I am so excited to bring to you my Shades of Magic Bookish Playlist! I’ve had this up my sleeve since August, and I was so nervous-excited to publish it.
The Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab was a crucial part of my reading list this year. When I picked up A Darker Shade of Magic, it was the first time I read a fantasy novel in…probably around a decade. It showed me what magic could be like, and how, as a reader, I could immerse myself in a bold new world (or four).
The series as a whole is incredibly vivid and evocative. The characters are so fleshed-out and genuine. For that reason, I decided to fragment up the playlist by characters. Each one has their own story to tell, and I tried to reflect that in their individual mixes.
Did you read Shades of Magic? What songs would you add to these playlists?
Every good story needs a theme song, and I fancy that “London Calling” is the perfect one for a book about four different Londons. Okay, so the rest of the song is kind of nonsense, but I thought I was being pretty cheeky with this first song.
Kell seems like a super-broody dude. When I was thinking of what music he’d listen to in today’s day and age, I immediately thought of bands like The Cure and singers like Morrissey. Sad-boi’s, if you will.
This song was the one that started it all for me in a sense. The song is plodding and sulky, and the lyrics just screamed Kell at me.
I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar.
I am the son and heir of nothing in particular.
This song jumped out at me because it’s featured in the movie “The Crow”, which is about a dark and vengeful anti-hero, and I could picture Kell running through the darkened streets of Red London jamming out to this one.
So I can’t take credit for this one; it was featured in other Spotify users’ SoM playlists, and it was a Hozier song I actually didn’t know (even though I love the Irish singer). It’s in most playlists for this book for an obvious reason.
When I was a child, I’d sit for hours,
Staring into open flame.
Something in it had a power;
Could barely tear my eyes away.
All you have is your fire
And the place you need to reach .
Don’t you ever tame your demons,
But always keep ’em on a leash.
Kell is fiercely protective of his brother, Rhy. He even volunteers his own life up to keep the prince safe and creates a vulnerable connection between the two of them. The lyrics in Kevin Devine’s song really spoke to this for me.
My brother’s blood boils in my arms.
It balls my fingers into fists.
It bubbles blisters burns my palms.
It floods with fury, fights, and fits.
It’s got the good guy in me hiding.
It kicks my humble heart around.
It’s got me fiendin’ for the fire
That could finish off this town.
It’s got me good.
Rhy’s playlist was probably the most fun to create. I pictured what the young prince would listen to from his gilded bedroom while he pursues his romantic partners like the adorable, frivolous kid that he is. I also focused heavily on the heartbreak and relationship he endured with Alucard.
Okay, can you not picture Rhy waking up in the morning, spreading his golden curtains out of the windows, gazing over his kingdom, and then this song just slowly fades in?
Alucard simply disappeared on Rhy one day. Their relationship was super uncertain, and when Alucard reappeared in the events of the second book, they had a lot of soul-searching to do. This song is all about belonging to someone else and questioning that reality.
Where are you going now without me,
And not knowing then, that we’re slowing down.
You’ve gotta turn that around,
And tell me that I’m taken, tell me if I’m yours.
My heart gets so sad for the betrayal and loss Rhy must have felt. This song speaks directly to that sadness.
But then, Alucard miraculously re-enters Rhy’s life, and they get their second chance at love. How uplifting! Just like this song, about wanting to go back to the beginning and start fresh.
Without you, I’ve got no air to breathe in
How can we go back to the beginning?
Rhy is so vulnerable, sensitive, and sensual, so this song from the Burlesque movie really represented his love for Alucard. And not gonna lie: I can definitely picture them getting down to this song, if you know what I mean.
Rhy comes very close to death, and when he wakes, it is only because his life is tied to Kell’s, a tenuous connection at best. This song’s lyrics were strangely super-parallel to Rhy’s resurrection.
I have this breath,
And I hold it tight,
And I keep it in my chest
With all my might.
I pray to God this breath will last,
As it pushes past my lips,
As I gasp.
Lila’s songs are a mix of music I could see her using as a backdrop for kicking serious butt.
