Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic this review will contain spoilers for it as its the second book in the series. Also, there are possible minor spoilers for A Gathering of Shadows in this review as well – read at your own discretion.
You can read my review for A Darker Shade of Magic here.
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: YA, Fantasy
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.
So, I’m sitting here wide-eyed with my jaw dropped right now after having just finished A Gathering of Shadows and I don’t even know where to start. I went into this book having been completely blown away by A Darker Shade of Magic but also without any expectations – I didn’t even read the synopsis. And while the pacing in the sequel faltered a bit for me where it didn’t in the first book, again, I was completely blown away. I was left breathless, shocked, and wanting to dive straight into the final book but knowing I couldn’t until I got my thoughts out.
A Gathering of Shadows begins four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic and we see our two main protagonists on separate journeys. Lila has finally achieved her dream of an adventure at sea, albeit one on the right side of the law rather than the pirate one she always envisioned, and uses it to learn the new world she’s found herself in as well as the magic she somehow seems to have. While Kell, stuck in Red London, is struggling with the consequences of everything that happened – his part in the havoc wrecked upon Red London as well as the magic he wove to bring Rhy back to life that inadvertently tied their lives together. And even though they think of each other often, Lila’s and Kell’s journeys continue to take very different paths. That is until the Essen Tasch, the Element Games, draws the ship Lila is on back to Red London. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the inhabitants of Red London, an old enemy has returned to White London and brought with him magic that is replenishing the city to its former glory but at a cost that could have dire consequences for them all. A Gathering of Shadows will take you on a new, spell-binding adventure that will leave you gasping with your jaw dropped and scrambling to get your hands on the last book.
“Magic is all and none. It’s sight, and taste, and scent, and sound, and touch, and it’s also something else eniterly. It is the power in all powers, and at the same time, it is its own. And once you know how to sense its prescence, you will never be without it.”
Once again, V.E. Schwab’s world building left me in awe! This time around not only do we get a small peek at Black London, which wasn’t nearly enough and creepy to say the least, but we also get to explore so much more of Red London as well as the magical workings of it. And since Lila is sailing the sea we also get to see a little of what life is like outside of Red London, which I loved. Then there’s the Essen Tasch which I found really interesting and almost like a magic Olympics with its many competitors and duels. I also love how it brought different facets of the world into play, other empires outside of Arnes. The intricacy with which V.E. Schwab has built this unique world (technically worlds) and how she reveals layer upon layer of it continues to be one of my absolute favorite things about this series.
Then, of course, there are the familiar characters who have weaseled their way into my heart and the new ones who are swiftly doing the same.
“His fingers drifted to the tokens around his neck, as he struggled to suppress the urge to leave. Run. But he couldn’t, because whatever the king believed, Kell was loyal, to his crown, to his family. To Rhy.”
Honestly, my heart broke for Kell in this. In A Darker Shade of Magic, he made some mistakes that he not only owned up to but ultimately fixed. However, those mistakes didn’t come without their consequences and we see him struggle heavily with those in the sequel. And although he tries to atone for his mistakes the King and Queen continue to distrust him and seemingly forget that he wasn’t the only one who messed up, which bothered me. That along with the fact that the magic he wove to bring Rhy back caused his life to be bound to Rhy’s has Kell feeling trapped, restless, and ready to flee. Though, of course, he doesn’t regret saving his brother and wouldn’t dare leave him. You know those characters you just want to hug and protect? That’s Kell, for me, in this.
Then there’s my favorite little trouble magnet thief, Lila, who has a stubborn and reckless streak a mile wide. Seriously, I love the fact that she just embraces everything and goes for what she wants no matter what. Although, there were times where she got a bit too reckless and I wanted to shake her and tell her to calm it. We get to see her find her adventure and explore magic, though, which I loved. And there was this fantastic character development in the fact that we see her go from being reluctant in the connections she’s making with other characters to kind of being on the path to embracing them by the end.
“She hadn’t been this close to him in months. Her skin hummed where he touched her. Was that normal? If magic coursed through everyone and everything, was this what it felt like when it found itself again?”
And don’t even get me started on Kell and Lila together. I ship them so much and I regret nothing! Every time they even thought about each other I fangirled a little. Then when they met back up? I cheered out loud.
Also, we got more Rhy! I adore him and his charming and mischievous ways. Although, much like Kell, he broke my heart. Rhy blames a lot of what happened in A Darker Shade of Magic on himself since he accepted the necklace from Holland that allowed one of the Dane twins to possess him. He’s always wanted to be a stronger leader for his people and the fact that that want caused him to be tricked eats away at him. And, again, I loved the sibling relationship between Kell and Rhy so much. Sure, they fight but they both care so much for each other and would literally do anything for each other.
“There you go again,” murmured Rhy, leaning his head on Kell’s shoulder. “You never let me fall.”
“And let you take me down with you?” chided Kell, wrapping the prince’s arm around his shoulders.”
And last but certainly not least there’s Alucard who gave me serious Nikolai Lantsov feels. I mean a privateer who is royal and has a bunch of secrets up his sleeves? He became another favorite the second he was introduced. I just really loved his sarcasm and charm, he always made me smile. Plus, his friendship with Lila – I loved it. They both had their secrets and it was funny watching them try to figure each other out. Also, he has this cat named Esa and I want to transport said cat out of the book so she can be mine. Oh and I ship him big time with a certain someone whose name I will not say.
Beyond those four there are actually a plethora of other characters, some old and some new, that I won’t go into detail about because then my review would be majorly spoilery.
“Mysteries are always more exciting than truths.”
Alucard crossed to the table and took up a bottle, while his white cat, Esa, appeared and brushed against Lila’s boot. “Are you made of anything but mysteries?”
Overall, even though it had moments where it dragged, A Gathering of Shadows took me on another incredible adventure that left me wanting more. In fact, I’m still kind of in shock over the cliffhanger and am going to go start A Conjuring of Light right now because I need to know what happens.
Have you read A Gathering of Shadows? What did you think? If not is it on your TBR?