Series: Shades of Magic #2
Published by Tor on February 23rd, 2016
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, High Fantasy
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 finalizes 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 thrills 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—meaning that another London must fall.
Oh man, oh man, oh man. File under: most exciting giveaway winnings ever, because I can’t even begin to describe how lucky I feel that I got to read this masterpiece early. Yeah, it probably will surprise basically no one to hear that I fell in love with yet another book by V.E. Schwab. A Gathering of Shadows actually cements A Darker Shade of Magic as one of my all-time favorite series.
If you liked A Darker Shade of Magic, it will probably please you immensely to hear that Schwab excellently continued her tradition of nailing all of the elements that make up this book. The world building, already awesome and intriguing in the first book, gets even more elaborate and interesting. With Lila free in Red London to do whatever the hell she wants, she logically chooses to join a ship’s crew as their main thief and thus discover seas around the kingdom of Arnes. This means more culture, more language, more dynamic, interesting characters… (Including the oh-so charming Alucard who will appeal to any and all fans of the pirate archetype.) I honestly couldn’t wait to read more and more about her adventures – her part of the story almost becoming more interesting than Kell’s.
There’s also a shit ton more magic in this one, partly because Lila slowly but surely learns about her own powers and how to control the elements, and partly because the main event of A Gathering of Shadows is a magical tournament in which champions of the three nations battle with each other for honor and glory. I absolutely loved those battles. They were written so fluidly and described so elegantly. It reminded me of Avatar: The Last Airbender with all the elemental magic, and I could picture it all too easily in my mind. So if you’re looking for action scenes, believe me, this book has got them.
And then of course there are the characters and their development. Well, they all become a lot more interesting and dynamic – largely as a result of the conclusion of the first book. There is some friction between Kell and Rhy as their relationship is infinitely more complicated, and across the board Kell is not really looked upon favorably by the citizens of Red London and the royal family. There’s some angst happening there, but Kell’s also definitely growing stronger and he feels a growing urge to fight and play with magic. Lila comes into her own in this foreign world and she just kept impressing me. Honestly, she’s a motherfucking QUEEN in this book – strong, reckless, and definitely no damsel in distress. We’re also introduced to a couple of new characters: the smooth and intriguing Alucard, the crew of the Night Spire, and the other competitors in the Essen Tasch – and of those, my love for Alucard knows basically no bounds (and I’m desperate to learn more about him).
If you are a shippity ship person, like me, you will also probably be very very pleased with A Gathering of Shadows, because, yeah, okay, even though Kell and Lila are separated for the majority of the book, THAT FREAKING CHEMISTRY YO. Seriously, any time one of them thought about the other, my heart lurched in my chest. And when they were together, it was basically perfect. They compliment each other so well, understand each other so well, and it’s not at all sappy. They challenge each other in the best ways and honestly I need more and more scenes with the two of them together. It will never be enough. BUT. There’s also a second, minor shippity ship that KIND of came out of no where, but I KIND of saw coming in all of the best ways ever. I will not mention names because spoilers, but seriously. V Schwab is an evil genius.
Most of her evil, though, shows in the ending. My heart was pounding in my chest, tears were welling up, and I just tore through the pages to the end. The stakes are inconceivably high. Schwab is a genius and a madman. I am so invested in these characters and this world that it’s basically consuming my heart and soul.