Book Review: A Gathering of Shadows – V. E. Schwab


Title: A Gathering of Shadows (2016)
Series: Shades of Magic – Book 2
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 508 pages
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Rating: ★★★★☆

Goodreads Description

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.


So… I jumped right into A Gathering of Shadows after reading A Darker Shade of Magic. I’ve never been good at denying myself things and as my previous review showed, I really enjoyed ADSOM. Thankfully this turned out to be a good decision because A Gathering of Shadows really carried the story forward and was yet another adventure. This review will contain spoilers for the first book.

Like with ADSOM, pacing is a bit of an issue again here. The first half of the book covers the four months that have passed through flashbacks and flash-forwards, and I found myself occasionally impatient to get to when Kell and Lila would finally meet again, which to me was what I was looking forward to the most. Don’t get me wrong, their individual journeys as characters were interesting as well, just not as interesting as the kinds of trouble they’d get into when together (personally).

The bulk of this book, however, deals with them as separate characters on separate journeys. This time Lila is getting closer to what she thought she wanted, but also starting to realise that maybe she wanted even more than that. Some of her decisions frustrated me, but her character was superbly consistent to what we already know of her, so props to Schwab for that.

“Everyone thinks I have a death wish, you know? But 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 actually 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.”

Kell’s story was also intriguing. After what he did for Rhy in ADSOM, he is literally bound to the prince, which led to several consequences on his relationship with Rhy, his relationship with the King and the Queen, as well as his relationship with himself and the magic he’s able to do. This internal conflict of his made up for the bulk of his story arc and it’s well-written, I think, a good use of the pages.

“There you go again,” murmured Rhy, leaning his head on Kell’s shoulder. “You never let me fall.”

There is a bit more romance in this book than ADSOM, and I really enjoyed it. I don’t really get ‘shippy’ feelings anymore but this book really called it out from me, and I found myself bouncing with excitement whenever something romantic was happening or about to happen. What’s there is subtle, under the surface, and it’s just pure fun for me to read. 😛

“Oh yes, your relationship with Miss Bard is positively ordinary.”

“Be quiet.”

“Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.”

Plot-wise, as soon as the pace picks up, A Gathering of Shadows was damn near impossible to put down. I finished it in two days, and that was only because I started reading really late the first day and had to wake up early the next morning. Parts of the Element Games were admittedly a bit boring, but it was the other scenes—the characters, their relationships–that really sold the story to me.

As a sequel, I like to think that this book did a really good job. We get a better sense of the magic here, a better sense of the worlds (worlds, as in parallel), a better sense of the possibilities. Old characters pop us as well in this book, as well as new ones—the former of which was developed well, and the latter of which I felt mostly lacked screen time. Perhaps this will be remedied in the third title.

A Gathering of Shadows ended with a cliffhanger. I kind of wished it didn’t—I kind of felt like the first part of the book could’ve been condensed, so the second half could be expanded and we could move forward with the plot a bit more—but for all its weaknesses, I was overall really satisfied with this book and can’t wait for the next. ❤

40 thoughts on “Book Review: A Gathering of Shadows – V. E. Schwab

  1. I had difficulty putting my finger on the nuances of why I didn’t love AGOS as much as ADSOM. I think you’re right about the pacing. What did you think of Alucard? Yes, Lila is consistent but holy crap, that girl. **spoiler alert** My first “damn, Schwab, you’re good” moment was the twist about Lila in the opening scene. In AGOS, I think I was more interested in reading about Lila and Alucard than about Kell and Ry, although the magic games were entertaining. The sinister happenings in White London were super intriguing.


    • Aww, sorry to hear that. Both books were really good for me – my biggest problem is indeed the pacing, because it’s like… I KNEW great things are waiting for me in this book, it just took waaay too long for these things to happen.

      Alucard I think was a good addition to the main characters (if he is even one), although I wouldn’t mind and I think would enjoy more a female character, just because this book is kind of lacking those. I like how well he fits with the Kell-Rhy-Lila trio, though – there’s already some history there that makes things a bit more interesting. What did you think of him? 😛

      I liked that scene too! I knew she was going to survive because we’ve just started the book, but hey. The sinister happenings in White London were super intriguing, I agree — too bad the book ended before we could see more of those, but here’s to A Conjuring of Light!


  2. Great review, Reg! I looved this book, and I like the fact that the romance is very subtle here, just the perfect amount for me. I feel like the cliffhanger wasn’t that bad tough! I mean I was still breathing after haha


    • Thanks, Estefani! I loved this book too – I enjoyed it IMMENSELY. And yeah, subtle romance actually tends to bring out more emotion in me just because the characters aren’t doing it themselves. 😛

      In comparison to other cliffhangers, probably not! I mean, it’s Kell after all. Did you like this book more or ADSOM?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly I feel like we can appreciate more the romance aspect when it’s more in the background of the story. I think the cliffhanger wasn’t so bad because we already know that Lilah is determined to get him back, so that’s a relief haha. I enjoyed both, but to me, this one was more entertaining in every aspect.


          • I did!! But I didn’t know it already had a blurb! I just read it, it doesn’t say much, but I like it that way, though haha. OMG and the cover is stunning! I think it’s my favorite out of the three. Do you like it?


            • I LOVED IT. I think I like it more than the first two – I wasn’t a huge fan of the cream colour but I really love the final look, haha. AND THE BLURB, oh god. The sense of urgency is everywhere and I just can’t wait. ❤

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay! I am so glad you liked this book. Out of the two AGOS is my favourite so far but part of me thinks the third book will be even better (after that cliffhanger I know I can’t wait to get my hands on it).
    I was like you re really impatient for Lila and Kell to meet again but I really enjoyed how Kell and Rhys’s relationships was expanded on, I felt like that was kind of pushed to one side a little in the first book. And I enjoyed seeing Lila learn more about her magic, and flashing back to everything that happened over the last four months with her, I loved her journey aboard the pirates ship 🙂 but my favourite part was when the two met face to face again which made the near misses kind of frustrating.
    Great review Reg! 😀


    • I hope the third book is even better too — THE COVER LOOKS AMAZING, I literally can’t stop staring at it for a second or two there.

      Oh yeah, Rhy definitely became a bit more of a major character in AGOS, whereas before it was more Lila and Kell’s story. I know, the near misses were frustrating but on a masochistic note I feel like they did their build-up – say if they had met right on page 1 I wouldn’t have been wanting them to meet so badly, and the reward wouldn’t feel as good, you know? 😛

      Thanks, Beth! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my god I didn’t realise the cover had even been released until you just mentioned it but I looked it up now and OHMYGOD it is so gorgeous!
        I loved Rhy in the first book so seeing him, as well as his relationship with Kell, really get more developed in this book I loved. God I know what you mean, I think part of the fun (if that’s the right word) of this book was waiting for both of them to meet face to face again, and it was brilliant when they did, wouldn’t have been the same if they’d been reunited on page 1 I agree!


        • IT IS. Have you read the excerpt yet? IT’S AMAZING. Oh god I’m so excited for this book, and it’s gonna be released in February! That’s still so far away.

          Absolutely. I think this book definitely brought their ~bromance~ into centre stage and gave it more depth – I’m just hoping ACOL will have both Kell/Lila and Kell/Rhy, haha. I think I would love that. 😛

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh my god there’s an excerpt as well!!! I need to go and look that up like immediately I had no idea until you mentioned it! Yeah February is too far away, I don’t know how I’m going to survive!
            I think based on the way AGOS ended there will definitely be more Kell/Lila, we can hope anyway. Personally I’d love to see all three of them together because I feel that would be an epic team!


            • THERE IS THE EXCERPT. LOOK IT UP. It made me squeal even harder because omg, Lila. LILA. I’m literally bouncing with excitement just thinking about it.

              Yeah, the trio would be good too. I would actually also love to see more Lila/Rhy interactions, just because so far what’s there has been dominated by Kell – talking about Kell, talking with Kell…

              Liked by 1 person

              • I looked it up! Oh my god it made me want this book even more now and I didn’t think that was possible, why can’t it be February already!!! Someone needs to get on inventing a time machine or something stat!
                Actually yeah that would be good, it’d be nice to see Lila and Rhy interacting in a way that doesn’t involve Kell directly, I feel like the two of them could be great friends and serious troublemakers together as well! Imagine what they’d get into if left to their own devices, I doubt Red London would survive! 🙂


                • On one hand I want time to fly so I can get my hands on certain books, but on the other hand OH MY GOD I’m getting so old.

                  I sooo think that Lila and Rhy will be troublemakers without Kell to hold them back, haha. He seems to be the only really responsible one, Lila and Rhy just kind of do whatever they want to do. 😛

                  Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s quite intriguing that as a reader and [more than not] a fan of Lila’s character, I’m -okay- when she is grey and does shit that harms others as it’s in her framework. But once I step outside of the story and wonder “am I really okay that she just beat up this guy JUST to take his spot…?” that I’m questioning why I’m okay with this behaviour LOL. I know she’s not trying to be honorable or anything but what a dubious teaching moment that is for readers who herald Lila’s get-whatever-you-want-at-whatever-cost mantra.


    • I agree 100%, but for me personally it’s just always the way I am with non-contemporary books – the ‘usual’ moral rules I apply to contemporary characters don’t apply and I just am way more accepting when they’re objectively bad (i.e. an assassin, a thief, etc.)… within reason. In reality, I really wouldn’t consider any of the characters in this book to be a role model at all.😛


  5. I’m really dragging my feet on picking up AGOS because ADSOM didn’t really do much for me. However, thanks to your review, I have higher hopes than I did (I’m trying to go in with little-to-no expectations in hope that I’ll enjoy it more). I’m really excited to see how Kell’s decision in regard to Rhy plays out. Thanks for this! 😀


  6. I am so glad you enjoyed this book and I definitely agree with a lot of the points you made. The anticipation of the reunion between Kell and Lila was at times unbearable and things really did get kicked up a notch when they finally did reunite. I love that we got to focus on the characters in this installment and Kell’s inner turmoil had me wanting to give that guy a hug. I also loved that we got to hear more of Rhy’s voice because the events of the last book had a direct impact on his life as well. This is one series where I literally cannot predict what happens next but I hope there aren’t too many casualties and that the questions I have get answers.


    • I KNOW. When they finally met it’s like OMG I’m being rewarded and the satisfaction is just so goood. I think this whole series just calls out the fangirl in me because I get SO excited talking/thinking about it the way I don’t with others, haha.

      I love that it’s so unpredictable – it makes things interesting, and it makes the stakes higher. Have you read the excerpt for ACOL yet?

      Liked by 1 person

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