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Reviewing The Fragile Threads of Power (and More Stabby Girl Books You'll Love)

If you love A Darker Shade of Magic, these female-led fantasy books with magic and mischief galore might become your new favorite.

Collage of the Darker Shade of Magic Series

In the origin of bestselling author V.E. Schwab's story, there were once four worlds connected by a single city: London. But then magic expanded, and afraid of what that might mean, the doors between worlds were sealed. There were still magicians, Antaris, who could travel between worlds. But then they became fewer and fewer, until only three were left: Kell Maresh from Red London, Delilah Bard from Grey London, and Holland Vosijk from White London. Seven years ago, they came together to face an evil magic that threatened to destroy all the worlds. 

It's been seven years since that day. Seven years of quiet. Seven years of change. Seven years where very few have seen the three Antari in person.

But quiet doesn’t mean peace. A rebellion is rising in Red London and a new Antari sits on the throne of White London. Magic is out of balance once again. Old friends reunite as new enemies knock on their doors. In the center of it all is a young girl with unusual magic. When she stumbles onto a forbidden device, she holds the fate of all four worlds in her hands. But will she bring them together? Or tear them apart?

In The Fragile Threads of Power is set in the same world as the Darker Shade of Magic serie, and fans will find themselves transported back into that place as easily as slipping into Kell’s coat. Readers will reunite with beloved favorites, which gives the feel of coming home. But we also meet quite a few new characters, written with such care that they leap off the page and straight into your hearts. It’s impossible to ignore the precarious situation young Tes finds herself in or how heavy the burden on Kosika’s shoulders. These girls are haunted in different ways and their ghosts will follow them into the future. Or so the stage seems to be set.

With sharp prose and a deft hand, Schwab takes us back into the magical four Londons. There is quite a bit to catch up on, with seven years passing, but the flashbacks don’t detract from the pacing or momentum of the story. If anything, they propel us forward and build the tension to delightful heights. But fans of Schwab won’t be surprised. She’s shown that she’s a master of utilizing timelines effectively in narratives over multiple books.

What to expect from The Fragile Threads of Power

As mentioned already, The Fragile Threads of Power is the first in a new trilogy, and while the first book is an extremely satisfying first installment, the implications of battles to come are clearly set. I appreciated how Schwab brought the decisions of the past, both in the Darker Shade of Magic series and before, to explore the rippling consequences every action can have. 

In fact, if a single word could capture The Fragile Threads of Power and its theme succinctly, it’s consequences. Every choice a character made in the earlier trilogy, whether for good, for bad, or for reasons in between refuse to stay settled in the past. Everything we do in the past, present, and future, affects us. Collectively, societally, individually. Schwab creates multiple storylines to introduce these questions and then leaves threads open to show the devastation that may potentially follow. 

As in the Darker Shade of Magic series, the idea of power—magical and otherwise—lurk in almost every aspect of the plot and characters. Through kingdoms and across seas, the relentless pursuit of power isn’t relegated only to the magical. It’s shown in a Queen who experiments with dangerous ideas, a father who sees value only in what he can attain, and a boy desperate to be a hero. It’s the small acts people take to matter, to make a difference, to stand out, even to hide. These details are where the story and the characters pierce our hearts and bewitch our minds.

One of the things Schwab does so well is present end-of-the-world stakes. But she doesn’t punctuate them with action-packed scenes that unfold with relentless speed. Instead, she presents them in the quiet moments, the small decisions. They’re whispers in the shadows but rather than lose their potency, the stakes are amplified. These are the moments when it becomes clear that while losing a world is terrible, losing the people we love—or even ourselves—can be so much worse. These are the moments that hurt, that cause us to hold our breaths, because these are the moments that connect us and make us human.

That’s not to say there aren’t incredible scenes with breathtaking intensity, because there are. Magical fights, particularly with objects that make them decidedly unfair, are guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Make no mistake, almost every aspect of this book is life-or-death with the potential to unravel everything and everyone in all four worlds. But you can’t know what you’re losing without seeing the intimacies. In these pages you get the triumphs and struggles of the last seven years. You learn about past frustrations and fears, choices made with consequences yet to be felt, consequences already wrought leading to more choices with potentially catastrophic costs.

If you're not already a fan of Schwab's work, The Fragile Threads of Power is written in a way that it can also serve as an introduction for new readers as well (albeit a very spoilery one). There are plenty of reminders about what happened, which helps ground you in the story even if it’s been a while since you read the books. But this also helps set these series apart. This is a continuation, but it’s also a new beginning. We as readers can’t help but hold our breath that our heroes, old and new, find a way to triumph in this new end.

