A Gathering of Shadows – Victoria Schwab

About the Book

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like 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.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

512 pages (hardcover)
Published on February 23, 2016
Published by Tor
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I didn’t want to finish this book. I mean, I had to force myself to finish it. I had to just about bribe myself. “Sarah, if you finish this book, you will give yourself (insert thing here).” I kept not finishing it, so I finally upped the thing I was going to give myself to something irresistible, and that is how I got myself to finish this book.

For all of you reading this and thinking I’m really weird (I am), I have a very hard time finishing books I really, really like. The harder it is for me to finish whatever book basically equates to how much I liked the book. The harder it is for me to finish, the more I liked it.

A Gathering of Shadows starts four months after the events that transpired in A Darker Shade of Magic. A lot happened in the previous book, and in the four months between then and where this book starts, all the characters seem to have spent most of their time trying to find their new version of normal, in varying levels of success.

Lila Bard has found a place on a pirate (erm, privateering) ship. Rhys and Kell are… struggling. On the flip side we have all sorts of interesting things happening in White London, and a huge gathering taking place, a sort of magic Olympics, with Rhys and Kell as the heads of it, and plenty of shenanigans involved. There are people trying to find each other, and people trying to avoid each other, and everything feels very uncertain. Four months have passed, but after such epic events, four months really isn’t all that much.

One aspect of the novel that really interested me were the relationships. There are a lot of darker emotions simmering under the surface. They are felt, they absolutely infuse the book, and that makes them so effective. This book, in many ways, is uncomfortable. Schwab makes her characters work for everything, and while I expected things to maybe be a bit easier for all the characters, it’s obvious from the start that no one is really where they want to be or who they want to be. Things have changed, and that puts a strain on everything. It’s the most obvious in the tug-and-pull between Rhys and Kell.

Lila is sort of trying to find her place in this new London of hers, and she falls into some interesting characters and has a knack for getting into situations that seem like they’d be over her head, but she manages to pull through. She’s one of those female protagonists that I just absolutely adore because of how strong she is, while also being realistic. Lila is incredibly conflicted, and that’s part of what made her work so well, and be so memorable. She’s a fish out of water, and under all her bluster, she’s obviously lost, confused, and alone.

So, we have this interesting character stew brewing.

And we add a dash of fantastic, addicting, absorbing, surprising plot, and let it all boil for about 500 pages.

Red London spends most of its time getting ready for these Element Games, which are as political as they are elemental. Kell and Rhys get swept up into the whole thing, and their own brotherly bond is… altered and impacting things dramatically. Both characters felt a lot darker than they did in the previous book, and probably due to this they were more unpredictable and interesting. The games are on their way, and these two political figures are in the center of attention. Secret plans are made (see shenanigans), and all of this chaos is enough to distract anyone. Meanwhile, Schwab jumps over to another London occasionally to show all the changes going on there, and some of the unexpected reasons why. Slowly, as the book progresses, these two heady stories come to an unexpected head.

The last third of the novel was absolutely riveting and full of tons of twists and turns while Schwab deftly manipulates her readers into looking one way while she uses slight of hand to create a totally different plot twist than I expected with a wham-bam ending that will leave readers shocked. Seriously, book three can’t come soon enough.

There is so much going on in this book, from interesting character growth and relationship dynamics, to darker emotions than I expected, a badass female protagonist, and a very conflicted brotherly bond. The plot is just as complex as all that, with impressive things happening in two different Londons that seem unrelated… until they aren’t. Basically, Schwab crafted something dynamic and amazing here. This book is completely unforgettable, and just about as close to perfect as it gets.

5/5 stars


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