Book: A Gathering of Shadows
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Magic
Published: 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 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.
It’s taken me a while to put my thoughts about this book into words. Since I finished it almost two weeks ago, I’ve been overcome with that horrible feeling that bubbles up after a really good read: nothing else seems to be able to compare to it.
You know how everyone says that the sequel is always worse than the original? Yeah. Those people haven’t met Victoria Schwab, and they most certainly haven’t read A Gathering of Shadows.
There was more action, more character development, more magic, more awesome characters (here’s looking at you, Alucard), more complex antagonists, more fun. I genuinely had fun reading this book, and I also went through a cacophony of other emotions as well.
So where A Darker Shade Of Magic might have been slightly lacking in the action department, this one starts off in the thick of it: Lila has found trouble (or is it the other way around?) yet again. And it’s glorious.
In my review of ADSOM, I said that I didn’t think you were necessarily meant to like Lila, but rather appreciate that she was a complex character, whether or not that placed her in opposition to Kell. Now, I think that was in part because ADSOM was mostly made up of Kell pov chapters, and for most of the book, he was also navigating how to react to her. It makes sense that the reader would feel that way too.
AGOS, on the other hand, is primarily set in chapters from Lila’s perspective, which offers the reader a bit more insight into what makes her such a complex character. We get to see past the front that she puts up, get to know what motivates her actions, and how she views other characters, such as Kell.
“Perhaps power had to be tended, like Tieren said, but not all things grew in gardens. Plenty of plants grew wild. And Lila had always thought of herself more as a weed than a rose bush”
The way that Schwab writes these characters almost reminds me of Maggie Steifvater’s characterization in The Raven Cycle. It’s elegant, and the plot is thoroughly character-driven. The combination of the action and relationships create a story that’s at once both page-turning and heartfelt.
And have I ever mentioned how much I love slow burn romance? Seriously. People complained about the lack of romance in the last book, and all I have to say to them is this: be patient with the ships, people. All good things in due time.
I also wanted to mention how grateful I was to Schwab for accurately portraying a depressed character without diagnosing or labeling or making it out to be an antagonizing thing. I’ve known my share of people with depression, I’ve experienced it to some degree myself, and I genuinely appreciated how she was able to weave it into the character. I won’t say which one, because that would be spoilery, but know that it’s not added to the character without reason. It was gracefully written, and although hard to read at times, made sense.
Although, okay, that ending – seriously? I can’t believe I have to wait until next February now…
If I could, I’d go back in time for the experience of reading this book for the first time again. But seeing as I don’t have a time turner, those of you who haven’t yet read it will just have to do that for me!
As always, happy Sunday!