Book Discussion : A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Week 4)

Thursday, March 22, 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 4, Chapters 3 to 5 and Part 5, Chapters 1 to 4. 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 4: Chapter 3

Jeanna: Readers get to meet Athos in this chapter. And we knew that the twin rulers were bad news but this crossed the line of bad news a long time ago- we’re more into the worst territory. While taking a stroll through the town of White London, a boy decides not to bow to the rulers. And that’s a big no no, since the whole town is built on fear. Naturally, Athos takes the boy from his mother and makes an example of him, turning him into one of his robots via binding spell. Holland interrupts Athos to let him know of Kell’s arrival. And that’s basically the gist of what happens in this chapter.

One of the most terrifying moment of the whole chapter was when Athos throws a bit of coin to Beloc’s mother and nonchalantly says, “For your loss.” I had to put the book down for a while after that one. Like, nope. No, no. I couldn’t handle it. The scene was just so visual and if this ever becomes a movie, they better have this whole chapter in it because these rulers are downright horrible. What do you think, Jackie?

Jackie: Yeah, I mean I thought that line was so powerful in this chapter. I stopped for a minute too and was thinking of the power behind this statement. 

I was thinking of this image as well in like slow-motion. I was thinking about how Athos had stopped for a few measly seconds to say that line to Beloc’s mother. A few things ran through my mind:

  • This signifies the “death” of the son she once had.
  • This signifies the lack of empathy that the twins are capable of and show to their citizens of White London.
 I mean no wonder we have heard the statement about White London, White London “hungers.”
Thinking about this, I thought of how White London hungers for justice and righteousness as well. After Athos takes the mother’s son as his slave (pretty much anyway) all he does is throw a coin to the mother and says “For your loss.” This suits the characterization that we have been told about the White London rulers, but this action is so heartless. I mean Athos shows no remorse, not really any sympathy either. I mean this seemed like a business transaction to me more than anything. It’s just so disgustingly, heart-wrenchingly void of any emotion at all. On top of all this, these actions sound like these occurrences happen all the time in White London. I mean, I’m usually one for villains and such, but I draw the line at Athos’ actions and insensitive action. This chapter was honestly crazy and hard to complete reading in one sitting. 

Jeanna: I know what you’re saying. I couldn’t complete it in one sitting. I stopped at the coin toss and just had to go do something else because at that point, you knew something bad was about to happen and it was definitely not going to be pretty.

I agree with you on what the coin exactly symbolizes. Also, I don’t think the mother will ever see Beloc again. I’m thinking that Athos will keep him as his slave, like you said.

It’s interesting to see Beloc and Holland together at the end of the chapter. I started noticing all the similarities the two have. And I’m guessing that Holland had endured the same binding process that Beloc goes through, how he is bound by body but not his mind. It makes me wonder how much of Holland we are really seeing. Is he fighting their control on him? Sometimes, I think he may be fighting but others, he seems so devoid of emotion that it is hard to tell.

Holland interrupts Athos’s torture session to let him know that Kell has arrived. Since we know how much Kell was against seeing both rulers together, I couldn’t help but feel a little betrayed by this. However, Holland is bound and may be required to tell both rulers of any guests that have arrived, so better to ambush them.

We found out a chapter or two ago that what binds Holland to the rulers may be a pendant that Holland is always seen with on. However, the process seems different for Beloc, so was the pendant just a rumor- is he or isn’t he bound? I’m just so confused.

Jackie: I noticed the similarities between Beloc and Holland as well. I’m also a bit confused about whether Holland is fully bound to them in the way of having a rune on his body somewhere or just being bound in another way. I mean, Kell mentions that he sees a flicker of emotion on Holland’s face for just a second, which I thought suggested that maybe Holland isn’t fully bound to the White London rulers. 

As you said, it makes it hard to tell because Holland seems so void of any emotions, but I think that instance of emotion that Kell said he saw shows that Holland has some type of humanity and/or emotion left in him, somewhere in him. 

Something else that suggests to me that maybe he feels some type of emotion is when Athos says, “No one suffers as beautifully as you.” This suggests to me that the White London rulers can sense and see what little emotional triggers Holland shows, and they use it to their advantage as well as enjoying Holland’s misery and suffering. I may be mistaken, but these people seem like that type that would feed off of other people’s suffering.

Jane The Virgin Suffering GIF

Jeanna: I really don’t like Athos. It seems he is in tuned to their emotions by their eyes, as he mentions seeing the fight in Beloc’s eyes as he binds him. And White London as a whole seems to be based off suffering - if you fight back, the rulers will make you disappear.

