Reading V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic

Reading V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic (Part 6)

Let’s get together as thieves and try to one-up one another vigorously with no suitable outcome in sight!

Yeah, I love these two.

Here is a link to the series index, for your convenience. Go there for previous entries!

Six: Thieves Meet

I

Summary

The shell around the man that Kell froze with the stone begins to crack. When it does crack, the shell doesn’t crumble away, but rather absorbs into the man’s skin. It darkens his veins and turns his eyes completely black—the compulsion spell destroyed his resistance, letting the magic right in. It takes over his body and moves to the nearest building full of people and laughter.

Commentary

This section says definitively that the royal sword the man is carrying is stolen, so that’s not great. It also means that two royal guards are going to be in trouble, since we know that losing those swords comes with a heavy punishment (possibly death). It’s interesting that once the magic subsumes the man, it is referred to as its own entity, kind of like Venom’s symbiote? Obviously having this brand of magic running around Red London is incredibly dangerous, so I’m guessing the body count’s only going to go up from here. It’s fascinating that using the stone made this man’s blood run black, but not Kell’s. Not yet maybe?

II

Summary

Lila takes off her disguise as she heads back to the Stone’s Throw. She’s upset for falling into the trap of those ruffians, but figures it’s not a total waste since she got something off that drunk guy she ran across. She takes it out of her own pocket to get a look at it under the lamplight, and is disappointed to find a stone, and not even a valuable one at that. It looks as thought it’s been chipped off of a larger stone. She feels something prickle at her skin as she holds it, but she’s fairly certain it’s worthless, and pockets it once more.

Barron sees her as she comes in, and his concern for her makes her fidgety. She tells him that she handled the scrape outside just fine, and sees the boy she helped sitting in the corner eating stew. She is thankfully more tired than she is hungry, as she doesn’t want to sit around in the tavern, and she doesn’t want to spend her silver on food or she’ll never leave this place. She knows that the police will soon learn that their wanted bandit isn’t a man, which means she needs bigger scores quickly. She knows that Barron would give her food for nothing if she asked, but she won’t do it. She goes upstairs to her room, recalling the fight that had her leaving the Stone’s Throw the first time; she’d stolen from a patron, but also Barron wouldn’t take stolen money for her to pay for her room and board. He suggested that she pay for her room by working in her tavern, but Lila knew if she’d said yes, she would have stayed forever. So she stalked off, and managed to stay away for nearly a year. And now she’s back.

She’s undoing her boots when she hears a sound and looks up to find the man she robbed standing in her room. Her door is locked, so she doesn’t know how he got in. He tells her to give back what she stole. When he sees the stone on her table, he lunges for it at the same time she does and collapses instead. Lila checks him over and realizes that he’s bleeding. She almost divests him of his valuables and throws him out her window when she realizes that he’s not dead. He starts to come to, and she sees his mismatched eyes, and hits him in the head with a book. Kell goes unconscious again, and Lila drags his body across the floor, thinking that he smells like flowers.

Commentary

So the stone comes from a bigger stone. Hm. And Lila feels a kind of tingle when she touches it—is it possible that people in Grey London have a certain potential for magic, even if they can’t access it anymore? Is Lila maybe more attuned to that than others?

We get some background on how and why Lila had left Stone’s Throw in the first place, and it makes me even more curious about her relationship with Barron. He seems pretty determined to be some form of guardian to her, which makes me wonder if there’s anything special about him that we’ll come to find out later. Or maybe he’s just a generally nice dude. Either way, Lila’s problems aren’t letting up any time soon. There’s a clock on her ability to steal enough to get away, so that’s clearly going to be a driving force until something new comes up. I’m also curious as to whether Barron has simply decided that he’ll accept stolen money for Lila’s room now, or if he just doesn’t care if she stays there for free.

Okay, Kell, you do not have any blood left to spare, sheesh, take a nap. I mean, maybe not an unconscious nap, those aren’t great for you.

III

Summary

Kell wakes up tied to a bed. The spell from the blade has worn off, though, and he can access his magic fully again. He sees Lila sitting at the foot of the bed and notes that her eyes are both brown, but one is lighter than the other. Those are the first words he ends up saying to her. She counters that one of his is black. They banter for a bit, but Kell admits he’s in trouble, and that he needs the stone she stole back. Lila asks how he got in, but Kell assures her she’d never believe him. He asks her name, and she gives it to him: Delilah Bard, or Lila for short. He tells her his name, and admits that he comes from another London and got into her room using magic. She doesn’t believe him, but then he uses magic to burn the ropes she’s tied him with and sits up, dizzy.

