If magic coursed through anything and everything, was this what it felt like when it found itself again?
About This Book
Title & Author: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic
Length: 512 pages
Publication: Tor Books [January 17, 2017]
Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.
In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finishes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrill of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again – and so to keep magic’s balance, another London must fall.
Star Rating: 🔴⚪⚫🔴 • 4 / 5 Londons
Note: This novel is a sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic. You can see my review of that here.
Honestly, because this book suffers from Middle Book Syndrome, I was very tempted to give it a 3.5 / 5, but eh, I’ll let it have that extra half-point because I liked the first book so much, and I’ve heard good things about the third one.
For this book… For this book, I’m a little divided. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the first 150 pages as well as the last 150 pages. I also really love most of the characters, both new and old, and the character development and interactions in this book are *chef’s kiss.*
On the other hand, the middle 200 pages are a total slog. Also, as much as I enjoyed her character in the first book, Lila Bard was quite annoying at several points in this novel.
Lila groaned and looked down at the course rope cinched tight around her hands, doubly grateful that the bastards had left her legs here, even if she was trapped in an abominable dress. A full-skirted, flimsy green contraption with too much gossamer and a waist so tight she could hardly breathe and why in God’s name must women do this to themselves?
Good. God. Please. Shut up. It’s just a dress. She talks about it like it physically pains her to wear one, or like she’s allergic to them, or something. Because girl, that is what we call an overreaction.
And dialogue like this is only part of what annoyed me about her in this installment. Some of her character traits were very close to Mary Sue levels on a few occasions – being able to master a brand new language in just a few weeks, becoming a master at magic in just four months despite the fact that it took literally everyone else years to do this. And let’s not forget how often people tell her she’s “Not like other girls.”
She did have a couple of good lines though…
“I know where you sleep, Bard.”
She smirked. “Then you know I sleep with knives.”
Not to mention, I kind of feel like she stole the spotlight from my man Kell. Ya know, the main character?? And speaking of said main character, I really like where Schwab took his arc in this book.
Kell’s relationship and mysterious new connection with Rhy Maresh – his foster brother and heir to the throne of Arnes – was taken in the best direction. They had to deal with the fallout of the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, and I loved how they dealt with their shared pain, emotions, and PTSD, and how they eventually made themselves to be better and began letting their problems go, in order to make each other happy.
I also liked how Kell developed true goals and desires here. In A Darker Shade of Magic, despite his habit of collecting and trading contraband between the Londons, he was still Red London’s magic lapdog that was totally okay with being Red London’s magic lapdog. In A Gathering of Shadows – after experiencing a true adventure, as well as nearly dying for the first time – he wants to be free and go out and see the world whenever he wants. I loved seeing grow as a character like this.
I also enjoyed seeing Holland again and finding out what he’s been up to. AKA, how he moved the plot along while the other characters threw tournaments and parties. And – poor Holland – now that he’s free of Athos Dane’s curse, he just wants to save his world. And all he gets is done overpowered shadow-king who wants to “help.”
“What do you want?” asked Holland.
To live, said the shadow. I can save your life. I can save your world. It is a simple deal, Antari. My power for your body.
“And whose mind?” Holland challenged. “Whose will?”
Now talking about new characters, Alucard Emery was an absolute joy. He was the swashbuckling, handsome, and charming privateer and captain of the Night Spire. I also really liked his interactions with Lila, and how, similar to her interactions with Kell, he wouldn’t tolerate her crap if it went too far.
I also really liked that we finally, sort-of got to meet the main antagonist. We sort of got a glimpse of him in the first book, but he was never properly introduced. I won’t spoil anything more though!
I wish we got to see more of the other Londons, though. Most of the book was spent in Red London, and it felt like we hardly ever saw the other three, especially compared to the first book. I would have loved to see more of Grey London, since it’s basically our London from 1801. Kell only popped in like, twice, and one of those visits was super brief. I immensely enjoyed how Grey London was featured in A Darker Shade of Magic, and how it had characters based on real, historical figures.
It was also nice to pop in and see what was up with White London too, but, like Grey London, I really wanted to see more of it. It was awesome to see Black London for the first time, and that’s a location I understand wanting to save for the finale. It was fascinating to see its current state, and I hope the characters return and spend a good deal of time there in A Conjuring of Light.
But, for the majority of it, I did enjoy this book. And that ending got me excited for the last of the trilogy (and OMG THAT CLIFFHANGER!!). I recommend this book to anyone who liked the first one and is looking to continue the series, especially since it’s the kind of sequel where reading the first book is actually required to understand it.
Have any of you guys checked out this series? How did you feel about this book, if you’ve read it?
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day/night!