And I would love to see the twin rulers turn themselves around, turn good instead, but I really don’t think that’s what’s going to happen here.

Part 4: Chapter 4

Athos and Holland join Kell and Astrid just as Kell is giving him her message. And can you believe it? It’s not a shock but… they don’t read the letter here either. What is with this? When I get mail, all I want to do is open it right away.

When Athos asks Kell to stay for a drink, it isn’t like he can say no. At this point, Athos would probably cut off a limb or who knows what other horrible things if Kell had refused. And another not surprising thing because it totally fits into their horrible-ness, Athos and Astrid drink blood. And not just any blood, they order Holland to bleed for them right at the table. They do this to probably show Holland who’s in charge. Like we mentioned in the last chapter, Holland does have moments where he’s not okay with this, there’s still some fight. But in the next second, it’s extinguished. Them drinking the blood of their Antari is a power play over him, to show him, there’s not a chance he’s going to win against them. Oh, also in this chapter, they get Kell drunk. And I wonder what kind of secrets he spilled while intoxicated.

Jackie: Yeah I wish they’d open the letters to let us readers know what is going on...but I guess we are just citizens in the eyes of the Athos and Astrid and do not need to know. 

Anyway, I’m okay with Kell just accepting to have a drink with them instead of facing certain doom if he denied their request. I think it’s just easier this way for Kell, and I think he has come to realize this over time as well. I thought it was dehumanizing to have Holland give his blood to Astrid and Athos to drink. I mean, I get that they are showing their dominance over all others, but this was continuing to cross many lines that need not be crossed. I was thinking for a few moments that they may have Kell do the same thing and give his blood to them, but I’m glad they didn’t have him do that. Mixing blood would be gross. I mean to me, even drinking blood is gross. 

catching breath caroline GIF

I was wondering in this scene if the Antari gain strength when they drink blood. Since they have control over blood, hence them being Antari, if drinking blood gives them extra power as well. I’m not really too sure if it does, but if one thing is for sure, they certainly know how to humiliate Holland and all other people by whatever means necessary. I  believe that Athos and Astrid were also showing Kell that if Kell stepped out of line with them, that they were not afraid to have Kell do the same thing as Holland was doing. I don’t want to be in White London any longer. This place is wack. 

Jeanna: I agree, please get us out of here. This whole scene is just disgusting. And I’m so glad that Kell had enough in him to refuse the blood and stick to wine instead.

I don’t think they would have bled Kell at all. Holland is basically a slave in the palace, an asset, a power piece.  Kell belongs to Red London. In harming Kell in any way, I think Red London would have something to say about that. And it could possibly mean war, or at least a strong dispute.

It’s interesting that Kell thought of standing up for Holland, after the fact-but still. They are the only two remaining of their kind and I think it’s right in thinking that they should stick together. It would be awesome if Holland and Kell were friends, if they met for tea every once in a while or something. However, Kell mentions how unlucky Holland was to land himself in White London. I wonder how this happened. Did Holland choose to find his own way in White London or did the rulers steal him away? For Kell, it seems that Red London has always been his home. However, since he was Antari, his family gave him up for him to go live in the palace. I really wonder what Holland’s backstory is like.

Jackie: Yes, I’m wondering too where Holland has come from and how he ended up in White London and Kell ended up in Red London. I wonder if this connects to the missing pieces from Kell’s memory. I mean this keeps being mentioned and Kell does not give the reader much insight into his own past and how he remembers ending up in Red London and in the palace. Maybe, from whatever it was that happened, Holland and Kell were separated and told to serve their respective rulers in the London they were placed in. This would make sense too that these were the only two London locales with Antari there since Black London, as we understand, is pretty much decimated, and in Grey London, there is no want for magic to be present, especially among the rulers and royalty. I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that maybe whatever that incident was a long time ago, that it caused Holland and Kell to be separated among the two London locations to assist the rulers at both locations since magic is still present in both spots. 

On a separate note, I thought it was funny that Kell said to Astrid and Athos that he found it impressive that they kept their clothes so white, as they were drinking blood. I found this line Kell says to be ironic since these two rulers are the most bloodthirsty characters we have met thus far (in my opinion), and the fact that they wear white clothing as they have these awful tasks performed by Holland, or as they perform acts onto others, that they wear white clothing. The color white is a symbolization, in most cases, of purity and peace, which is the complete opposite of these two rulers and their actions.

Jeanna: Can you imagine the two rulers giving Kell an instruction guide on how to get blood stains out of white clothing? That would be hilarious.

