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
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.”
“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. ❤