This first song is less of a battle cry, but when I pictured Lila realizing Red London exists and that she has a place in it, these lyrics came immediately to mind. She felt so out of place in Grey London, like she was breathing underwater.
Tell me this song wouldn’t line up perfectly with a Lila Bard-style knife fight?
Lila treats every fight like a battlefield, and she is not afraid to get down, dirty, and violent. This song is about living like gladiators and being prideful when you’re the winner.
“Glory and gore go hand in hand…You can try and take us, but victory’s contagious.”
Lila is an authentic badass. This song is arguably her theme. I think it wouldn’t be out of character for Lila’s last words (V.E. Schwab forbid) to be “show me no mercy.”
Lila’s particular magic strength is her ability to control fire, so this song about burning it all down is a perfect fit!
Holland’s songs are a bit more hard-rock oriented. He wasn’t always a villain, but he certainly was an angrier Entari than anyone else. His suffering at the hands of the Danes, and then later Osaron, made him a seriously dark man.
This song reminded me of Holland offering up his service to seriously evil forces, wishing for anything to help him make his troubles go away and to preserve White London.
Mark me with fear and trembling.
Send someone else instead.
I know my world is ending.
I can’t repay my debt.
This is another song that’s arguably less about lyrics and more about the tone, so take a listen, picture Holland, and let the head-banging vibes in.
Holland is so desperate; he keeps battling super violent people, and it whittles him down.
What if I wanted to fight
Beg for the rest of my life
What would you do?
You say you wanted more
What are you waiting for?
I’m not running from you
Come, break me down
Bury me, bury me
I am finished with you
Look in my eyes
You’re killing me, killing me
All I wanted was you
When Holland offers up his body to Osaron, he unleashes an evil he doesn’t even understand. These lyrics speak to that vulnerable moment.
Deep inside this hole,
I will offer you my soul.
Waiting, hoping with each breath
That you will leave it in my chest.
Holland is not an evil man; he is just trying to save the London he cares about. This song describes that fine line between villainy and desperation.
I cave in, ran out of miracles.
No faith in anything,
I have no backbone.
Call me an enemy,
But I hope you linger.
SPOILER ALERT: When Holland’s life finally comes to an end, I really wanted to find a song that gave him a proper send off, one that endowed his life with meaning and peace. “Truce” by Twenty One Pilots was the perfect fit. BRB, trying not to cry.
Now the night is coming to an end
The sun will rise and we will try again
Stay alive, stay alive for me
You will die, but now your life is free
Take pride in what is sure to die
Osaron’s songs are heavy, dark, and all about his desire for control.
Osaron creeps into Holland’s head and poisons his mind. This creepy, lurking song tonally and lyrically describes the feeling Holland must’ve had of being taken over.
The lyrics of this song are mildly iconic, and I’d be hard pressed to find a song that describes Osaron’s motives more succinctly.
Bow down before the one you serve.
You’re going to get what you deserve.
This song is a personal favorite of mine, and it’s mostly about the tone here. The heavy guitar line sounds menacing. As far as the lyrics go, they do talk about different realms and taking someone away, so it’s a close fit!
Time will see us realign.
Diamonds rain across the sky.
Shower me into the same realm.
Time will lead us to the same realm.
This whole song by the queen herself, Florence Welch, is a creeeeeeeepy song about letting devils in, and it is so reminiscent of that lurking feeling of Osaron invading.
Holy water cannot help you down.
Hours and armies couldn’t keep me out.
I don’t want your money;
I don’t want your crowd.
See I have to burn
Your kingdom down
This girly-gothy hymn is super heaving; it totally syncs up with the creepy, shadowy feeling I’ve tried to describe for Osaron. And it even talks about obsidian, which seems like a decent real-life parallel to the shadow stone.
I swore off obsidian thoughts
And lay awake on broken glass
This song was a late-addition to the playlist, but it’s been my jam since I first heard it, and it is a great companion to Osaron’s threatening desire to rule Red London.
You should see me in a crown.
Your silence is my favorite sound.
Watch me make ’em bow,
One by one by, one.