A Darker Shade of Magic
by V.E. Schwab
Kel can walk between worlds. As one of only two people who can control the magic needed to do so, his job is simple: carry messages between the kings and queens of the three Londons. It probably would have stayed simple if he hadn’t picked up the hobby of smuggling as well.
Lila’s life is anything but simple as a pickpocket bouncing from one home to another, with her masked and shadowy face on wanted posters all over the city. It honestly doesn’t get much more complicated when she picks the pocket of a magical man claiming to come from another London. But it at least gets more fun, and she suspects there’s more freedom for her in the other two worlds.
There were two things that made me really enjoy this novel:
First, Lila and Kel were wonderful protagonists.
Lila was both curious and jaded, making her willing to jump into new places without knowing how to get back, as well as completely unwilling to trust anyone else with her safety. I liked the combination. After spending most of my life reading about people stumbling into new worlds wide-eyed and artless, it was exciting to see Lila squint at the strange new world, and threaten to kick its butt if it made any wrong moves.
Kel was the naive one, and that was equally as interesting. He had seen all three worlds before, understood how magic operated, seemed worldly, and still managed to come off looking like a puppy tripping into a poker game with the big dogs. Needless to say, I found it entertaining.
Second, the antagonists managed to make the old “I just want more power” plot look interesting. They were, when you get down to it, mustache-twirling villains, but because of the magic system, and the flavor of the world they lived in, I liked hating them.
While I have a few complaints about the neatness of the ending, and I would have liked to see it stretched out a little longer, I am looking forward to the sequel.
The Art of War
by Sun Tzu
My mother bought me a beautiful copy of this book, published by Chartwell Books, which used an 1800s translation alongside Chinese artwork on almost every page. I have had it in my possession for years, but didn’t get around to reading it until now. It only took an afternoon.
It was simpler than I was expecting, easier to read (though I wonder how much of that was the translation). I marked a lot of the pages with sticky notes so I could come back to them later, and I now have a strong hankering to research spies in ancient warfare.
And now, if I ever end up at another party where a guy with a beard, a cardigan, and a glass of scotch that costs more than my shoes asks me if I’ve ever read The Art of War, I’ll have a better answer. And I’ll be able to ask him what he thought of Sun Tzu’s advice on mixing paint colors.