Personal Thoughts: Boom! It only took an entire year but I finally read A Gathering of Shadows right in time to catch up with V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series before it’s final installment, A Conjuring of Light debuts at the end of February. I have no idea how I waited this long to dive back in but I do know that I never would’ve been able to wait another 12 months for the rest of this story after the unreal cliffhanger at the end of book two. V.E. Schwab has NEVER done that to us readers before so it was completely unexpected (and I loved every minute of it!)! I ended up loving A Gathering of Shadows even more than it’s predecessor, A Darker Shade of Magic but I’ll get more into the why of things below!
Plot Summary: A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in the Shades of Magic trilogy so if you haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic, proceed with caution because there will be spoilers ahead. The second book picks up four months after the events in A Darker Shade of Magic. Having purged the obsidian stone through a rift into Black London along with Holland’s dead body, you would think things in Red London would begin to improve. Think again! Kell and Rhy are dealing with the consequences of their actions but only Kell is being punished for them. For someone who craves freedom, Kell seems to be less in control of his own life than ever before. Meanwhile, Lila Bard is off gallivanting with pirates aboard a ship called the Night Spire. As fate would have it, our two heroes become involved in the Essen Tach, or game of elements where folks compete using their magic to battle each other.
Critique: I’m a huge fan of elaborate competitions so A Gathering of Shadows was destined to secure a place in my heart. But it had me even earlier because following Lila’s adventures was my favorite element of this second book (okay, one of them but it’s just so hard to choose because I loved so much about this book!). The imagery that Schwab conveys about life aboard a pirate ship is the ultimate in appealing alternative lifestyles. Normally, life for a woman aboard a pirate ship might be a bit of a challenge but as you’ll remember from A Darker Shade of Magic, Lila Bard will give any man a run for his money using her plethora of weapons and a bit of her charm. Early on, I was living for those Lila scenes. Then we have Kell and Rhy, irrevocably bound to one another after the events of the first book. I am so glad that we got to see more of Rhy in this book because while he was charming and funny in book one, his added perspective uncovered an extra layer of depth that we weren’t privy to until now. I’m pretty sure everyone saw one specific thing involving Black London coming but I’m not going to say anything about it here just in case. Except to say THAT ENDING THOUGH. While we spent most of the story in Red London, we did find out some important information about the state of things in Grey, White and Black London so I’m really excited for the final book. So overall, the world VE Schwab built continues to be intriguing, the allure of the games kept everything exciting, the character relationships became stronger and the unexpected cliffhanger had me shaking my fist and screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Do I Recommend?: YES YES YES. There a bunch of people who have said that this series isn’t their favorite of VE’s works but I would still recommend continuing even if you didn’t love the first book. A Gathering of Shadows is a game changer and the antics of Kell, Lila and Rhy are sure to keep you hooked until the very end.