Book Discussion: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (Week 2)

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Welcome to the A Darker Shade of Magic book discussion! We are going to have a blast reading along together. Each week, following the schedule, my friend Jackie and I will recap that particular week’s chapters with hilarious commentary. At the end of each discussion post, there will be a few questions to get the party started. These questions serve as food for thought. All comments related to the book and this week’s chapters are always welcome! Remember: I am giving away a copy of the paperback edition of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (for extra entries, comment below)! Now, let’s get this party started!

This week, we'll be discussing Part 2, Chapters 1 to 3. To depict our thoughts in the most coherent way possible (after all, this is a dialogue between friends), my font color will stay black and Jackie's color will be red.

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers ahead! This post discusses this week’s chapters of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. If you do not want to be spoiled on what happens in the book, don’t read any further.

Part 2: Chapter 1

Jeanna: All in all, this was a rather short chapter that really packs a punch. Readers get to meet Rhy’s private guards, Gen and Parrish. They seem a rather chill bunch, playing cards outside Prince Rhy’s chambers. The big mystery here happens during the end of the chapter when Parrish returns to his post to find Gen gone and someone mysteriously inside the Prince’s bedroom. FINALLY, we get to meet Holland, the other Antari that Kell has mentioned a few times. And first impressions, I can’t say I like him very much. He seems nice enough when speaking to the Prince, giving him a mysterious gift of “strength”... whatever that means. His gift could be anything. But then he comes outside to find Parrish. He gives Parrish a coin and not only does he disappear but he somehow makes Parrish forget he was ever there. What’s your first impression of Holland?

Jackie: Yeah, this Holland character is something else. We have heard his name in passing from time to time, but now we get to see a better snapshot of what he is like. I personally think that Holland has something vicious up his sleeve for Prince Rhy. I mean how can he be doing something good when he makes Parrish forget that he was there?! Also, I think I would not have Parrish as a card partner since he loses a lot apparently...not saying I’m a good player either but still...

Jeanna: I don’t think either guard did very well with the game since both of them cheated, right? However, I don’t think I would partner with Parrish either, especially because he continues to play several rounds and lose because what else is there to do? No, no, it’s not like a guard has to actually be vigilant when watching a Royal’s chamber door.

As for Holland, I didn’t really pick up on his ill intent towards Rhy. I thought him making Parrish forget was because he was found after hours in the Prince’s bedroom. As a private guard, I would think he has to report anything he sees during his shift so if he saw Holland, he would have to report that the Antari had paid the Prince an unauthorized visit. Since he is the Antari from far away, Holland schedules his visits in advance with the royals. This, however, was an unannounced visit which may be cause for alarm but I don’t think he had any ill intent. His main reason for being there was to pass along a gift that he supposedly found in Red London. It makes me wonder what it is which I hope we shall find out soon.

Let’s talk about the scene with Parrish and Holland though. One thing that irks me is that Holland does make Parrish forget he was ever there. In Chapter 3 of Part 2, Kell tells us that such magic used is illegal. Then, what’s Holland doing? Do these Antari think they’re above the law?

playing cards poker GIF by FilmStruck

Jackie: Yeah the guards should be vigilant since it is kind of their job...but hey, why not just totally disregard your position? 

Anyway, that was my point with Holland before, like why make Rhy forget that he was there? For me, that is a red flag since like Kell said, that type of magic is illegal. I thought it was annoying that he made Rhy forget that he gave him this gift, but that made me wonder why, why make him forget? I mean maybe there was no ill intent, but still, why would he not want Rhy, or the guards, and his parents not to know that Holland was there? 

Speaking of the Antari as well, maybe Holland does think that he is just above the law. I mean what types of limitations do the Anatari’s have? I know in Part 1 we were able to see that there was a traveling limitation as Kell moved between locations, but what else are they limited by, if anything? From what we have learned so far, the Antari are the most powerful magical beings in this world, so are they above the other magical beings?

Jeanna: That’s interesting that Holland made Rhy forget but I didn’t read it that way. The only person who I thought Holland made forget was the private guard, Parrish. And possibly Gen but we don’t know for sure since all Holland commented on regarding that was that he sent him away. This could mean that he also made Gen forget the same way he makes Parrish forget and then Gen just walks away from his post, most likely at the persuasion of Holland. I think Rhy is fully conscious of the meeting before, during, and after. As for the the King and Queen knowing of his visit, they may. Holland does mention that he has already visited the King but based on his illegal acts, this may be a lie.

