A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, magic, parallel dimensions, disguises, intrigue and romance OH MY!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Summary: All your favorites are back along with some brand new ones in A Gathering of Shadows, the second, and very highly-anticipated book in V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. This time around, our heroes are at the center of the Essen Tasch, the elemental games which pit magicians from all over Red London and its neighboring countries against each other. But what does cut off White London have to do with it?
Scared A Gathering of Shadows suffers from second book syndrome? You have absolutely nothing to worry about — in my opinion, the sophomore novel in V.E. Schwab’s deftly written Shades of Magic series is even stronger than A Darker Shade of Magic. I know it’s hard to top perfection but if anyone can do it it’s Victoria Schwab.
After opening with action and adventure on the high seas with everyone’s favorite cross-dressing pirate and spitfire Lila Bard, Schwab jumps right into the angst, with Kell and Rhy dealing with their shared bond before utterly killing it with a trip into the now disowned White London.
When we last left our heroes, they had gone their separate ways, with Lila heading out to start her new life in Red London and Kell and Rhy returning to their old ones. While I was sad to see them separated for the majority of the novel, each ones gets an exciting new story as well as some great intersecting moments.
While most books would suffer from a serious change in action — unlike ADSOM there are zero quests to save the world — AGOS thrives from switching to a plot centered around court intrigue, disguises and the Essen Tasch, a series of elemental magic games celebrated every three years. Think of them as the magic Olympics.
It also gives readers the opportunity to explore more of Kell and Rhy’s world aside from the London part, including the intriguing and dangerous Black Market, which is equally if not more interesting than Red London’s magical Night Market.
This separation also gives the series its most flamboyant character yet: Alucard Emery, the legal pirate captain of the Night Spire. Charismatic and seemingly pansexual, Alucard has some major ties to the entire Shades of Magic trio, teaching Lila how to control her burgeoning magic and drumming up plenty of old feelings from both Rhy and Kell who knew the Captain before the events of ADSOM.
Character wise I also feel inclined to give a shout out to Hastra, Kell’s royal guard who wants nothing more in life than to be part of a plot. More of precious cinnamon roll Hastra in book three please!
Didn’t think book one had enough romance? While I personally was a fan of the Lila/Kell friendship, Schwab does throw romance junkies a few nuggets this time around. I won’t name names and ruin my favorite potential couple however, that would take all the fun out of it.
Unfortunately, while the story has many highs, AGOS does end on a pretty big cliffhanger. However, as Schwab points out, this is her first ever cliffhanger in nine books, so I suppose she’s earned it.
- Much like its predecessor, AGOS is deftly plotted and intelligently written
- All my favorites are back, and I even gained some new ones (Alucard, you cad!)
- The plot twists — especially the resurrection, but especially that “your crown is crooked” scene
- Appreciated the major plot and action shifts away from saving the world
- Enjoyed the focus on Kell’s world as opposed to all the others, but still loved the brief forays into White and Grey London
- Next book now? Please?
- “People survived by being cautious, but they got ahead by being bold.”
- “The irony was that they had abandoned magic long before it abandoned them, smothered it with this almighty God of theirs.”
- “Looking for trouble, said a voice in her head. You’re gonna look till you find it.”
- “Politics is a dance until the moment it becomes a war. And we control the music.”
- “People could only hurt you if you cared enough to let them.”
- “I am Delilah Bard … Pirate, thief, magician. …I have crossed worlds and taken ships. Fought queens and saved cities. …I am one of a kind.”
- “If only words were weapons…”
- “It reminded her of the sea and the night sky. It reminded her of sharp knives and stars and freedom.”
Want more Shades of Magic in your life? Gerard Butler’s production team has acquired the rights to bring the books to life as a limited-series. Let the fan-casting begin!