by V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #2
Published on February 23, 2016 by Tor
Genres: Adult, 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.
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CAUTION: This book is not for the faint of heart. Prepare yourself for soul-crushing, emotional trauma that can only be relieved by the words of a book yet to be released. For your safety, do not attempt other activities during or post-reading.
Despite all its failings so far, 2016 is kicking ass in the book world. So many great titles released into the wild only to devour their readers (though I think it’s supposed to be the other way around?). Earlier this year I had the chance to read A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. It took almost two weeks before I was semi-functional again. After finishing A Gathering of Shadows, I can tell that it will be a similar case and there may be a competitor for my favorite fantasy author.
Four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, we find our favorites apart on their own life adventures. Lila Bard, resident thief and wannabe pirate, is now a member of the Night Spire crew, sailing the seas and doing what she does best. Meanwhile, Kell remains in Red London with his brother Rhy trying to maintain order and keep himself from going insane after the end result of their fight against the Danes months before. This time around, you see a lot more of Rhy’s perspective along with Lila and Kell, as well as a few new characters including one very loyal subject to the new king of White London and Lila’s captain/friend Alucard who has more of a history with Kell and Rhy than I ever expected.
This book ripped out a part of my heart and soul, whisking it away to Red London — for safe keeping, burning, a treasure for Kell, I don’t know. Either way, I was so far gone by the end that reality took time to come back to. The story itself wasn’t very fast-paced for almost half the book as it set up the second mind-blowing part. It actually took me several days to finally sit down and read this book through which is unheard of for me. I was hooked from chapter one but something kept holding me back from continuing and it wasn’t until I finished that I realized I was afraid to finish the book. If I read it, then it was over.
I didn’t want it to be over.
A Gathering of Shadows introduces the Element Games, a competition between three countries who each send 12 magicians into the arena to battle it out. I was reminded of another 2016 release, The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, but this was on a much grander scale. While this took up Kell’s side of the story, and Lila was at sea with the Spires up until right before the Games, the story fell to the aftermath of book 1 and how the characters dealt with it. Not only did I deal with my own emotional trauma from reading this book (and I mean that in the best way possible), I saw the repercussions of ADSOM through the eyes of Kell and Rhy specifically. These scenes are what slowed the beginning down in terms of pacing but I wouldn’t say they detracted from the novel as a whole.
Plus, these characters are too good to leave. Lila has a quick wit and cleverness to rival the best of them, and a strong stubborn streak to match. Kell is mine. I’m making a claim and will fight anyone for him (go get your orbs because IT. IS. ON.). He suffers so much but continues forward and loves so deeply for those few that he’s allowed to see him, the true side and not the public face. And Rhy. I mean, if I can’t have one prince I’ll certainly take the other. I wanted to wrap him in a plush blanket and make him hot chocolate or something, take him far away from the world and the nastiness it holds. My heart truly went out to him more so than ever this book. And I might as well mention Captain Alucard Emery, flirt and sea king with an air about him that makes you want to like him. You don’t even have to try because after you meet him you’re sure he’s going to be great (plus his history with the princes…I mean, I understand).
Though I love these characters for their personalities, it’s Schwab’s writing that brings them and the world to life. Everything is there, ripe for the mind’s taking. Visual written mastery with people that are intriguing. Mysterious. Relatable. Lovable. Intoxicating. Of all words that is how I would describe this book, this series, this writing. Top shelf worthy with the rest of my favorites.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get some tissues for my wallet when it finds out I plan to buy all of V.E. Schwab’s books.