The symbol of white is incredibly prominent here - it’s even called White London. But it’s a complete lie, maybe to lure people to their cause under false pretenses.

Part 4: Chapter 5

Kell has had a little too much wine. Instead of returning straight home, which is what we all know he should have done, he makes his way to the Scorched Bone. And after convincing himself that he is going to follow Rhy’s advice and not do anymore deals, he walks right into one. The woman convinces him to pass a letter to a family member in Red London and as payment, she gives him a magic item- that we have no clue about still.

I thought this was fishy from the beginning. Black London fell ages ago, closing the doorways between London so it’s not like she logged on to to figure out her family. I thought her background was way too suspicious not to question and Kell doesn’t seem to see the flaw in it. This whole chapter, I was just shaking my head. How could you, Kell? We’ve learned a lesson here, folks. Don’t do deals when you’re under the influence.

drunk ross geller GIF

Jackie: Yup, I was thinking the same thing. I mean, like this reminds me of what Rhy said to him before he left about not getting caught up in dealings like this, but nope, Kell just gets sucked right in. Especially with Kell trying to look at the note, but the woman tells him to not look at the note, that should have been a big red flag, but not for our Drunk Kell. Nope, why not go and deliver something to Red London from White London, which from what Kell himself told the reader, that this place was just not a place to go to or be at, EVER. 

I just facepalmed all throughout this chapter, even as intoxicated as he was, he should have seen something coming that was telling him, “no don’t do this one Kell.” I don’t know Kell, I lost a bit of my confidence in you after you pulled this stunt.

Jeanna: Yeah, because as soon as he lands himself in Red London, this whole thing bites him in the butt.

Part 5: Chapter 1

And we now interrupt normal programming to bring you back to Lila, the thief who wants nothing more than to be a pirate.

Almost all the chapters we’ve read this week were so short.

Lila Bard is coming back to the Stone’s Throw tavern after a long night of pick-pocketing when she sees a homeless kid. She decides to share some of the loot with him and gives him some of her coins. In greeting Barron, both Barron and Lila watch on as three thugs steal the coins from the homeless boy. Lila decides to get the money back. And I’m all for that- those boys have no right to steal from that homeless boy. What Lila does, in pickpocketing, is wrong of course. However, she seems like a Robin Hood character, but these bullies are stealing from those weaker than them and that’s not cool.
Also, not only do we find out that she steals coins from the pockets of the rich, and the occasional watch or so but she’s an all-around book thief. She makes sure to find books that have pirates and adventures in them so with that, I made a list of book recommendations that Lila Bard should look for next to she’s out stealing books.

Jackie: Yeah, these chapters were short, but each was filled with a chunk of information to let us get to know the characters a bit better, like us learning about Lila’s interest in stealing and reading books. I like the book recommendation list that you came up with as well, it sounds interesting and fun to read for an aspiring pirate. 

I thought that it was interesting to see Lila in this light, of someone who does show her pirate characteristics, but also has a sense of dignity for her fellow man. She stops to give the boy some coin, and after it is stolen from him, she chases after the thieves to get the coin back for the boy. I thought that this act was interesting for her since it shows that she not only has compassion for others as well as the motivation and determination to do what is just and right. I thought of her as a Robin Hood character as well, and it suits her well since she also acts like a man anyway, so she could be called Robin Hood instead of Shadow Thief, maybe someone should get on that to change her name…

confused robin hood men in tights GIF

Jeanna: Changing her name would take so much work. Imagine all the WANTED papers they’d have to redo.

Part 5: Chapter 2 - 4

Since all these chapters were a bit short, I thought I’d cluster them together. Not just because they’re short, mind you. They all end entirely the same way. Kell or Lila are running for their lives. This may just be an accident. Maybe Schwab likes ending on a high-energy note, or it could be an element that is meant to be noted- either way, the parallelism between these chapters were too difficult to ignore.
Kell is, obviously, set up. We all saw that one coming. He opens the letter- which is interesting because none of the other characters have opened their letters but Kell is the only one with letter-opening skills it seems (remember, he opened the Gray London’s King’s letter). And the letter is blank. Total set up. He gets to the address that the woman told him and there’s someone there ready to jump him.

In other news, Lila is also set up. See the similarities here. She waits for those thugs to break off and decides to follow the one boy she saw with the coins. She follows him down an alley and bam! The two doubled back and followed her. A fight ensues.

