Review: A Gathering Of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

a gathering of shadows v e schwab
A Gathering of shadows v e schwab

Title: A Gathering Of Shadows 
Author: V.E. Schwab 
Series: Shades Of Magic #2 
Genre: Fantasy, YA 
Publication date: February 23, 2016 
Rating: ★★★★★ 

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.

Walking away had been easy.
Not looking back was harder.

Some of you may have noticed my rating of this book changing a couple of times. It went from five stars, to four stars, back to five stars. Indecision? Not anymore, not after rereading. At first I may have thought I liked the first book better. Now I realise that’s not exactly true. A Gathering Of Shadows is just different. Some have called it a ‘filler’ book. I get where’s that’s coming from but I don’t necessarily agree. Downplaying it to just that would be a terrible injustice. It is equally enjoyable, just as masterfully written and every bit as addictive as A Darker Shade Of Magic.

Victoria Schwab is a magician. She’s as powerful with words as Kell is with elements and Lila with a knife in her hand. Her poetic writing style makes the story come alive in a uniquely lively manner. The amount of detail she creates without having to fall back on endless descriptions is exceptional. The humour is perfectly timed and her characters are endlessly fascinating and extraordinary. Magic breaths through this book. As if the Isle itself has found its way out of Red London and now runs through every sentence on these pages.

I mentioned some call this book a filler. Understandably so if you take into account that only a slight part of the book adds to the ‘bigger picture’. Astrid and Athos Dane are gone at the end of A Darker Shade Of Magic, the stone has been returned to Black London. All is well. Except of course it is not. Dark powers are stirring in far-off worlds and instead we follow The Essen Tasch. A tournament that brings magicians from all over the world together. I personally didn’t mind in the least. Firstly because the Essen Tasch was thrilling and exciting. But more importantly, it also gave Schwab the time to explore her characters on an even deeper level, to introduce wonderful new ones and to deal in a realistic and natural way with the aftermath of the horrific events they had been through. So a filler? Maybe, but one so brilliant I deem it worthy of five stars.

She bent most of the rules. She broke the rest.

The characters were as vivid and human as I remembered. Flawed, interesting, a bit broken and among the bravest in young adult literature. This is a set of characters you’re not likely to forget any time soon. Because they are so brilliantly portrayed. They’re unconventional, layered and just so damn bad ass. I couldn’t choose between Lila and Kell to save my life. When they’re together… well. They are a team to be reckoned with, powerful in their own specific ways. I also have a huge weakness for Rhy. The guy really pulls on my heartstrings. All I ever wanted to do was throw my arms around him and tell him it was going to be okay. Probably a lie, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Alucard Emery is a new force of nature. Utterly likable, strong and intriguing. He’s a lot more than he initially lets on and I’ve become so fond of him it almost feels as if he’s always been here.

“Kell has only two faces. The one he wears for the world at large, and the one he wears for those he loves.” He sipped his wine.  “For us.” Lila’s expression hardened. “Whatever he feels for me, it isn’t love.” “Because it isn’t soft and sweet and doting?” Rhy rocked back, stretching against the pillar. “Do you know how many times he’s nearly beat me senseless out of love? How many times I’ve done the same? I’ve seen the way he looks at those he hates …” He shook his head. “There are very few things my brother cares about, and even fewer people.”

In short, this book was one of my favourite reads of the year. In between Lila, Kell and the Essen Tasch - we get pirates, magic, falling kingdoms, backstabbing, anger, hurt and on top of that an agonising cliffhanger. Even though this was my second read of the book, I was very much not okay and I’m anxious to FINALLY get my hands on A Conjuring Of Light. This book sets everything in motion for a terrifying final instalment that will probably keep me up until very early in the morning - if not all night.

I gave him my life, but you cannot ask me to stop living.

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