9 More Stabby Girl Books

the ninth house

Ninth House

By Leigh Bardugo

The last place Galaxy “Alex” Stern expected to end up was Yale. She’s probably the most unlikely new freshman to walk the halls, but after she survives a horrific multiple murder, she’s given a second chance. Alex knows the offer is too good to be true but is desperate to start over. On campus, she’s assigned the job of monitoring the eight tombs representing Yale’s powerful secret societies. The more she learns, the more she realizes their occult activities are far more sinister than they appear on the surface and their plans could be far more disastrous than anyone could ever imagine.

scifi fantasy books adaptations


By Garth Nix

Sabriel lives beyond the Wall of the Old Kingdom. There, Free Magic is an uncontrolled power and the dead don’t always stay dead. But when her father, Mage Abhorsen, goes missing, Sabriel knows she has to find him. She leaves school, the only place she’s ever felt safe, and crosses into the Old Kingdom, a place where nothing is as it seems. With companions she isn’t sure she can trust and facing supernatural dangers, Sabriel must do more than survive—she has to find her hidden destiny.

2019 Nebula Awards finalists

Gideon the Ninth

By Tasmyn Muir

Gideon has a plan. In the early-morning hours, she packs her shoes, her sword, and her dirty magazines and makes her escape. But Harrowhark Nongesimus was already waiting. She’s the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and she’s been summoned by the Emperor, who needs necromancers. And that means Harrow needs a swordswoman. 

If Harrow can defeat the other Houses, she will ascend as an immortal. But to do that, she needs her cavalier. She needs Gideon. Without her, Harrow will fail and the Ninth House will die. Too bad Gideon thinks some things are better off dead.

The City We Became N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became

By N.K. Jemisin

Every city has a soul. The quiet buzz permeating the streets. The energy. The dangers simmering below the surface. New York City has five. Some are ancient, older than their myths. Some are young—destructive and temperamental as children. But darkness lurks beneath the city’s streets. 

An ancient evil that threatens to destroy the city and all who reside within her. To stop their enemy, the five protectors have to come together. But that’s easier said than done. 

Five souls. Five desires. And one enemy who can destroy them all.

books like the mandalorian mistborn the final empire

Mistborn: The Final Empire

By Brandon Sanderson

After a thousand years of ashen rain and hellish rule, one broken half-Skaa man rediscovers a power long thought lost to the ages: He is a Mistborn. Already a brilliant thief, he uses his natural leadership abilities to recruit the underworld’s elites to pull off the greatest heist in history. Their mark? The wicked Lord Ruler who has reigned with terror and brutality. 

It’s a long shot until Kelsier meets street urchin Vin. Vin has lived a hard life, but to learn how to use power she never dreamed she had, she’ll have to trust him. Even then, victory is not guaranteed. In this world, you can be the chosen one and still lose.

The Library of the Unwritten AJ Hackwith

The Library of the Unwritten

By A.J. Hackwith

Claire has been Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing in Hell for years. It’s where all the unwritten and unfinished stories reside. Her job is to repair and organize books, but she also has to keep an eye on the restless characters longing for their story to be told. When a Hero escapes, Claire has to track him down with the help of two assistants. 

Things immediately go wrong. An angel attacks them, convinced they hold the Devil’s Bible, a powerful weapon that could turn the tide in the war between Heaven and Hell. Now, the librarians have to find and protect a book that can reshape the boundaries of Heaven, Hell, and Earth. Otherwise, they risk it falling into the wrong hands and doing unspeakable damage.

An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris

An Easy Death

By Charlaine Harris

Before taking office, Franklin Roosevelt was assassinated. The U.S. fractured and magic exists. In the southwest, Texoma doesn’t trust magic. But gunslinger Lizbeth Rose makes her living doing things others don’t want to. That’s why, when a pair of Russian wizards ask her to help them find the only man they believe can save their tzar’s life, Lizbeth agrees to join forces. 

But someone doesn’t want them to succeed. Someone with powerful resources at their disposal. Lizbeth is young, but she’s cultivated a stellar reputation. She’s never failed a client, and it’s going to take every trick up her sleeve to make it through this alive.

The Darkening by Sunya Mara

The Darkening

By Sunya Mara

When Vesper Vale’s mother was caught by the Queen’s soldiers, she was given a choice: Death by the hangman’s axe or death from the Storm. She chose to go into the Storm surrounding the city, which curses anyone who touches it. Her father went on the run, and after twelve years, the Queen’s soldiers, led by a paranoid prince, have finally caught up. 

Vesper may be the daughter of failed revolutionaries, but she’ll do everything she can to save her father from her mother’s fate. Armed with her father’s dangerous book of magic, she infiltrates the prince’s elite squad and tries to infiltrate his heart. But when Vesper learns that there’s more to her mother’s death than she ever knew, Vesper is left with another difficult choice. Can she trust the prince, or or should she follow her mother’s footsteps and face the Storm?

best fantasy books

The City of Brass

By S.A. Chakraborty

Nahri is a gifted healer, but it’s instinct—not magic. She’s a conwoman on the streets of Cairo, hustling the wealthy nobles with palm readings, healings, and fortunes. But when she accidentally summons a mysterious Djinn warrior, everything she thought she knew is dust on the wind. He takes her across the desert, to the mythical city of brass: Daevabad. She shouldn’t be allowed in, but her fate is bound to the city in ways she doesn’t understand. 

Magic is real. It’s powerful and dangerous. But worse are the lethal court politics she’s suddenly thrown into. With enemies on all sides, and everyone with an agenda, Nahri has to rely on her street smarts more than she ever has before. This time, her life might be on the line.