Meanwhile, Kell runs to the tavern where he keeps his collection and deems it safe to hide in there since he has warding spells on the place. Facepalm, again. Kell is not thinking straight. If he had stopped for a moment, he would have realized how odd it was that the mysterious attacker knew he was going to go straight to the address. I wonder if he had went back to the palace, would they have attacked him there? He finds the tracking spell, which sure enough, renders his warding spell against his collection room useless. He is able to jump out of the window and not kill himself. They fight and there’s not one but two attackers who mysteriously have royal swords. Kell believes that the swords were stolen but I couldn’t help but think that maybe they weren’t, maybe someone in his own palace was trying to set him up but who?

Jackie: Throughout these chapters I kept thinking to myself, It’s a TRAP! 

Image result for falling into my trap gif

Both characters seem to just keep falling into this ongoing set of traps that were set for them, which makes me feel like the parallelism will lead Lila and Kell to meeting each other, maybe? It just feels like one of those movies where you keep facepalming and screaming at the characters for being stupid and making bad choices to keep letting themselves fall deeper into the rabbit’s hole of lies and deceit, until finally it reaches to its climax and...we are left with a kind of cliffhanger, made to think that both characters find a way of escaping from their precarious situations, but this is not proven to us by the end of Part 5 Chapter 4. 

I thought it was interesting as well with Kell that he was so gullible this whole time. He falls into each trap, basically showing the enemy where his secret area in the tavern, and ends up unintentionally showing where his secret collection lies.

I thought the part about the swords being stolen, or even worse, someone in his own palace, was very intriguing. I mean, this could definitely be a possibility, and it seems to be the first attacker may have been under some type of compulsion spell to kill Kell until either he succeeded or died in the process. This reminds me of Vampire Diaries where the vampires can compel others to do something unwillingly as long as they do not have vervain near them or in their system. 

Image result for compulsion gif from vampire diaries

Who would want Kell out of Red London? Especially someone from their own palace? 

I wonder who set this up? Why do they want Kell to be hurt, or killed?

Jeanna: I don’t want to think this. But it goes back to that gift Holland gave Rhy, for strength. It made me wonder if White London was somehow working with Rhy. In turn, Rhy is the only one who knows about Kell’s deals in Red London. Holland is the only one who has shown his power in illegal magic, when he told one of Rhy’s guards to forget everything. Do you think maybe Holland and Rhy are behind this? I really hope not because Rhy and Kell are so close. Why would he want Kell dead?
These chapters give me too many questions and not enough answers.

And what’s up with this magic stone? What does it do? The attackers listen to Kell’s commands when he is holding the stone but otherwise, we really know nothing about it. We don’t even know what triggers the stone to work. Kell knows very little about it. And I just want to know! The suspense of everything in this book is killing me.

Jackie: Yeah, there are so many questions to be asked. I was wondering the same thing about Rhy and Holland. I mean, this could be something that Holland was made to do, which was to give Rhy the gift of strength, to manipulate or compel others to do this bidding, but was Rhy aware of this? I mean, maybe Holland made Rhy do this under compulsion from the twin rulers for all we know. Rhy could be compelled to do these things without even knowing that he is doing them under his own will. 

Yes, the stone also brings up some questions as well since we don’t know how it works, why Kell felt the need to hang onto it for so long, and why it was given to him by that woman just so he could be jumped by someone so they could try and take it from him. The suspense of all this is killing me too, and I feel like soon Schwab will have to start giving us some clues to what is going on with all these open-ended sections. There’s too much unanswered in this book, and we are only at the beginning of it!

Jeanna: I didn't even think that maybe Rhy is being compelled to go through with this set up plan.
And I feel like whatever happens next with Kell could have been easily avoided if he had only quickly jumped back to White London and threw that stone right into the river. Instead, he holds on to it. I mean, he's not that drunk, is he? He knows that whatever he's holding on to is bad news and he is about to pay the price.

Jackie: Yeah, that’s true. Kell should have just left that stupid stone behind...oh well he is inviting TROUBLE with it. That’s on him, he can’t be drunk enough to not realize that, I would hope. I mean he is getting attacked, so he definitely must be a little less drunk and more focused than before.

Jeanna: Yes, he just killed a man so I hope he knows the severity of the situation.

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

  • Will Beloc be like Holland - bound by body but not by mind? Do you think the process Beloc endured was similar to that of what Holland had to go through?
  • Even though each tavern in each London is a fixed point, why didn’t the Scorched Bone feel like the others?
  • Why set up Kell with the stone and send him off to be attacked? What was the purpose and meaning behind the rune on the stone? Why can’t Kell come back without being hurt, as Rhy had asked him before he left?
  • Oh Lila, will our Shadow Thief be found out to be a girl? I mean she did run away, so will her secret identity of being a girl be revealed?

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