Release Date: February 23, 2016
Age Group: Adult
Source: ARC provided by publisher for review consideration
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.
Tell Me More: Magic is a set of trades, and nowhere are the stakes higher than in V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. A Darker Shade of Magic serves as a powerful introduction to Kell, Lila, and the four Londons, and the relationships between the characters and their homes provide a rich background for the story that Schwab guides along. But as interesting and engaging as that story is, it’s the characters who are the driving force in Schwab’s work. A Gathering of Shadows not only moves the plot forward, but it also gives each character–Lila, Kell, Rhy–their own platform to stand on, with or without the others.
Schwab chooses to open the novel with several chapters of Lila, establishing her once again as a character who makes things happen, who doesn’t wait for opportunity to come knocking on her door. She’ll kick that door down herself if it’ll get her to where she wants to go. Lila is a delightful character, whose actions are riveting for how they reveal her attention to detail and sheer confidence. I loved every minute I spent with Lila, from the open seas to Red London and back. She claims her space and defends it, and best of all, she truly believes that she deserves that space as much as you deserve yours. You know that she’s bound to run into Kell again, and that the encounter won’t disappoint, because she’s just that captivating.
Kell is a little less free to make his own choices, as he deals with the aftermath of his decision at the end of A Darker Shade of Magic. As his life is now physically and emotionally tied to Rhy’s, both characters struggle with the implications and consequences of that connection, and the restraint they must both exercise if they want to stay alive. Schwab captures that frustration so palpably with such few words, though she doesn’t rely on Kell’s inner thoughts to explain everything either. Kell and Rhy’s interactions with each other are charged with resentment and frustration and a very deep affection for the other, and really, who could blame them?
It’s Rhy who pushes them forward. Schwab provides him more than ample page time in this book, and the story becomes all the richer for it. Rhy is similar to Lila in many ways–it’s easy to see why Kell is drawn to them both. Rhy takes chances and won’t apologize for them, because how else could he really live his life? His dialogue is weighted with the obligation he has to the kingdom, and yet he can joke around and banter so beautifully that you go along with it anyway. I do think that Kell doesn’t give him enough credit for the position that Rhy occupies, and it’s a realization that is all the more painful for what happens in the climax of the book.
A Gathering of Shadows is a very character-driven novel, and I believe second books in a series have to be, because why else would you sign on for another 800 to 1000 pages just to know how it all ends? By the time you make it to the second book, you have to care even a little for the characters, and you have to be invested enough in their arcs to follow them through another installment that has to keep you hooked for the next. In A Gathering of Shadows, Schwab achieves this and more. She continues to lay the groundwork for the inevitable confrontations and fights in the next book, without sacrificing the need for movement in this one. Even knowing that there’s another book to come, you fear for Lila and Kell and Rhy, and you aren’t quite sure if they’ll succeed. Their triumphs still feel short-lived, even when they are able to get what they’re after. Their losses feel like the roots of a bigger conflict, as they should, because everything should matter in a story like this. Each decision determines the turns that their arcs take, and the view of the road ahead. But I trust that V.E. Schwab will continue to be as capable a manager of these questions as she’s proven herself to be in all of the books I’ve loved so far, and I can’t wait to see where the Shades of Magic go next.
As part of the A Gathering of Shadows blog tour, I got to ask V.E. Schwab herself one of my burning questions about the Shades of Magic series!
Lila’s arc is my favourite aspect of the series. How did you develop her arc, and did anything change significantly between ADSOM and AGOS? What can we look forward to her doing in the third book?
Lila Bard is the kind of person readers love or hate, so I’m glad you fall into the former camp! She is unabashedly bold, unflinchingly cunning, unapologetically stubborn. If she wants a thing, she takes it, come hell or high water or Kell. In many ways she’s an aspirational character, since I myself am more like Kell—overthinking, internal, searching for my place—and wish that I could go through life with a little more Lila in my step.
When I set out to construct my knife-wielding lead, all I had in mind was the single image, of Kell walking through a wall, and colliding with a girl dressed as a boy who flashed a smile and picked his pocket. Once I started actually writing the story, her voice came through loud and clear. She values adventure over safety, will take any risk for reward, and isn’t afraid of making enemies. But at her core, she’s also terrified—of being forgotten, of being erased—and that fear drives her forward at every step.
The main difference between ADSOM and AGOS is that, up until book 2, she’s been incredibly lucky, her boldness always paying off, but in AGOS, some of that luck runs out, and we see the danger that comes with being willing to risk everything, the downside of being unwilling to concede defeat.
Thanks for your time!
Victoria is the product of a British mother, a Beverly Hills father, and a southern upbringing. Because of this, she has been known to say “tom-ah-toes,” “like,” and “y’all.”
She also tells stories.
She loves fairy tales, and folklore, and stories that make her wonder if the world is really as it seems.
Categories: Book Reviews