A Darker Shade of Sorcery, William Collins

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and the thoughts expressed are my own.

As the name suggests, this novel is full of magic, dark powers and demons. In a world where magic and world-hopping are commonplace, two teenagers are about to be thrown in the deep end. The main characters Brooke and Evan are both from Earth who unknowingly have magic abilities.

Brooke is ‘kidnapped’ by three handsome young men and is instantly drawn to Arantay, a handsome man with red hair and red eyes. As they try to calm her, they are attacked by a group of creatures, were-animals who can shift into a variety of animals. I loved the different types of were-animals from the standard wolf to the enormous lizard, and I would like to see more of these in the future. After destroying the shifters, the three haul Brooke away to another world. Her reaction was believable, trying to fight off these strange men, but was also amusing with Brooke throwing in sarcastic comments while the boys bantered.

Unfortunately for Evan, he isn’t found by anyone quite as friendly. While standing up to bullies, and suffering a beating for it, he is captured by a spider humanoid demon who drags him through a portal to a hell dimension. As he is offered as a tasty snack to a spider queen, Evan unleashes a powerful fire blast, severely injuring the demons. But they still won’t die! Luckily a man arrives, rescues Evan and spirits him away to Veneseron. It was one hell of a bad introduction to magic for poor Evan.

The two learn that magic and other realms exist, from pits of hell full of demons to Veneseron where people from all races are trained to harness their magic and defend the realms against evil. These protectors are called Venators or Realmers. Dark-Realmers, their dark counterparts, serve demon masters and create chaos. Sadly, an unimaginative name.

While the two are trained, Brooke specialising in healing while Evan is talented in sword fighting and fire magic, strange events keep occurring. The demons clearly want Evan, but no one knew how much. Over numerous incidents Evan is attacked by demons, barely managing to survive each time. The Masters are stumped, unlike with Brooke they can’t sense a high level of magical ability. In fact, they can hardly detect anything, yet still, every time he is under threat, he unleashes a powerful blast of fire magic.

The extensive list of sorcery types was intriguing, from the standard elemental magic to anatomy magic which lets you transform sections of your body. It was exciting and helps this novel stand out from the hundreds of other ‘schools for magic’ genre. Ethanc’s bar would have been awesome to visit after an exhausting day of training, with the aquarium, exotic drinks and the complete glass furnishings.

The side characters were entertaining, as well. From Lok flirting with anything that moves, to Zeke and Xavia, the gay couple who aren’t overly camp like many characters. Jed the Australian was hilarious (as an Australian myself he was amusing) he was distinctly Australian with common slang but wasn’t overly stereotypical. Lyella, the resident mean girl, was unique. Unlike most mean girls who merely insult what you wear or your interests, Lyella was a legitimate threat and actually attacked Brooke. Sintian was a horrible bully, truly sadistic with his ‘pranks’ and torments. Every time he talked, I wanted Evan to punch him in the mouth.

The central love story revolved around Brooke and Arantay. She’s drawn to him, despite his cold exterior. She is assigned to train under Arantay, much to her delight, and the two grow closer. He even reveals his difficult life story to her. Their relationship was full of angst, mostly on Brooke’s part, and thoroughly entertaining. There was also a slight love triangle for Brooke, (more like a love square really) with both Elijah and Lok interested in her. It can be hard to tell with these two since they’re both naturally flirtatious, but the repeated moments they shared with Brooke made their feelings evident, much to Lyella’s, Lok’s sometimes girlfriend, dismay. There was also a love interest for Evan, the beautiful and kind Cera. Their relationship was much less angst-ridden, a standard High School crush forming into something more.

In Harry Potter the students were trained in Defence Against the Dark Arts, enabling them to defend themselves if they attacked. In this world the students are taught as demon hunters, going on the offensive against demons and helping protect every realm. It was entertaining that they weren’t just passively sitting back, only defending themselves when necessary, but were taking classes to hunt demons through every realm. It made for plenty of action and life-threatening dangers.

Various names and terms began with a ‘v’. It made it hard to discern who was who, especially in the beginning. The main problems being Veneseron (home of the Venators), Vanderain (the god who runs Veneseron) and Velkarath (home of the Dark-Realmers). A simple letter change would have solved this problem as well as making it appear more professional. A great story like this deserves some decent names.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but the twists were unexpected and entertaining. The pacing was fast but with plenty of character growth and world-building to keep everyone happy. Right from the start, I was drawn in, eager to read about this magical world full of demons, sorcerers and elves. The combination of fantasy and paranormal creatures made for a standout world that was thoroughly entertaining. As it progressed, I found myself unable to sleep, desperate to find out why the demons where after Evan and if Brooke finally got to kiss Arantay. I really, really enjoyed this book and am very keen to read the next in the series. I give it 5/5.

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