A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Published by Tor Books
In the Acknowledgments section of the book, Victoria Schwab writes “Here we are again. The end of another book.” Indeed, the end of this one, but happily not the end of the adventure. There is more to come!
But for now, let’s talk about this one.
So here we are, about four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic. Lila is part of the crew on a pirate ship, living her dream of being on the high seas, and working closely with her Captain who is teaching her about her newfound powers. When she learns of the Essen Tasch — a magical competition being held in Red London – Lila is torn between wanting to test her abilities and the possibility of running into Kell, who she is still trying to reconcile her feelings for.
Kell is also struggling with his feelings for Lila, but even more importantly he’s feeling a tremendous amount of guilt at what transpired those four months ago. The people of Red London seem to fear him now; his own adoptive parents mistrust him and are desperately trying to keep him from leaving the Palace. His smuggling days are over. They know that if anything happens to him, it also happens to Rhy, his brother, and heir to the throne. This leaves Kell feeling trapped and stifled.
Rhy knows his brother is struggling, but he’s also feeling the effects of that fateful night that bound them forever. He’s suffering from horrific nightmares that are keeping him from sleeping, and he’s not very good at keeping this from Kell. But Rhy has an idea! He’s decided that Kell will compete in the Essen Tasch – but it’s not going to be easy, and he devises a plan to deceive the competitors, the spectators and even his parents. His only problem? Getting Kell to agree.
In the meantime, while all this is going on in Red London, another London is having an awakening. As a dark force is rising, Kell, Rhy, and all of Red London are oblivious – they’re enjoying the Essen Tasch.
Unlike the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, this book delves more into each individual character and we get a lot more insight into how they tick, while the world building takes a back seat. I really liked that aspect of this book. Although I appreciate how an author uses so much creativity to build a world unlike our own – with magic, no less – I do tend to favor books that are more character driven.
I have to admit, I was a bit frustrated that Lila and Kell had so little time together – but when they finally connected, it was crackling with the same snappy and smart dialogue that I loved so much in the first book. This is where Schwab shines. She has a way with dialogue that makes reading conversations between our favorite characters fun and easy. And it’s not just Lila and Kell. There is also the relationship between Lila and her captain, Alucard. A new character to the series, Alucard has become a kind of mentor for Lila – and I really like this addition. For all of the angst that we read between Kell and Rhy, the character of Alucard adds quite a bit of humor and mystery.
Now for me, the elephant in the room is the Essen Tasch. This contest of magical abilities is the slowest part of the book for me. I just don’t like reading about any type of competition, and I found myself skipping over paragraphs just to get it done. But to give the book credit, it’s a small part of the book, and it doesn’t drag on too long.
All in all, another hit for V. E. Schwab that I enjoyed, and I already pre-ordered “A Conjuring of Light”, the last book of the series. I’m going to miss these characters. Let’s hope that the last book wraps everything up in a nice tidy bow – and to our liking!
You can follow the author on Twitter @veschwab, where she’s pretty active, and pretty funny.
You can read my thoughts on the first book of the series, “A Darker Shade of Magic” in an earlier post.
As always, please feel free to comment below!