A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab

This second installment of the Shades of Magic trilogy read very differently to me compared to the first, A Darker Shade of Magic. Kind of left me fumbling for a second before I found the rhythm.

Blurb: 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.

Published February 23, 2016 by Tor Books

I honestly have a lot of mixed feelings about this one. From the plot to the pacing to the characters.

The only thing that I don’t have mixed feelings about is Schwab’s writing. Her writing hasn’t changed from the first book and continued to be great through the end of this book.

“Strength and weakness are tangled things,” the Aven Essen had said. “They look so much alike, we often confuse them, the way we confuse magic and power.”

I don’t know if it’s because I’m reading these books back to back, but the plot and pacing made me stumble after finishing the crazy ride that the first book was. A Gathering of Shadows was considerably slower, not really picking up until the last handful of chapters. Initially, this is fine, but add the plot to all of that and this felt like a filler of sorts. Though a filler with important developments.

The main premise of the plot, the magical competition, was a lot of fun and I am glad that Schwab added plenty of scenes from the competition battles. They were a different sort of thrill.

“Everyone’s immortal until they’re not.”

While the plot obviously had its part to play in the development of the whole story, it’s really the character development that is important and takes center stage. I will say that the character development is really good in this book, though taking a whole book to do it seems a little much. Regardless, I really liked seeing this new side of Kell, the restlessness, his reaction to having to deal with the consequences of not only being a former smuggler, but essentially sacrificing his life for his adoptive brother, Rhy. Kell is one of the most powerful magicians in his world yet he never felt it; never felt dangerous in a controlled way. Until this book. I hope this continues into the final book.

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

Rhy has also changed. Before he was the charming and fun heir to his kingdom. Now, his life, physical and emotional feelings are tied to his brother’s; he’s still charming and fun, but not he also changes moods more often and doesn’t feel as carefree as before. He played a part in what happened in the first book and he’s dealing with that; dealing with the fact that he played a large role in him dying yet being saved by Kell and the Black London magic. He hates that he put Kell in a position to make that decision. I also felt that Rhy, with his second chance, is more focused on learning how to be a king.

“Whatever I am, let it be enough”

Lila, on the other hand, didn’t feel that different. She’s still stubborn, still makes decisions that she knows isn’t right or knows to be a reckless and dangerous decision. While she’s coming into her own magic more, we still only get subtle glimpses of what she can do. I still really enjoyed reading her, but I was also frustrated at her stubbornness and her need for constant control.

An additional character that we meet is Alucard Emery, captain of the Night Spire, a ship in the service of the crown. And the ship that Lila cons her way onto. Alucard is charming in his own way, but he’s more subtle about it. He’s strong and commanding and loyal to his crew and those he cares about. He’s also seemingly full of secrets and a strong magician. Alucard is just a really intriguing character and I’m excited to see more of him.

“The world is neither fair nor right, but it has a way of balancing itself.”

While I was expecting a little more of a fast paced plot or a little more action throughout the book, I can’t fault the book for giving us great character development and character driven scenes. And things did start to pick up towards the end, leaving me on quite the cliffhanger.

So, not what I was expecting, but still a highly enjoyable read.

What were your thoughts on this second installment?

4 thoughts on “A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab

  1. I agree this book felt slower than the first. I think because the first is meant to be stand alone in case it didn’t sell? I always feel like marketing plays a bigger role in major releases than it probably should.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh absolutely! Yeah, the first book could have definitely been fine as a stand alone though I can see that this one and the third, which I’m nearly done with, deal with the aftermath of the first.

      Liked by 1 person

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