Today's book is a little different from what I usually read. I'm trying to expand my horizons a bit, since I know I tend to go back a reread familiar books (especially when I'm stressed, which I have been recently).
V.E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic is more or less Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere meets The One Ring from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It's got the gritty tone of Neverwhere, the clueless but noble(ish) protagonist, and parallel Londons, with a main character that has a powerful but dangerous artifact that needs to be destroyed and should very much not be used, but is used anyway.
To clarify, I really did like this book. It was gripping, and kept me interested all the way to the end, when it gave me a satisfying conclusion to the character arcs that had been introduced at the beginning.
This book was rather grittier than what I usually enjoy, though, and I think I'm unlikely to go back and read it again. Whether this was because of the tone of the story or because of the stress of the sustained tension, I'm not sure. The point is that it was a good book and well executed, but it wasn't really in the sweet spot of books that I will come back to repeatedly.
The characters were lifelike and fun. The description was visceral and in some places almost overwhelming (which I think it was supposed to be for those scenes). And the pacing was delicately balanced, achieving an increasing level of tension from chapter to chapter - not like a thriller, but rather with the urgency of the consequences the main characters face from one scene to the next.
I'm giving this book a round 4 stars out of 5, missing one simply because I'm not the target audience. It was very well done and I applaud the author for her prowess, but I will not re-read.
If you like books like Neil Gaiman's Stardust or Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant books, I think you'll like this one.