As a gamer, I can’t just read a book and be happy about it. As I turn the pages I can’t help but ask myself how I would resolve that action with dice and what game system would best work at portraying the setting or even what could I lift to bring to a game at my table.

The coat’s important, as are the colors of the worlds

A Darker Shade of Magic

by V.E. Schwab (2015)

When I first saw this at the bookstore five years ago, I dismissed it as one of those many, many, many urban fantasy books of a magic infused Pseudo Victorian era with a young adult vibe. After a couple of good reviews crossed the feeds I follow, I eventually I sat down and gave some time to it and found it to be entertaining, quick paced, and still something I could probably recommend to my teenage nephew.

I’ve got a soft spot for books of mirrored worlds, including Roger Zelzany’s Amber series, Elizabeth Wiley’s Argyle series (The Well Favored Man starts it off), and even the gritty futuristic vs fantastical Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover. A Darker Shade of Magic is extremely light compared to those others, even with some intrigue, murder, and loss.


Setting: I already know that I will be shamelessly drawing from this setting for the Eberron D&D game that I’m running for that mix of magic, intrigue, and industrial era. If ever I manage to get a Blades in the Dark game going, I’ll likely do so shortly after reading a book from this series, even if Blades is far darker and grittier than A Darker Shade of Magic. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Amber the Diceless RPG and it’s spiritual successor Lords of Gossamer & Shadow as another system to use for a setting like this.

Magic: The blood magic is the sort of thing that could easily serve as an inspiration for tinkering with spell caster backgrounds like the D&D’s Sorcerer, Amber’s Chaos magic, and whatever system that you’re trying to bring a Blood Mage into.


The author has a website where you can learn more about them and their other works.
The rights to bring the story to movie or television have been acquired but nothing has come from it yet, but with shows like Carnival Row (Not suitable for younger viewers) and the adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, it could still happen.