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Book Review: Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince (Vol 1-3) by V.E. Schwab (3/5)

28 Jul

After reading the Shades of Magic series, I was intrigued by another story set in the same universe. I’m not great with graphic novels because I tend to skim the pictures and just read the words, but I thought I’d give this a try. It was a good thing to pick up and ready while Baby was falling asleep, even if it was hard to read on my phone at times. I got faster at it and ended up blowing through the first volume in two days. I thought I’d finish the collection before reviewing it here.

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Cover image via Amazon

Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince Volumes 1-3 by V.E. Schwab

Other books by Schwab reviewed on this blog:
A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)
A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)

Summary from Amazon:

Delve into the thrilling, epic tale of the young and arrogant Prince Maxim Maresh, long before he became the King of Red London and adoptive father to Kell, the lead of A Darker Shade of Magic.

The youthful Maresh is sent to a violent and unmanageable port city on the Blood Coast of Verose, on strict orders from his father, King Nokil Maresh, to cut his military teeth in this lawless landscape.

It’s been about three years since I finished this series so I didn’t remember a lot of detail about King Maxim. This book didn’t require that I knew a lot since it was a backstory and I enjoyed a relatively fresh slate in a very rich world that I knew well. It was nice not to have to set up the magic that existed and be able to jump right to the story. The stories were a little more surface than I’d hoped for, but appropriate to the graphic novel format. The artwork was also superb. I enjoyed these, but I didn’t fall in love like I did with the original trilogy.

Maxim was so confident and cocky that it was hard for me to believe he was real. But the character I remember from the original series was also cold and distant so this version of him, a boy who had to be hardened, made some sense. He became a little less likeable and believable in Volume 2 but I liked him by Volume 3. His relationship with Isra was really great to develop and I liked that character a lot.

Isra was a great character, but she didn’t get quite the amount of ‘screen time’ I would have liked. She was very much a side kick and a great source of backstory. She was most involved in Volume 1 and I would have liked to see more of her in the other volumes since we know she and Maxim become very good friends. It felt like she was planned into the first story, but was almost forgotten about after that.

I could empathize with Maxim in the second volume when he felt he had to prove himself to earn respect. I’ve felt that way when I come into a new situation, whether it be a job, a social group, or a community. I’ve never put my life at risk the way he did, but I could understand why he felt compelled to do so.

Schwab

V.E. Schwab Image via EW

The Night of Knives, Volume 2, was my favorite. I liked the idea of a magical tool to test yourself. It reminded me a bit of the Divergent series when the characters would take a serum to test their fears. I liked the magical take on it instead of future science.

I was expecting a little more of the Rebel Army in volume 3. Rowan is built to be such a big villain and he’s able to cause so much destruction. It seemed to be rather easy to defeat them. I wish it was a little more of a struggle which I think would have been realistic.

Rather than talk about the narrator as I do for audiobooks, I want to talk about the illustrator. Andrea Olimpieri was the main illustrator and I liked the art for the most part. There were times I struggled to determine who the character was became some scenes were very dark and a few of the characters looked alike. I think he did a great job with the color scheme and the clothing for the characters. Sometimes the clothing was more helpful at figuring out who someone was than the faces!

King Nokil sent Maxim to Verose to teach him to lead and I think that was accomplished across these three stories. I’m not sure if there’s need for a fourth volume or if one is in the works. Maxim starts as arrogant and it doesn’t serve him well. He learns to lead and earn respect and is tested in the end. The story has a nice arc overall and I did enjoy revisiting the world of the Shades of Magic.

Writer’s Takeaway: I read that Schwab wrote these plots from one line of dialogue in the original trilogy and the idea of that is amazing to me. She thought so much about her characters and what made them the way they are that she could write a comic series about it. I think it’s wonderful to see her still living in the Shades of Magic world and exploring it so deeply. It can seem like a bit of a ‘cash grab’ to publish prequels and sequels to a series as successful as hers was, but I like that she took a very different approach by switching to comics for this release.

I enjoyed this overall but I’m going to stand by saying that comics aren’t my thing. Three out of Five Stars.

This book/comic series fulfills the 1700-1799 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Review | The Steel Prince by V.E. Schwab & Andrea Olimpieri (Shades of Magic Vol. 1) | Servillas Speaks
Graphic Novel Book Review: THE SHADES OF MAGIC COMICS by V.E. Schwab | Sifa Elizabeth Reads
V.E. Schwab and Andrea Olimpieri – The Steel Prince | SFF Book Reviews
The Steel Prince by VE Schwab | the words gremlin