first ones you started as they cook (about 6-10 minutes per fillet, depending on thickness). Place into the oven on a tray or oven safe plate to keep warm.
- Turn the heat up to 375° F/190° C and cook your chips / fries until golden and crisp.
Serve immediately with lemon wedge, salt & vinegar!
Quote: From the street he realized it was not a house at all, but a tavern, and when he rounded the corner, he saw a sign swaying in the air. It swung from shadow into lamplight and then back into shadow, but Kell knew at a glimpse what it said. THE STONE’S THROW. He shouldn’t have been surprised to see it – all roads seemed to lead here – but it still threw him.
Music Mood: Sake of the Sound by Front Country
Have you read A Darker Shade of Magic – what did you think? What are some “cheat day” meals you love to treat yourself? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!