Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
For no particular reason, I’ve ended up reading a lot more sequels than usual this month. I picked this one up because of how much I loved A Darker Shade of Magic; I couldn’t find it at my local library, so I ended up checking it out from my school library because I just NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT. However, though A Gathering of Shadows was still a decent novel, it fell into the tragic curse of the disappointing filler sequel.
Enjoy this week’s review!
Kell Maresh and Delilah Bard have long parted ways. But unexpected circumstance will reunite them, and the results may mean the end of Red London as they know it.
After the fall of the Danes in White London and the disappearance of the stone, Kell is back in the palace with Rhy. It is the eve of the Element Games, where magicians from all over compete in an extravagant spectacle. But the competition brings old friends and new ashore—namely Alucard, a clever pirate captain who is not as he seems, and Lila, who has joined him as a part of his crew. But on the margins of all the festivity, a new threat is rising—one that could topple every London in existence.
TW/CW: graphic violence, fire, near-death situations
I’m glad that I read this soon after reading book 1, but still, this one was a disappointment…[Obi-Wan Kenobi voice] “YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!”
It saddens me to admit it, but A Gathering of Shadows fell straight into the fatal trap of the Disappointing Sequel: if anything, it’s almost nothing but filler. My main complaint about book 1 (besides Lila) was that the plot was a little weak, but this book was even more so. Most of the book was just festivities surrounding a celebratory event that had almost no connection to the main plot. All that tied it back to the central plot was sprinklings of a villain that we thought was dead (resurrection trope! Whee!) and not much else. Coming off of the immersive, heartstopping gem that was A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows was a little bit pathetic in comparison.
However, that’s not to say that it wasn’t at least decent. I did like A Gathering of Shadows, at least to some degree. It was disappointing, sure, but I didn’t hate it. V.E. Schwab’s writing still kept me rapt, and the worldbuilding and expansions to it were interesting to see. Even if the Element Games plot bored me a little, I did like seeing all of the intricacies that went into it, as well as the other cultures and countries outside of Red London. There’s no denying that the world that V.E. Schwab has built is a fantastic one, and in the case of this novel, it was largely its saving grace.
And there’s always the matter of the characters! Kell and Rhy were just as lovable as always, and although they didn’t develop an awful lot during this novel (not like the plot gave them much room to do so, oof), reuniting with them was like reuniting with old friends. I loved Alucard as well; he was such a fun character, but…hold up, what is it with the second book in a YA fantasy trilogy ALWAYS introducing the sarcastic, seductive privateer? First Nikolai Lantsov, now Alucard…HAHA
A Gathering of Shadows almost made me like Lila, but all my hopes for her collapsed about halfway through the book. Not only was she as “not-like-other-girls” as ever, her motivations made even LESS sense than they did in book 1. Given that she’s spent her life on the streets fighting for her life, you would think that she wouldn’t do something so risky as…well, disguise herself as a dead magician that she looks nothing like and enter a competition in his name, right? Wrong, apparently. With all that Lila’s been through, I would personally think that she would be the kind of character to weigh risks and benefits, but I guess that all went out the window. I get it, she’s a teenager, but even for a teenager, that’s kind of ridiculous. Plus, after how A Darker Shade of Magic ended, I was excited to see that she might have some kind of ulterior motive or the beginnings of a corruption arc…but no, I guess that wasn’t the case either. Sigh.
All in all, a lackluster but entertaining addition to the Shades of Magic world that offered up a dry plot, but kept the series afloat with new characters and consistently dazzling worldbuilding. 3.5 stars.
A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in the Shades of Magic trilogy, preceded by A Darker Shade of Magic and followed by A Conjuring of Light. V.E. Schwab is also the author of the Villains series (Vicious and Vengeful) and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!