Part 2: Chapter 2

Kell takes a little stroll through the fair that lines the river. And it was all going swimmingly (see what I did there?) until a boy bumps into him. This is the first time we get to see how his hometown treats him. At first, I did think it was because he’s the last of the Antari that he is treated with such celebrity status. However, I think that may only be part of it. Surely, people in Grey London are aware of his Antari-ness. And they certainly do not bow at his feet and shake in fear. I think it’s mostly because of his relationship with the King and Queen, as if he was their adopted son. The townspeople give him the royal welcome - he is the second Prince.

Jackie: Hmmmm...interesting that you saw it as celebrity status...I saw it more as they were aware of his presence but also fearful of the power he represented. The way that the boy ran behind his mother (I’m assuming this was the woman he ran behind) and was cowering behind her. Then the woman was practically fainting as she looked at Kell and realized who he was when she looked him in the face. I mean I’m thinking that this is more of a fear-driven fascination with Kell and the Antari. I mean something had to have happened with the Antari to have this devastating awe effect on the civilians. I think it’s interesting that Antari have that effect on the townspeople and it really makes me wonder if they are in awe because of how powerful they are, or if they did something to earn them that recognition from the local folk.

puss in boots hello GIF

Jeanna: Interesting. I wonder what sort of effect Holland would have on the townsfolk or would they abandon the fair and run for their homes. As you said before, the Antari seem to be the most powerful people of all magic folk. Even though the people of Red London have magic, the Antari are still above them, being so much more powerful - with even just going back and forth between worlds. The people know this and must treat him accordingly.

I do wonder if the Antari did something to give them that kind of response from the townspeople: did they do something good or do something bad? That’s the question.

Part 2: Chapter 3

Kell finally makes it “home.” Before hunkering down to sleep, he makes a quick visit to the King and Queen. He passes a letter along but it’s not read so that’s still a mystery. The most surprising about this scene is that Kell is pushed to call the Queen “Mother” which is not a relationship I was expecting. As an Antari, it is sort of his job to play messenger between worlds and I thought that is what he was. He was working for the royals of Red London but then we get with “I’m back, Mom.” which changes lots of things.

Kell has living quarters in the palace and seems to be a sort of second son to the King and Queen. And if I may be so bold as to say a better son -- at least, a more mature or easier one to “control/handle”. And if it were me, there would be definite jealousy but I did not detect any with Rhy. In fact, they seemed to be best of friends.

Jackie: Oh, yeah that line about the Queen being his mother threw me off for a second, but as I thought about it and read on in the chapter, I realized that they are not blood son and mother, but instead they treat Kell as a son. 

Oh man, Jeanna, what a dig at Rhy being the lesser son, oh! But anyway, I think Rhy is a pretty cool son, I mean who doesn’t want a whole birthday week, or month? That sounds reasonable to me especially since he is royalty. I enjoy the fact that he isn’t as easy as Kell seems to be, I mean I think that they seem to cause trouble together and have a good time. The guards also mention that they enjoy walking the town with Rhy and Kell and that the two enjoy spending time together. 

As far as that mystery note, I was wondering the same thing! What does the note say? Why was this kept a secret from the reader? I mean they don’t even mention it again, so it was easy to skim over if you weren’t paying close enough attention. This gives me the need to want to know why they were making this a secret note. Hmpf….

Jeanna: Oh, I have nothing against Rhy, of course not. I think he’s an adorable cupcake so far. Plus, I always pull the birthday card for at least a month so we have that in common.

I only wanted to point that out because it gives him motive. In this chapter, we find out that Rhy knows about Kell’s Black Market affairs which could get Kell into some deep trouble if the King or Queen found out. Yet, Rhy hasn’t told. And, why not? The easy answer is that they’re friends, of course he wouldn’t tell. However, it seems that Kell has been trading for quite a long time and Rhy has already given him numerous warnings. And despite Rhy’s warning, I don’t think Kell is going to stop trading. So, how will this turn out? Will Kell, by continuing his illegal efforts, force Rhy to test his hand?

smell mums the word GIF

And then came the interesting question of why Kell trades at all. This is where we learn that he, in fact, is more than just a messenger but a second son, a brother. He has a place at the palace and here Kell is, trading on the Black Market. It is something that Rhy can’t quite understand. However, that is a part of Kell that I don’t even think Kell himself understands.

