A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Book Two of the A Darker Shade of Magic series
Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.
In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like 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.
But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.
What I Liked:
There is no part of me that is even the slightest bit of okay right now. Victoria Schwab, I loathe you! I mean, I adore you, but I also hate you FOR THAT ENDING! This book was all sorts of brilliant, masterfully written, and painfully cruel. How in the world will I last until February 2017 (let us HOPE and PRAY that that is the latest book three will be published).
It has been four months since the ending of A Darker Shade of Magic. Lila is part of the crew of a pirate - privateer - ship, and she's slowly learning about her limits and abilities. Meanwhile, in Red London, Kell struggles with the bond with Rhy. He doesn't dare take chances, not with Rhy's life at stake. Rhy, on the other hand, overdoes everything. Rhy and Red London is preparing for the Element Games, in which Faro, Arnes, and Vesk competitors engage in a tournament meant to showcase the magical abilities of the countries in a friendly way. But another London is rising from the ashes, and no one will see the threat until it's too late.
I'll admit - I really struggled with the first half of this book. I think part of me just did NOT want to read it, because I was so excited to finally be reading it. If that makes sense. I got this book months ago and couldn't crack open the review copy until now! I was so excited to finally start it and... I just couldn't. BUT. I don't think it was the book's fault, although I DO think the second half is much more interesting than the first half.
We see a lot of Lila on the ship, in the first half. She's her usual thieving, troublesome self, running and running and running. Part of her wonders about Kell, but mostly she's content. She's learning about magic from the ship's Captain, Alucard Emery, who has just as many secrets as she does.
Meanwhile, Kell and Rhy are getting into trouble too (mostly Rhy). Schwab REALLY digs deep into Kell's character. Kell walks on eggshells when it comes to Rhy's safety. You can clearly see how much of a toll it's taking on Kell, how withdrawn and frustrated he's become. And Lila is never far from his thoughts...
The Element Games are a way of maintaining a show of peace between the the three neighboring countries of Arnes, Vesk, and Faro. Twelve magicians are entered, one of which is Captain Alucard Emery, which is how Lila ends up in London again.
This book takes a while to really get going, but looking back, I think the pacing of the story was good. There's no way I would have gotten such a good read and understanding of Lila's character, and Kell's character, had the author not spent so much time crafting them in their separate worlds for so long in the first half.
The second half is all about the Element Games. I will shut my mouth about the Element Games because there is so much craziness surrounding the Games! Let's just say that Lila plays a huge part in the Games, as does Kell, and Alucard. And none of them know each other in the Games (you where masks).
There is this subplot in the book that is threaded throughout the story. Its chapters are never more than three or four pages long, so you could ALMOST skip them if you wanted (you should not)... so the subplot seems insignificant but it EXPLODES at the ending of the book. Very well done by Schwab, how she set that up.
As always, Schwab does an amazing job with the world-building. I've not read a fiction book with a concept like this one! I mentioned that I liked how Schwab digs deep into Kell - and all of her characters. She also did an excellent job with the story's pacing and structure! Setting up the big showdown in book three was done very sneakily and precisely.
I love Kell! He's easily my favorite character of the book (Rhy is cool too... and Alucard... Lila grew on me). He's so troubled and lonely and frustrated, and he feels trapped in the palace, especially since the king, queen, and many of the Arnes people don't trust him anymore (despite him saving everyone's lives in A Darker Shade of Magic). Schwab fleshes out Kell even more than she did in book one, and I think I love him even more.
Lila grew on me in this book! I didn't quite like her in A Darker Shade of Magic (nor did I hate her!), but I really liked her in this book. I think I understand her better. Same with Rhy - I can't remember how I felt about him in book one, but I liked him a lot in this book. And our newest important character, Alucard Emery. He's an enigma! We still don't know enough about him BUT we learn some pretty important tidbits and I am intrigued! I like him so far.
In terms of the romance... well, the thing is, Kell and Lila aren't physically in the same space for the majority of this book. BUT, several solid things happen, in terms of the romance, and that's enough for me to be very satisfied with the romance. There is also a second (separate) ship in the book, and I can't wait to see where that one goes.
Honestly I can't wait to see where the entire book three goes. The ending of this book is SO PAINFUL. I was in shock for at least a minute - you'll expect what happens by the time you get to the climax, but you don't want it to happen. The "villainous" part of this book sneaks up on you, and it strikes like a cobra. Suffice it to say, book three could not come fast enough.
What I Did Not Like:
I'm taking off 0.5 star - and rounding down - because of the cruel cliffhanger ending! I hate cliffhangers and I especially hate it when they break my heart soooo, I knocked off a star (technically a half-star, but I'm rounding down too). Don't mind me.
Would I Recommend It:
I LOVED this book, people. Despite the slow first half, despite the cliffhanger ending, this sequel does not disappoint. Schwab's writing, world-building, plot structure, and character development have flourished from A Darker Shade of Magic, and I'd say this book is at least as good as its predecessor. I am excited (and terrified) to read book three!
4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. Cruel ending is cruel! I really did enjoy this book though. Unfortunately now I must wait in agony for the third book! It sucks when you're so invested in a story - but it's quite magical too! Too bad the wait seems to long, for a resolution. The shadows really gathered, in this book.
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