After finishing Dark Money and being filled with rage that could only partially be expiated by yelling at a pathetically small number of Nazis to GTFO my city, I was fortunate to find the perfectly fluffy fantasy-adventure antidote in V. E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic, which Emily had selected for our next BSpec book club.
This book has a lot of things that are generally up the alley of vaguely Gothy fantasy fans like myself. The plot is even color-coded Gothically fabulously, with the main worldbuilding conceit being that there are four different universes with Londons in them: Black London, White London, Red London, and Grey London. Four Londons! And that color scheme! Very much comfort reading. The main character has special world-jumping magic, a mysterious past, a fabulous coat that changes into different fabulous coats (and some less-fabulous coats when necessary), and a bad inter-London smuggling habit, which is forbidden. The second-main character is a spunky pickpocket named Delilah Bard who harbors dreams of becoming a pirate. Overall the characters are a bit archetypal but they're fun and entertaining, and it's easy to root for Kell even when he's a bit dumb and for Lila even when she's trying too hard.
Lila is from Grey London, which is basically our universe's London and is the boring one with no magic. Kell, the world-jumping dude (or Antari, as it's called), is from Red London, which is sadly not a London run by communists, but is the London full of flourishing, healthy magic, and its river casts a red light because magic is based in blood so it's red when it's functioning properly. White London is dying, its magic is all out of balance and drains the life and color out of stuff. This is in part because White London is in the universe next door to Black London, which has been sealed off after the magic got corrupted and ate everything? It's not entirely clear because Black London has been blocked off from the others for centuries and nobody has gone there, even Antari. All of Black London's artifacts that were in the other kingdoms were destroyed.
While he is visiting White London, somebody manages to take advantage of Kell's smuggling habit and sticks him with half a black rock that turns out to be from Black London and is full of the corrupted magic of that London. People in the other Londons can use the rock to do magic, but it has consequences, sort of like how in the real world non-magic people can do all sorts of incredible things if we get hopped up on painkillers, but there are consequences. The black magic starts to spread through healthy Red London like an STD--quite literally; there's a scene where one dude who's been possessed by the black magic goes to a brothel and passes it to a lady of negotiable affection, who then is also possessed, and she passes it on to another customer... you get the idea. So basically it functions like an opioid, is passed along bodily vectors like syphilis, and is described as looking and thinking sort of like Hexxus the oil monster from FernGully. I'm now imagining possessed half-burned-up zombie guards wandering around Red London singing "Toxic Love" in Tim Curry's voice. I may be still very tired and dehydrated from yelling at Nazis; forgive me.
Anyway. It's a pretty fast read; it's 400 pages and while I don't know if it's technically YA, it's paced like YA, and easy enough to fly through in just a few hours. I may be able to read the whole trilogy before book club, if that wouldn't inevitably result in me mixing up all three books (might do it anyway). It seems like it would make a lovely fun movie trilogy (possibly animated), especially with the color conceit.