Kell explains that he used Lila’s handkerchief to create a door to her. (This is apparently very difficult magic, and only the second time Kell has managed to find a person that way.) Lila claims that magic might explain the mark on the wall, which surprises Kell, as most people in Grey London can’t see spellwork marks. He sees her eyes move to a chest after he tells her that the stone is bad magic, but when he lunges for it, she puts her knife to his chin. Kell sits back down on the bed and Lila produces the stone out of nowhere, her sleight of hand excellent. She asks him what the stone is worth, and he tells her that it’s worth her life because whoever comes after it will certainly kill her to get it. She asks if he was followed, and when he answers in the negative, she decides she doesn’t have to worry. Lila promises to give the stone back if he tells her what the marking on it means. He tells her, and she deduces that it must be able to make things from magic.

Kell begs her to give the stone back again, but he can tell that she has no intention of doing so, too entranced by the stone’s possibilities. She uses it and summons a beautiful sword and scabbard. Kell again asks her to give it back, but she refuses and then makes a person… another Kell. Only this one has two black eyes. Kell tells Lila that she can’t simply make people, but she disagrees. Then the other Kell begins to move, starts a striptease. Kell can see the figure changing, beginning to fill and become more than an echo of him. He tells Lila again to dispel it, and she agrees, only she doesn’t know how. Kell tells her the she willed it into being, now she has to will it out of being. The echo stops stripping, but doesn’t vanish. The echo suddenly gains enough awareness to be angry that it’s about to be destroyed and moves to attack Lila. She drops the stone and is slammed back against the wall by the echo, but he dissolves after Kel uses the command “As Anasae” on him.

Kell grabs Lila by the throat and asks where his knife is. She tells him, and he uses magic to make the wood of her dresser grow around her wrist, pinning her to the wall. Kell picks up the stone and grabs all the contents she took from his black coat pockets from her drawer. Lila grabs another dagger from a hidden sheath, but Kell advises her not to throw it, as she’ll need the blade to free herself. Then he jumps out the window and realizes where he is—The Stone’s Throw. He is surprised in spite of himself, but he pushes thoughts of it and Lila from his mind. He has to figure out what to do with the stone.

Commentary

Always a great sign when you open the next chapter with bondage.

I admit to being a sucker for this trope, which is even more enjoyable when the person tied up isn’t in any real danger. It certainly sets the tone for this relationship, which is prickly but charming. Banter is truly the easiest way to my heart and these two have an easy rapport for all that they don’t trust one another. I’m guessing that Lila having different color eyes is a magical indicator that’s sort of a low-key version of what Kell has? The fact that she could see the magical markings that he left from transporting there seems indicative enough.

It occurs to me that Lila having not-Kell do a strip tease is a kind of power play that you’d expect more from male characters (because the default tends to assume that men have sexual desires and women generally don’t, particularly if they are women you’re meant to like/empathize with), which is interesting unto itself. Although with Lila creating the simulacrum Kell, we have a similar issue that we always run into with magic systems, which is if you can in any way view or use someone else’s body without their permission (you run into this in Harry Potter all the time both with the Imperius Curse and Polyjuice Potion) you should never do that. I get that you’re having fun Lila, but violating the bodily autonomy of a guy you’ve just met is squiffy and uncool. Also, this sort of thing seems to happen to Kell a lot? He’s constantly being coerced and taken advantage of, poor guy.

And the other reason it should not be done aside from the that fact it’s wrong and bad is the fact that she created a fake version of Kell who suddenly gained a measure on consciousness as a separate entity and probably would have killed them both if Kell hadn’t acted when he did. I’m gonna go out on the limb and assume that it’s probably harder to disperse something like that the longer it’s around.

The more we see of Kell’s magic, the more I like it and how it’s tied to the elements nice and specifically. He can burn off ropes, he can make worked wood grow into branches. I really want to see more of that, but first… Kell has to figure out what to do with the stone, which is probably not going to work out like he planned.

IV

Summary

It takes Lila most of an hour to free herself, and she damages the wall in doing so. Despite not having any more coin, she decides that she needs a drink. She curses to herself over not stopping Kell, but then the sword that she created with the stone catches her eye. She is amazed by the thing, and doesn’t want to stop holding it, which she knows deep down is wrong. She remembers how it felt to lose the stone and how all energy left her. Kell had called it bad magic, but she thinks of it as clever magic, which is more dangerous. She tosses the sword out the window, wondering what’s become of Kell. Then she shuts the window and goes to get her drink.

Booth leaves the Stone’s Throw very drunk and almost falls down the stairs. It’s foggy out and he goes around the side of the building to pee.

Commentary

I mean, I’m really happy that Lila is smart enough to understand that there’s something wrong with that sword, but also why… just why. Why would you throw it out that damn window. Did you not get a pretty good idea of how this works? This is like when Gandalf leaves you something, you don’t toss it out a window for a Sackville-Baggins to find, you wrap it in ugly fabric and you shove it in the bottom of a drawer or a trunk and stop thinking about it forever. Lila. Lila, I appreciate that you need a drink, but this is poor reasoning.

And now that sword’s out there in the world. Great.

Emily Asher-Perrin knows Lila can’t tell he’s bleeding out, but still. You can bug her/him on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her/his work here and elsewhere.

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