Title: A Gathering of Shadows
Series: Shades of Magic #2
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: February 23rd, 2016 (Tor Books)
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 neighbouring 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.
Four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, and the dust has mostly settled. Preparations for the Essen Tasch, the Element Games, are in full swing in Red London, and the international contest between magicians brings faces both old and new from around the world to the heart of the Maresh Empire. Now severely restricted in his travels, Kell is growing more restless by the day as he and Rhy struggle to cope with their new bond. Lila Bard sailed off to become a pirate, but as the Games approach, she finds her path leading back to London too. But while Red London is enthralled by the Games, trouble is brewing and another London is returning to life.
I had my doubts about reading this second book, which is why I put it off for nearly three months, but I’ve never been able to leave a series unfinished and was too curious to know what happens next. The world-building continued to be amazing and I’m still so fascinated by this concept which is honestly my favourite part about this series. The focus is mostly on Red London and Kell doesn’t do as much travelling, but we do get some glimpses of the other three Londons as well and how the events of the first book have affected them.
This was clearly a more character driven book, and that worked really well in some ways and in others, decidedly not. It was interesting seeing how the events of the first book have affected Kell and Rhy in different ways and how it has changed their personalities. As for Lila, she was literally the same annoying, reckless character whose selfish actions made her extremely unlikeable. I don’t know how popular or unpopular of an opinion this is, but where Delilah was merely stubborn and annoying in the first book (and it worked pretty well, in this book, her actions and attitude no longer felt like that of a protagonist. It was only due to Alucard that her chapters were even readable, and for me, disliking a main character makes a book that much harder to get through.
I won’t say I had very high expectations for this sequel, but even so, this was kind of a letdown. The plot was painfully slow. The real excitement didn’t start until around the 70% mark and all that fuss about the games pretty much just felt like background noise. Basically, this book felt like filler and just a bridge to get to the real action in the next book – this is typical second book syndrome and the only reason I struggled through all 500+ pages was because this was by V. E. Schwab and I’ve read enough of her writing to know that the plot had to take a turn at some point.
However, the ending was really good – good enough to redeem the absolute bore that was most of the rest of the book. The 3.5 star rating is mostly because I’m still annoyed I had to sit through the boring parts but I’m hopeful that book 3 will be more interesting. I have to say that considering this book alone, I’m not very impressed, but looking at the series as a whole thus far, I’m still enjoying it and would continue to recommend it for fantasy fans.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: