Shades of awesome. 4.5/5 stars.
The blurb: 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.
This review will be spoiler-free. However, if you want to know absolutely nothing then just know this: if you enjoyed book 1 – A Darker Shade of Magic – then you will enjoy A Gathering of Shadows.
And if you enjoy fantasy fiction and haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic yet, what are you waiting for?! Here’s my 5* review.
That said, on to the review of A Gathering of Shadows…
V.E. Schwab’s writing is as brilliant as ever. Writing clear, direct and highly-evocative prose is a great skill and one which can get overlooked as everyone raves about world-building and characters.
Although, to be fair, we should rave about the world-building and characters because they continue to be stellar. There’s a lot going on in A Gathering of Shadows and, although it’s a long book, I thoroughly enjoyed it, stayed up far too late two nights in a row to finish it and would happily have read the next book straight away.
So why haven’t I given this book 5 stars? Ah…well, I have a few niggles.
The middle book of any trilogy has to perform a delicate juggling act. It has to: (1) deal with the fall-out from the first book; (2) have some action which is new and its own and; (3) set up things for book 3.
The fall-out from book 1 was great. Previous events have had a significant impact on our favourite characters and it was good to see them struggling with consequences.
The set up for book 3 was awesome. Each time there was a chapter referring to this plot strand I thought, “ARGH! This is going to be nail-biting and epic!” But then, as we passed the half-way point, I realized that this nail-biting epicness was all going to be in Book 3. Ah. Damn.
Which brings us to (2): the action which belongs only to this book. It’s not a spoiler to say this is the tournament (it’s in the blurb), and I thought this was fine. It was action-packed and entertaining, but I was distracted from it because I was so tantalized by the hints of the on-the-horizon epicness we have awaiting us in book 3.
My other quibble would be that Kell and Lila are kept apart for far too long. Although their separation is fairly well compensated for by decent amounts of Kell and Rhy interaction (I love those two together. Definitely the best relationship in the series).
Overall: fans of A Darker Shade of Magic will be delighted, traumatized and left screaming for Book 3. So basically another runaway success for V.E. Schwab 🙂