Series: Shades of Magic (Book 2)
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: January 17, 2017
“It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as 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.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.“
I read this book a few months ago, but I still remember (quite clearly) how much I loved it! A Gathering of Shadows places less focus on outside dangers and instead focuses more on the personal situations of each character. While there is trouble brewing in the other Londons, there is no “big bad” to disrupt the peace. Not yet, anyways. The story, instead, develops into something a bit more personal as Schwab delves into the mindsets and internal conflicts of Kell and Rhy, as well as Lila, following the shocking events of the previous book.
Both Kell and Rhy are dealing with the fallout of their actions in the first book and the difference in how they are treated by their family and nation is stark and depressing, especially for Kell. I just really wanted to wrap him up in a blanket the entire time. Kell undergoes some very maddening criticism and how he deals with his new position in life is possibly the most engaging part of the story.
“Why are you defending her?” he snapped, rounding on his brother. “Why am I the only one in this fucking world to be held accountable for my actions?”
Kell’s and Rhy’s relationship becomes much more connected than ever before, though not in an overwhelmingly positive way. Their new (magical) bond brings a whole new tide of issues that affects their everyday actions and behaviors. The two must work together and form an understanding to find a compromise of living. And in doing so, Kell and Rhy demonstrate a strong brotherly love that can only be seen as one of the most powerful sibling bonds I’ve seen in a while.
Rhy held Kell’s pain in his hands, while Kell held Rhy’s life in his.
Lila, too, grows as an individual during her travels. She finds new companionships amongst a band of pirates/privateers (my favorite being Alucard, who is WAY too easy to love), and she also leans into her studies to strengthen her magical powers. She’s still reckless, but more adept and confident than before.
She bent most of the rules. She broke the rest.
Romance may be a subtle aspect to this series, but it’s still an enjoyable one. Though not directly stated by either character, Lila and Kell care deeply for one another. Their game of cat and mouse was a bit tiring by the end (I was really impatient to see them reunite), but at least there was an end to the game and their romance becomes more obvious than before. Rhy is also given a romantic interest, though I won’t spoil it for anyone.
“Oh yes, your relationship with Miss Bard is positively ordinary.”
“Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.”
The Essen Tach, or the Games, were the most exciting addition to the story. There was a good amount of entertaining magical battles that were impressive in their descriptions and captivating in the way it brought Lila and Kell together and aided Kell and Rhy in relieving their stress and unhappiness.
Overall, A Gathering of Shadows may be a bit slower in pace, but it was just as exciting and engaging as the first book.V.E. Schwab continues to show just how talented a storyteller she is, as her world-building remains detailed and vivid and her characters continue to grow into their strongest selves. Her writing is provocative in its ability to encourage readers to support all her characters and to root for them as they face their fears and deal with their internal and external struggles head on.