After I read ADSOM, I was so relieved there’s still A Gathering of Shadows, or else I would’ve internally screamed with furious despair *FANGIRLS*. To my delight, A Gathering of Shadows gives me so much more of the four Londons universe. Upping the suspense with stakes upon stakes, the book promises action, magic, and much angst. Also stabby, bloody magic duels (I’m such a sucker for magic duels).

Character

The characters are all in more complicated circumstances than where we left them. Lila is embroiled in pirate businesses, Kell is muchly tortured by his royal parents, and Rhy is suffering because of his soul bond to Kell (well they’re both suffering from that). Let’s talk about Kell first.

Kell is a tortured, scowly little darling, basically. After he messed up enormously in the last book, he is treated even more like a pariah and even a traitor. The only person who still actually loves him is his brother Rhy, and they’re bound together in soul to keep Rhy alive. This made Kell more vulnerable and volatile, feeling Rhy’s sorrows and self-abandon. Kell just wants to escape from everything, but his ironic freedom to travel between any worlds mean absolutely nothing; he is more trapped than ever by his responsibilities and royal ties. Joining the Essen Tasch, a magical tournament for magicians all over the world, is just the best release and escape Rhy can find for Kell. I empathized with Kell’s hidden frenzy and desperation and just wanted to whisk him away from all that injustice and and torment and insufferable royal parents. He is definitely a more developed and mature character in this book, and I’m waiting to see how he will make future choices in the next book.

Now, about Lila. She is up another level from her previous bad-ass self: she is working on a pirate ship as their official Thief, and she’s made a legend of herself. She is tapping into her innate magic powers and training with the ship’s captain, Emery. What’s more, she plans on sneaking her name into the Essen Tasch. That takes some guts and gumption, especially when you’re a beginner. Sometimes Lila is too calloused and hard to relate to, but I guess that’s just the result of growing up on the streets. At least a cold person never runs out of quips. Her relationship with Kell is agonizingly sweet and twisty and torturous. There’s virtually NO mushy moments clogging up the plot. Not that I would’ve minded a few mushy moments (yes I’m quite the shameless hypocrite).

Supporting characters like Rhy are also quite developed. As the charming prince/ex-Golden-boy, Rhy grows more mature in this book because of his ordeals (he was killed, to be fair, in the last book). His relationship with the ship captain Emery is also a new backstory we didn’t see, which adds depth to his character. Speaking of Emery, he’s also a new character with hidden depths and intricacy and general dashing-ness (is that even a word).

Setting

The world-building is, again, exquisitely beautiful. We are allowed a fuller view of Red London, and I’m instantly sucked into this strange world that hosts tournaments that’s a little like fencing but with magic elements. Much exploding rocks and armor plates and fire and duels. That’s what I’m talking about! That’s how a magical competition ought look like. Apart from the game, I also love the scenes on the sea and in the markets, which offer us even more sides to this world. Best of all, Schwab never shoves any description down your throat but guides you effortlessly around her fantastic world.

Pacing & Plot

The pacing is perfection. It is surprisingly free of the Second Book Syndrome, where the author is throwing plots randomly into the cauldron and hoping it would come together. Nope. A Gathering of Shadows is a whirlwind of action with a sense of foreboding, like something huge and tragic is coming in the next book, but none of the characters know it yet.

In short, A Gathering of Shadows is a lovely mixture of adventure, character development, and splendid worldbuilding. It went by so fast, I didn’t have time to absorb the fact I’ll have to wait a year for the final book, A Conjuring of Light. WHAAAT??? In case you haven’t started the series yet, I urge you to begin now, because it would be so worth it.

 

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

by V.E. Schwab

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.