A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #2 (2/3)
Published by Tor on February 23, 2016
Genres: [Adult] Fantasy
Format: Paperback, ARC
5 Stars, Completed February 24, 2015
– read the bold text to avoid SPOILERS –
Alright, it’s official. Victoria Schwab has earned her place among my top tier must-buy-new-releases-immediately authors. I enjoyed A Darker Shade of Magic when I buddy read it mid-2015, but I was still hesitant to claim Schwab as a favorite-precisely because I had only read one book of hers and there were small flaws I couldn’t overlook in ADSoM. But, after this thrilling sequel, it’s been confirmed.
[I don’t normally do this before my reviews to sequels, but in case you haven’t read my review of A Darker Shade of Magic. You can go here. I’m extremely proud of it. (I really believe it was the primary reason why I got an ARC of A Gathering of Shadows and it was a post that literally prompted weeks of writing/deleting drafts before I could gather my thoughts. (Did you see what I did there? “Gather my thoughts”… A Gathering of Shadows…)]
A Gathering of Shadows takes place four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic. Red London is still dealing with the repercussions after the fateful Black Night. However, this doesn’t deter all from preparing for the Element Games, an international tournament between the strongest magicians held to strengthen political ties and entertain the populace. Meanwhile, White London seems to be in a weary disarray after the Dane twins’ deaths. Grey London is experiencing an unforeseen pandemonium and is missing a certain female aspiring pirate. And Black London is stirring. With the rise of the latter London, the balance has been tipped and another London must fall.
I don’t want to die-dying is easy. No, I want to live, but getting close to death is the only way to feel alive. And once you do, it makes you realize that everything you were doing before wasn’t actually living. It was just making do. Call me crazy, but I think we do the best living when the stakes are high.
The sense of adventure and exhilaration certainly did not wane with this second installment. In fact, with the the Element Games (Essen Tasch) it only intensified. The Essen Tasch reminded me of the Hunger Games (from, well, The Hunger Games) and the Triwizard Tournament (from Harry Potter) in a good, reminiscently mood inspired way. What happened in each were fundamentally different, but they all gave off a healthy, familiar vibe of anticipation and prompted occasional scooting to the edge of the seat scenes for readers.
However, I must address that I’m a tad dismayed by how little focus there was on the balance between the four Londons and the rise of Black London arc of the story. I understand that this is the middle book of the trilogy and it’s bound to focus on other aspects than the ongoing plot as the filler, but I couldn’t help but notice that the first half of the book leading up to the games was on the slower paced side of the spectrum. Despite this, it didn’t take me long to get into the story because Lila’s time at sea, the introduction of new characters, and the witty banter were still extremely engrossing.
While on the subject of the dialogue… Ah, the wit. There was an addition to the main cast, and let’s just say there were also an abundance of witty remarks and humorous banter. I found myself laughing quite a bit. I even bookmarked pages, which as most know I seldom ever do. I have a good feeling I’m going to be flipping to those tabs to relish those fun moments for the next couple of days.
What made this sequel so satisfying was the character development. I mentioned in my A Darker Shade of Magic review that I liked the characters but didn’t really feel much for them. They were what I deemed “cardboard” consistency-meaning they were underdeveloped and weren’t really memorable. But I also did discuss that I wasn’t particularly worried about it since I knew this installment would hopefully focus more on the characterization. And A Gathering of Shadows did exactly that. New characters were introduced, the identities of the old cast were further explored, BrOTPs emerged, ships sailed. Exactly as how I’d hope.
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.
And I believe I’ve developed a fictional woman crush towards Lila. Holland was my favorite character in book one for his enigmatic presence, but fearless, sharp-tongued Lila was so fab in this one.
I knew I wouldn’t be happy, not until I tried. Can’t think of a worse thing, than wondering what would have been.
So for those that categorize under the group that found A Darker Shade of Magic slow, disappointing, or lacking, let Schwab prove you wrong with this magnificent installment. I, personally, really enjoyed ADSoM but I found that the common reservations I had for it with other readers were resolved in book two.
(MAJOR SPOILERS; DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE YET TO READ THE BOOK)
You can see them by highlighting the white text.
- Alucard Emery (you shameless flirt!)
- Just about everything with and leading to the tournaments
- The evasive relationship between Kell/Rhy has been updated to brOTP
- Kell always thinking about Lila (hahahahahhaahhahahhhh)
- A romantic balcony scene (redolent of The Infernal Devices trilogy; happy sigh)
- Lila in a dress
- Hastra (my favorite royal guard yet!)
- Black London awakens and has tipped the balance (another London shall fall??)
- Holland’s return
- THE FACT THAT LILA MAY BE ANTARI?! Nah, I’m pretty certain she is!
- THAT UNWELCOMED CLIFFHANGER THOUGH.
Overall, I did have a tiny reservation in regards to the distribution between the four Londons and Element Games storylines, but I’m still bumping this one to a perfect 5 stars. Ultimately, this is probably one of the best and most satisfying sequels I’ve read in a very long time. The more fleshed out characters were gratifying and the entertainment was exciting. And, oh my gosh, that ending. (Insert the horrified “The Scream” emoji.) Book three, I am so ready for you.
Quotes were taken from an uncorrected advance readers copy.
Special thanks to Tor for providing me this review copy of A Gathering of Shadows. In no way did this affect my reading experience or honest review.