A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab (Review) | Bookish

A Gathering of Shadows FinalSPOILER ALERT: A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in the Shades of Magic series by V. E. (Victoria) Schwab. This review will contain series spoilers for the previous book. Click here to read my incoherent, but spoiler-free(!) review of A Darker Shade of Magic.

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab.
Genre: Adult – Fantasy.
Pages: 512.
Format: Hardcover.
Publisher: Tor Books.
Pub. Date: February 23, 2016.

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.

Personal Enjoyment: ●●●●●
Writing Quality: ●●●●●
Recommendability: ●●●●●

It’s no secret that A Darker Shade of Magic  was one of my absolute favorite books of 2015. In fact, I believe Vicious, also by V. E. Schwab, was my number one favorite read of 2014– at this point, it’s turning into a yearly tradition.

A Gathering of Shadows was so much better than A Darker Shade of Magic that I retroactively lowered my 5-star rating to 4-stars just to convey how good this book was.

This second book really fleshed out everything from the first book– I began to feel more at home in and less mystified by Red London. You get more of a grasp on how the common language works, as well as bits and pieces of other languages from around the world and across universes. You get a taste of the political situation between kingdoms, which is straining to its breaking point. And there were so. Many. Pubs. I want to visit all of the pubs.

The characters which were introduced in the first book, who carried us along on a breakneck adventure, are still reeling from their brush with black magic in A Darker Shade of Magic, and their restlessness makes them reckless in a time of tenuous peace between kingdoms. A Gathering of Shadows explored the darkness lingering within each of the main characters, simmering under the surface and threatening to break free.

Each character’s point of view affected me differently. With Lila, I found myself cackling out loud. With Rhy, I was restless and angry, occasionally shouting out loud or tearing up. With Kell, well… I’ve discovered all the things that make me happy are the things that flip Kell’s “Grumpy Old Man” switch. And there is one character, whose name I won’t mention because ~~spoilers~~, who reduced me to a whimpering mess every time.

Where A Darker Shade of Magic felt like it was rocketing towards an inevitable (disastrous) conclusion, A Gathering of Shadows felt like a well-calculated weaving of stories. The characters danced around each other, drawing every closer before crashing together. Victoria Schwab is a master at the actual craft of writing; I found myself highlighting the opening and close of nearly every chapter. Her words felt a little like Lila’s knives– sharply honed and on fire.

I loved the time spent in the Essen Tasch (Element Games, similar to the Olympics but with more magic and danger.) Each competitor had a very different perspective and a very different way of fighting. I thought it took up just the right amount of time in the book, though the story did take a while to arrive there, so don’t expect it to jump right into the Essen Tasch.

As far as representation, I did think this book had a spectacular range of fantasy-races and skin tones represented. Rhy is a person of color and bi- or pansexual, Alucard is gay, and Lila is genderqueer (though the word didn’t exist in 1820’s England in her/our world). While they’re not posterchildren of excellent LGBT representation, they are well-fleshed out and believable characters. They’re not stereotypical stand-ins for the groups they represent, they’re complex and nuanced. I know not everyone will agree with me, but I personally prefer and relate to this kind of representation. However, I can’t speak for the accuracy of the portrayal of Lila being genderqueer, so I will defer to those who can. Also, V. E. Schwab had mentioned on Tumblr (the link escapes me found it) seeing Kell as asexual unsure if he wants sex, but I am wary of labeling him as just “asexual” with some of the events in this book (but, again here, I defer.)  The only thing I ask (nay, beg) for is MORE FEMALE CHARACTERS MORE FEMALE FRIENDSHIP I AM DROWNING IN THE TESTOSTERONE. 

There are still so many threads that have yet to tie together, but I’m hoping that a few are left unresolved in the third and final book (A Conjuring of Light) in this story arc so that they can develop into something bigger when V. E. Schwab decides to continue this series.

If you were on the fence about the first book, I beg you to continue reading! A Gathering of Magic is a beautiful sequel.


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