Jackie: Since you bring that nice little fact up of Kell being a trader for the Black Market, I recall that in this chapter that Kell refers to himself as a Collector of sorts since he has acquired these trinkets and things from people in his time selling and trading on the Black Market.

I really do believe that Kell was a Collector in the “life I can’t remember.” He goes on to mention and ask questions about this life he does not remember. The scar on his elbow that he has is a spell to make you forget. His knife has the initials K.L., initials from a place or time that he does not remember. To me, this just seems so interesting with this mystery surrounding Kell’s past and why there was a choice to remove his memories. Maybe this has to do with the history behind Black London, or from something the the Antari may have done in the past. 

That also begs the question, whose decision was it for Kell to lose his memory? Did Kell have something so bad happen or did something horrific he chose to impose the spell on himself? Or, on the other hand, did the King and Queen only have Kell living with them as their “second son” because he agreed to let them wipe his memories? SO many questions, so much more to read!

Jeanna: Kell, now, to be a Collector is his way to fit in. He has mentioned time and time again that he feels more like a possession than family. As one of the only remaining Antari, Kell feels constantly like he is being used. He collects these many trinkets because they are like him. They are put on display, they make music, they do tricks, they perform. These trinkets remind him of himself which is why he finds solace in other like-objects. He doesn’t stay in the palace, he feels most comfortable in his collection room above a pub.

His memory loss leaves lots of questions. Also, the timeline seems strange at this point. Does he remember coming to the palace at 5 years old or was he told that he was brought at 5 to the palace? He noticed the scar on his elbow, the rune to make one forget, at 12 years old. I, also, thought that it could be a Jason Bourne situation where he was in on this plan to erase his memory. But for what? And I’m sure the King and Queen know and yet, they refuse to discuss it further with him. Like, what?!

It may have something to do with the Antari but than Holland wouldn’t remember something either - I would think. However, here is something the two differ: Kell does not know much about this memory loss spell, yet Holland is going around and making the guards forget. What are they teaching in White London that they aren’t teaching in Red London about magic?

matt damon jason x marie GIF

Jackie: Yeah, I agree with you about the Collector “fitting in” and timeline issue as well. It makes sense that he wants to fit in, so this is Kell’s way of doing it, but I just have a feeling it may be a bit more and may be a clue into his past. As far as the timeline, yeah I mean he could have just been told that information about him being at the castle since he was 5, and the rune to forget at 12 years old. I think he was in on that situation but maybe just whatever it was, never wanted to remember. Maybe Holland was the one that did it to Kell since he is making everyone else forget their memory? I wish we could know more about what happened…

Maybe in White London they value the forgetting spells so they don’t remember how much hunger they have, and in Red London they want more people to forget about their connection to magic, so they have more people forgetting in Red London. I could be way off, but it’s a thought.

Jeanna: There is something foul at work here. And we better find out.

That’s an interesting notion about White London wanting to forget their hunger. And since we know very little so far about what makes an Antari, I’m going to just throw it out there that maybe there are tons of Antari but none of them remember being one, or the spells, or how to hone their magic because this rune was used on them too. Because obviously someone must have taught Kell, he must have read books about his gifts. However, not everyone has a library full of magic books. Maybe the memory rune is no longer found in books because it was used as a war tactic to remove the Antari as a threat. Just a thought.

This concludes this week's chapters of the discussion. What did you think?

  • Do you think- if pushed too far - Rhy would turn Kell in for trading in different Londons?
  • How did Kell lose his memory - was the spell self-inflicted or did someone not want him to remember?
  • What is up with these coins? I mean now Holland gave one to Parrish, and now he doesn’t remember what Holland was doing there? Could this be why the King from Grey London likes the coins from Kell, is this a way for him to forget? 
  • What is the true rep of the Antari? On the street when he ran into the boy, the crowd around him was in a desolate awe of just the sight of Kell. What did the Antari do to make them so feared?
  • What do you think Holland meant by giving Rhy a gift of “strength?”

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