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

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“Dangerous. Reckless. Foolish. Mad. The words were beginning to feel more like badges of pride than blows.”

Hello, friends!

I must say, being back in the world of multiple Londons was comforting and fun. These books continue to capture my attention, with their fabulous writing, great worldbuilding, and wonderful characters. That being said, I do feel like this middle installment was plagued with second book syndrome quite a bit. I don’t know, something just felt different this go around and made me enjoy Kell and Lila’s stories a bit less. I’d ultimately give it 2.5 stars for that reason mainly.

I was thinking about this book for a while after reading it, and before reviewing it, to try and put my finger on what exactly I didn’t enjoy as much this time around. And really, I think that A Gathering of Shadows was just as well-written as A Darker Shade of Magic; it just wasn’t as compelling. The whole thing felt a little bit like filler to me. And while it was still very enjoyable, I was not as invested in the story because of it.

The whole book centers around this (random) magical competition held in Red London where all of the other nations in their world offer up their best magic-wielders to represent them in a duel. Ok, that’s neat and all, but it kind of comes out of nowhere. Clearly, we know that this series is a trilogy and clearly something of greater importance is going to happen before that trilogy is done. Something else with Black London obviously. So, I don’t know, shoving us into a couple hundred pages of “triwizard tournament meets Avatar the Last Airbender” seemed like a bit of ploy to just make the series longer. Sure, Lila and Kell got to show off their magic skills, but what else really came of it? I am not sure it was worth the page time.

Also, this novel focuses a bit more on Lila than it does Kell, which I think also may have worn on me some too. Don’t get me wrong, Lila is still a great character and I am a big fan of hers, but her narration can get pretty tedious. There are only so many times she can talk about how badass and unfeeling she is before I kind of want to roll my eyes at her. Ok, we get it, you’re a rolling stone who hates forming any kind of meaningful relationship with anyone. Good for you! She is constantly touting how tough and unladylike she is, how much she loves her knives, how much she definitely doesn’t want to kiss Kell, and how she already thinks she’s one of the best magicians out there. Small yawn. And of course, she is suddenly an exceedingly powerful magician and can better people much more experienced than herself. Maybe if this book had a better plot to follow, it wouldn’t have been so…annoying? But it didn’t and because of that, it made me not really care about how cool Lila was.

And it wasn’t just her narrative that grated on me this time, either. Kell was so whiny in this book! He and Rhy were together for most of it, so their perspectives kind of went hand in hand, and good lord, Rhy was much more engaging. I understand that they are in an impossible situation, with their lives being tied together now and Kell being responsible for Rhy’s safety, but it just seemed to drag on and on. Again, if the book weren’t just some filler magic competition, maybe it would have made me care a little more. I just really didn’t like feeling that I was reading the same things over and over again from the characters, knowing that we were just wasting pages until the final showdown at the end of the book to set up the third novel. It seems a little cheap honestly.

Oh and the final showdown? It was hardly a thing at all! Kell got tricked (very easily) into going back to White London by some random chick, where a resurrected Holland paralyzes his magic and tries to force the creepy Black London demon in him. The entire time I was just like WTF Kell???? Seriously after all he had seen and been through, he was going to be so reckless and stupid about walking into what had to be a trap. Like come on! Just because you feel sad and unappreciated by your family? Yeah not a good enough reason to lose all common sense and act like a moron (and knowingly put Rhy’s life in danger). The whole thing was a grand total of like 5 pages too, forcing you to wait until the next book to really get into the think of it. Why? Oh yeah, cause this one was all filler!!

That being said, I did really enjoy some parts of A Gathering of Shadows too! I liked the new character Alucard a lot. At first, I thought he was being set up as a love interest for Lila, which I was actually fine with, but it turns out he has a thing with Rhy. They were awesome together and I look forward to seeing how their relationship plays out and how Alucard helps them in the last book (because I am sure he will). Kell’s anger toward Alucard was pretty irritating (a lot of what Kell did was irritating actually), because it just felt so overdone. I was happy to see that both Rhy and Lila didn’t really care what Kell thought though.

I enjoyed Rhy’s inner struggles and reactions to his trauma. They felt authentic and not too heavy-handed. The new guard that helped Kell and Rhy was interesting and I liked his story. I also really liked reading about the parts of Grey London that we saw, the politics there and Ned’s tavern. I enjoyed getting to know the other nations within Red London’s world. Those were some of the more interesting parts to me.

And of course, the writing was rich, evocative, and strong, as usual. I just wish this one had a bit more substance within its plot and story/character development 😭. But what did you guys think? Am I being overly critical?

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I want to live on a ship and learn magic lessons from a dashing privateer, too! I think I might run away… 

Thank you for reading!

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Title: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy | Adult | Fiction | New Adult | Adventure
Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Page Count: 512 pages
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