Hi everyone! I’m back with another book review today. I’ll be taking a look at the second book in Schwab’s fantasy series featuring Kell and Delilah, A Gathering of Shadows. I have recently reread the first book in the series A Darker Shade of Magic to make sure I am fully immersed in what is going on, and you can read a short review of that book on Goodreads. It is a fairly neutral review as my emotions seem to disappear after reading a book for the second time (sorry). Okay, so let’s get into book two! I have tried not to give too much away about what happens in book 1, but the blurb does have some spoilers.
Title: A Gathering of Shadows
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Published: February 2016 (UK)
Publisher: Titan Books
Acquired: Bought in a Waterstones bookshop
Book Blurb (features book 1 spoilers!):: Kell is one of the last magicians with the ability to travel between parallel universes, linked by the magical city of London. It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into his possession and he met Delilah Bard. Four months since the Dane twins of White London fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body back into Black London.
Now Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila. And as Red London prepares for the Element Games- an international competition of magic- a certain pirate ship draws closer. But another London is coming back to life. The balance of magic is perilous, and for one city to flourish, another must fall…
Well, this book was certainly something!
In short (without giving too much away) A Darker Shade of Magic (ADSOM) follows the lives of Kell, Rhy and Lila four months after the events of A Gathering of Shadows (AGOS). Lila is adjusting to life in Red London, while Kell and Rhy are living with a new bond between them and are trying to calm their turbulent emotions within the palace. The upcoming Essen Tach – or Element Games- tournament is Rhy’s big project, and both Kell and Lila get embroiled in the events within and outside the magic matches. Trouble is, of course, never too far away from these characters.
AGOS focuses on 4 key POVs: Kell’s, Rhy’s, Lila’s and White London’s. I did feel that White London took a bit of a back seat in this book; either that or I just wasn’t very invested in their storyline about their royal surprises rising up from the Danes’ defeat. However the White King definitely made a huge movement towards the end, so much so that I couldn’t ignore it. It is definitely the catalyst for the next installment and I can’t wait.
Oh god, but that ending though!
It was really fast-paced, which is just up my street. I’m a bit sadistic when it comes to characters I like so I really enjoyed the action and desperation they felt. But oh gosh Victoria Schwab left the book at a cliffhanger, with Red London facing a huge threat and life hanging in the balance! How could you do this to me! :O I really hope Kell and Rhy and everyone are okay, but I have to wait until 2017 to find out, wahhh!!
Okay, on to some quick character points. Kell and Rhy. OMG my babies. I’ll be honest here, I don’t like how the seal and the events in ADSOM had changed Kell and Rhy’s personalities. It was disrupting their usual balance and I found it difficult. Yet I enjoyed the anguish between them and the little glimpses of the brotherly love fighting back to adjust to this new bond. Schwab is a master at making characters so loveable with so many flaws. Rhy’s POV definitely gave him a lot more depth than the first book (in ADSOM he was a bit of a whiny brat sometimes). With Rhy’s guilt and Kell’s family exclusion and general internal crisis after the Black Stone incident, I really felt for both of them in the end.
I’m not sure about Lila at the moment. On one hard she so strong and admirable, and I love her actions on board the Night Spire. Typical badass Lila behaviour. But for some reason it bugged me that she wanted to get involved in the Essen Tach. It was as if she had to prove her worth, when no one had explicitly doubted her in Arnes (ok Kell doesn’t count ‘cos he is an overprotective SOB sometimes). It wasn’t like she simply ‘snuck in’, she forcibly inserted herself into the whole messy situation, which I just didn’t understand. I would have preferred it if she had been involved in typical Lila fashion, but instead stuck around in the sidelines or with Emery. Buuut that’s just me. I’m still happy to have a badass female character in a book, even if I don’t agree with everything she does. I also have some suspicions about what she is with regards to the final book, but we shall wait and see! 😛
Also, Alucard is a great new addition to the series. 😀 Captain of the Night Spire, mysteriously magically adept, and sassy as fuck, I love him. I learnt so many new things about him in this book that only broadens his character and makes him much more realistic. I now understand the issues between Kell and Alucard but I wasn’t expecting it at all, I thought it would have been a lot more macabre or related to family honour. I hope we get to see more of him, his banter and his feelings in the next book!
Finally I want to talk about the technical bits. The book is laid out in a similar style to A Darker Shade of Magic, in that it contains chapters within 10 ‘acts’. This style does make the book really easy to read as the story progresses in a very linear fashion. I always find it hard to describe the flow of this series well. In ADSOM I did have a little issue as I felt the plot sequence was a bit generic/cliché and a lot like a fixed plot in a movie or something. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there were times when I thought, “oh, of course this would happen”. However I really didn’t feel this as much in A Gathering of Shadows. Everything seemed to mingle a lot more and it wasn’t so static for me. The only bit that made me groan a little in this novel was the Lila’s decision with the Essen Tach.
Of course this is more of a personal preference rather than a critique of the books, and I still think the series itself is amazing. I love the world of the multiple Londons and Antari, it is so magical and everything is so well done. Victoria Schwab has such a knack for creating rich fantasy worlds with unique elements, making her books stand out as fresh front-runners of the magic genre.
The only thing I had trouble with was the Essen Tach act. I still can’t quite work out if there wasn’t enough detail about the arenas/matches or if there was too much (especially with so many new characters), but I found it hard to visualise everything in my brain.
However I love Schwab’s writing style. Each chapter starts as she means to go on, short punchy lines that always make me want to keep reading. My personal favourite:
“Dammit, Bard, you’re going to set the cat on fire.”
I love it. The language she uses is just up my street, a bit of sarcasm goes a long way. In fact it is because of this that I couldn’t help but keep reading this story. It would get to a point where I would mark the end of a chapter as where I was going to stop for the night, but I would ‘accidentally’ read the first sentence of the next chapter as I was closing the book. That was it then, I was hooked and I couldn’t NOT read what happens next!
Overall there wasn’t a lot I didn’t like about this book. I mean with magic, pirates, royalty and a whole lot of trouble, what’s not to like? I love the characters and world that Schwab creates, and UGH THAT CLIFFHANGER. Despite my little niggles it is definitely a series worth checking out and I only wish that the release date of book 3 was a little sooner!
(Again if anyone has any feedback on my blog review it would be much appreciated!)