In this first instalment of a series, we meet Kell, a traveller and messenger between royalty in the early 19th century. However, the royalties he acts as envoy between are all from four different Londons, each with varying degrees of magic left coursing through them. When Kell is forced to team up with a street thief, Lila, from (our) grey London, to stop a potential threat to all the worlds, we are thrust straight into a fantastical new concept.
Schwab has clearly put a lot of work and time into her characters, in particular Kell, his brother Prince Rhy and the aforementioned Lila. Kell and Lila have a brilliant repartee almost from the outset of their first encounter, once they get over their initial dislike for each other. Rhy plays the seemingly irresistible prince, constantly worried about what else Kell does with his power apart from travelling as an envoy.
The plot is fast-paced and action-packed, the reader having to keep up with changing geographies and an interesting mythology of this darker shade of magic.
There’s enough here to introduce the reader to an interesting and clever world, and yet with the introduction of only a few main characters, Schwab leaves a lot of scope for what is yet to happen in the series. A really good read and I’ll definitely be seeking out the second book.