The Tuesday List: Parallelisms

What if you could step out of this world, the “real” world, and into another?  All the books on this list imagine just that, in their own way.

1. Roses and Rot, Kat Howard

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At a retreat for artists, where other worlds are explored through visual art, music, writing, Imogen discovers that there is another world waiting just beyond the borders of the property, and is confronted by the question of what she would do, when offered the chance at not only a glimpse of this world, but success beyond her dreams.

2. A Daughter of No Nation, A.M. Dellamonica

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This one is actually the second in a series, but somehow managed to slip past my orderly reading practices.  Sophie returns to the world of Stormwrack, made up of brief archipelagos of land among the wilds of the oceans.  Magic is involved, and a lot of nautical journeying.

3. A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E.Schwab

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Follow Kell and his magical coat as he moves between red, gray, and white London, smuggling magical items between worlds, until he meets with Lila in grey London and is confronted by true darkness.

4. A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki

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This isn’t really a novel about slipping between parallel worlds, but about the parallelisms that happen when artifacts of one life bleed into another’s, when life in one’s personal world becomes more than they can bear and only slipping into someone else’s life offers and succor.

5. Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho

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Cho moves the faery story into the 21st century with this novel of magic and sorcery in early empire Great Britain, in which a new Sorcerer Royal, former African slave Zacharias Wythe, is tasked with finding the reason for the decline of magic in Britain who runs head on into a young woman, Prunella Gentleman, determined to make her way in the world and learn the true story of her parentage and magical inheritance.

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V. E. Schwab

In
a world where the color of your eyes—one of them, at least—can pull you from
poverty into the royal palace, Kell is little short of a prince.  Magic is the force that moves the world
in Kell’s London, and part of what makes it so wondrous.  And he should know, being one of the
few in all the worlds who has seen them all.  White, Grey, Red, all except for Black London, of course.  Lila Bard is a thief and pickpocket
living in the London Kell knows as Grey, dreaming of getting out of her life of
poverty, of having a ship and all the world at her fingertips. That dream seems
pretty far off, until Lila picks the wrong pocket, and gets more than a trinket
to fence.

Kell
and Lila’s adventures take them through all of London’s permutations, from the
all but magic-less, to the cup overflowing with magic of all kinds, to the
world where magic is a hunted creature that might very well turn around and
hunt the person trying to capture it. 
Along the way they learn more about themselves, battling their inner
demons as well as the servants of a dark magic trying to use them on its way to
greater power. 

Schwab
has written a true page-turner that relies on characters who are willing to
make snap decisions.  Combined with
the novel’s meditation on the nature of magic, good, and evil, this is an
impressive feat.  The story finds
its strength in two main characters who can think on their feet, and whose
quick movement through the worlds doesn’t seem contrived or rushed.  Readers get to savor the implications
of Lila and Kell’s experiences and relationships, while the characters
themselves get down to the business of saving the world.

With
all the Londons to explore—and the implications of the parallel worlds they
link, this novel is bigger on the inside. 
Fans of time travel and portal fantasy alike will enjoy the speculative
nature of A Darker Shade of Magic.  Lovers of London-based fiction or
alternate history should definitely check out this novel.  It contains some of the classic themes
of magic fiction, tipping slightly into the horror side of the fantastic, and
leaving plenty of room for speculation and imagination.