Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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

A Gathering Of Shadows – 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.

Review: This is a review of book #2 in a series. The review is as spoiler-free as I can make it, but you might want to check out my review of the first book.

Usually, I struggle with the middle books in a series. They’re often slow, saggy beasts that exist solely to set up the end of the series. But, that’s not the case with this one. I actually like the second book more than the first. When I finished it, I wasn’t ready to leave the four Londons. When does the next book come out? I’m pretty sure I need it right now.

A Gathering of Shadows picks up four months after A Darker Shade of Magic. Lila is working on a ship while Kell deals with the fallout of accidentally killing about a zillion people. Meanwhile, Kell’s brother, Prince Rhy, is planning the Element Games. If the games aren’t a success, the peace of the kingdom could be in jeopardy.

“Kell would say it was impossible. What a useless word, in a world with magic.” – A Gathering of Shadows

This book is longer and slower paced than the first. The first is nonstop action, and this one has all the character development. The slowness didn’t bother me very much because I love every single character in this series. They’re all smart and snarky. Their personalities really shine in this novel. I especially like watching Kell and Rhy navigate their changed relationship. In the first novel, they’re both thrill-seekers in their own ways. Since they’re magically bound together in this book, what one brother does impacts the other brother. They’re forced to grow up and reconsider their recklessness, but they still manage to get themselves in plenty of trouble.

“Rhy held Kell's pain in his hands, while Kell held Rhy's life in his.” – A Gathering of Shadows
“Look, everyone talks about the unknown like it's some big scary thing, but it's the familiar that's always bothered me. It's heavy, builds up around you like rocks, until it's walls and a ceiling and a cell.” – A Gathering of Shadows

Most of the characters seem to be searching for an identity. Almost all of them are antiheros who have made mistakes in their lives. This story is about how tempting it can be to run from your past instead of facing it. At this point in the series, the characters would rather put on masks and pretend to be someone else rather than dealing with life as it is. I’m interested to see how things change in the next book.

I love this series because of the escapism it provides, but I do have a few problems with A Gathering of Shadows. I like the slow pacing, but I think the plot starts a little too slowly. Lila is unique, but she’s not my favorite character, and she isn’t doing much at the beginning of the book. I was eager to get to Kell and Rhy’s points-of-view.

I also had trouble picturing the setting at times. The floating arenas were especially problematic for me. I imagined a football stadium hovering over a river, which looks ridiculous in my head.

Finally, parts of the plot are predictable or convenient. For example, Lila needs to hear a conversation that’s happening inside a house. The windows are conveniently open so she can hear, even though it’s February and freezing.

This series is so much fun that I can easily overlook the problems. I’m excited for the next book. More Rhy and Kell, please!


  1. I still need to start this series!! Glad you enjoyed this one!

  2. I know how much of a fan you are of this series. It's encouraging to hear that you liked this one even more than the first!
    Once I"m done with my backlog of "obligatory" reviews, I'm going to dive into this series because I've waited far too long. I bought book 1 in June!!

  3. I agree with you about the plot being a bit slow in the beginning. But how the author continued to develop the world and the magic system definitely made up for it in my eyes! I honestly can't wait for the next book. Argh, February is such a long time away to find out what happens!
    Erika @ Books and Stars

  4. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one! I think I still prefer the first book. AGoS had a bit too much of that middle book syndrome for me (especially, what's going on with Holland and White London?). But, I liked the introduction of new characters and I liked how the tournament played out.

  5. A very solid second outing indeed, although missing some of the Wow Factor of book one. I can't get over how creative and smart Schwab's books are.

  6. I haven't started this series yet but I do know how hard it can be to get a good middle book in a series. And to have this exceed even the first book in terms of quality and enjoyability? Now that is definitely something to look forward to!