Series: Shades of Magic #2
Published by Tor Books on February 23rd 2016
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Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
What an incredible read! I could seriously kick myself for waiting so long to pick it up, especially considering how much I loved A Darker Shade of Magic, the first book in the series.
A Gathering of Shadows picks up about four months after A Darker Shade of Magic and what I really loved about it was how character driven the entire book is. Of course it has an incredibly entertaining plot as well, with the Element Games tournament as well as a darker subplot which follows a character we thought we had left behind in the first book, but even with those storylines at play, what drives this book and makes it such a fabulous read are the psychological journeys of these characters and how much we get inside of their heads as they each deal with the fallout from the events of the first book. The struggle of each of our favorite characters is palpable in A Gathering of Shadows as they are each desperately trying to figure out who they even are anymore because everything has changed for each of them.
What I Loved:
The Bond between Kell and Rhy: The fallout from Kell binding his life to Rhy’s to save him in the first book really permeates through everything that takes place in A Gathering of Shadows. Kell doesn’t regret saving Rhy for a single moment, but he is also miserable because he can’t live like he normally would for fear of harming Rhy in the process. In the early chapters, Schwab paints him almost as a restless tiger pacing in a cage. He longs for action and adventure but is terrified of harming his brother in the process. As we learn right away, this magical bond between Kell and Rhy is so strong that if Kell takes a punch, for example, Rhy can actually feel the pain as if it’s happening to him as well. Kell is also miserable because he can feel that the King and Queen, his “parents”, no longer trust him because of what happened in the first book. Rhy, in his own way, is equally miserable because he knows the sacrifice Kell has made for him and he hates it because he can literally sense how trapped and miserable Kell feels. Schwab has so vividly described this bond between the brothers that I just felt so horrible for both of them but also really appreciated that these two men, even though they are not brothers in blood, would truly sacrifice anything and everything for the other.
Speaking of Rhy, I also loved that we got to see so much more of him in this book. His father is grooming him to take on more of a leadership role and so has him hosting the Element Games. As much as I adored Rhy as the fun brother who often served to lighten the mood in A Darker Shade of Magic as he bantered with Kell, I loved seeing this more mature and responsible side of him as he represents his country.
Delilah Bard: There’s no way I can talk about what I loved about this book without mentioning Lila. I didn’t think it was possible to love her more than I did in the first book, but she really blew me away in this one and has become one of my favorite female characters of all time. I actually found myself chuckling at her antics quite a bit in the opening chapters as we see that she has, in fact, realized her dream of becoming a pirate. Lila has earned her spot on Alucard Emery’s privateer by proving — in typical Lila style – that she is the best thief around. On a bet with a couple of Alucard’s crewmen, she actually scams her way aboard a rival pirate ship and then promptly attacks and takes it over. I love that she’s such a badass and that she does whatever she needs to do in order to survive, even if it’s a bit morally questionable. She has always been a survivor and a risk taker and in this book, she takes that to a whole new level as we learn that she has somehow managed to start mastering the elements of magic, which by most accounts, she should not have been able to do. In many ways Lila is shocked at her own magical abilities and so she has somewhat of an identity crisis. Who or what am I and why can I do all of these things that I shouldn’t be able to do? She spends much of the novel testing the limits of her abilities, including, securing by somewhat shady means, a position for herself as a competitor in the Element Games.
Alucard Emery: What a fun new addition to the series Alucard Emery is. Alucard is the captain of the ship Lila has ensconced herself on and the two of them have bonded tremendously as they’ve traveled the seas together. Alucard is also quite the charmer. His banter, both with Lila and then later with Rhy, who it turns out he has a bit of history with (to Kell’s dismay), is just so much fun to read. In many ways he becomes the mood lightener that Rhy was in A Darker Shade of Magic.
The Element Games (or Essen Tasch): Just wow! In some ways this magical tournament reminded me of the Triwizard Tournament from the Harry Potter series – with its magicians visiting from two other countries to participate. Rather than quests for each of the competitors, however, the Essen Tasch is more about using magic in combat. Schwab does a magnificent job of bringing this tournament to life – each match is so vividly described that I felt like I was right there watching earth, air, fire, and water springing to life as commanded by each magician. I also loved how meticulous Schwab is about developing the rules, disqualifiers, and other minute details of this tournament such as the costumes, masks, and props. No details were left to chance and the whole tournament felt that much more authentic because of her efforts. It was incredibly entertaining to read!
That Cliffhanger Ending! OMG! I don’t want to give anything away here, but let’s just say that that dark subplot that has been lurking throughout the novel finally rears its ugly head at the conclusion of A Gathering of Shadows. I have to applaud Schwab’s ability to craft a masterful cliffhanger that has me desperately wanting to get my hands on the next book to make sure my favorite characters are going to be okay.
Anything I Didn’t Like?
That I don’t already have the third book in my hands because of that insane cliffhanger?! No, seriously, I cannot express how much I LOVED this book. As annoyed as I am at myself for putting off reading it for as long as I did, in a way I’m grateful because now I only have to wait about a month for A Conjuring of Light. I think I would have lost my mind if I had read this months and months ago and had such a long wait.
Who Would I Recommend A Gathering of Shadows to?
I would recommend this to anyone and everyone. If you’re looking to get into the fantasy genre for the first time, I think this series is a fantastic place to start. The world building is just so vivid but also relatable since it’s grounded in London, a city that is so familiar to most of us. The characters are badass and yet also charming and fun and sometimes vulnerable. Seriously, if you don’t fall in love with Kell, Lila, and Rhy, I’d be very shocked. I’d also highly recommend this series to readers like me who tend to be somewhat cynical when it comes to romances. So far this series has done a marvelous job of just hinting at potential relationships without having it take over the rest of the plot. It’s very well-balanced in that sense, and so it earns extra high marks from me.
Rating: 5 Stars