Book Review | A Gathering of Shadows

Me finishing A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab: A One Act Play

*Enter ME, moving to sit in a chair, reading the book*
Silence, save for the soft sound of the final page turning over to reveal nothing more than an Acknowledgments page
ME: …
ME: *shrieks and dives across the room for the third book, purchased at work that very day*
ME: *immediately starts reading*
Curtain.

So if the above didn’t make it clear, this book was an enjoyable, exciting read. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but there might be some for the first book in this trilogy, A Darker Shade of Magic (here’s that review), simply by nature of talking about this one. If you haven’t read that, this is your official warning.

Meeting the new characters of this book was great. Especially Captain Alucard Emery. He’s the man. He and the crew of the Night Spire, Kell and Rhy’s guards, and Ojka all help flesh out these worlds and make them feel bigger, more lived in. The reappearance of a couple other side characters—Calla, Ned, and Rhy’s parents—was also awesome. I loved seeing how all these figures interact with and relate to our mains.

My outfit matched the cover 🙂

A friend of mine described this book as similar to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I agree, to an extent. Yes, it’s got a tournament between magicians, as well as dances in which shenanigans ensue, but the tournament itself feels a lot more like Roman gladiator battles (if Roman gladiators were characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender). This sounds borderline derivative, I know, but it doesn’t come across that way. Schwab takes these familiar elements (pun very much intended) and puts a spin on them, imbuing them with the power of Red London and intertwining them with the rest of the plot.

And oh man, the rest of the plot. It’s… honestly almost more character-driven than action-driven. We see how our mains have been affected by the events of the first book. In some aspects they’re doing well, but in others they suffer profoundly. And the nuances between are explored well. The ramifications of certain choices are not diminished or brushed aside, but are allowed to be harsh and not easy to navigate. And as the book goes on, the more important the characters and their development becomes to the events happening around and to them.

I found the pacing to be better in this book than the last one. One of the few critiques I had of Darker Shade was that sections felt slightly rushed. I wanted to slow down and take it all in, especially life in Red London. I also wanted to know more about Rhy and Some-of-You-Know-Who (hint: Kell, but meaner). We didn’t linger long enough in the first book for my taste; luckily, this second book delivers on all those desires and more. We see tons more of Red London and Rhy especially. We learn about lands beyond, in both this London’s empire, Arnes, and the realms that border it. We see the other Londons too, particularly a tantalizing glimpse of the most mysterious one. But this is primarily Red’s tale, and I loved it.

In the end, this book is a delightful journey, with a brilliant, slightly agonizing setup for the third book (I’m glad my wait was a matter of mere seconds). The pacing was good, the world-building awesome, and the character development stellar. I adore these characters to bits: the old ones are changed but still so dear to me, and the new faces (one in particular) quickly wormed their way into my heart. Honestly, I’d be fine with this book having another hundred pages or so, because I felt like reading it took no time at all (granted, I read about half of it in various airport terminals and planes, but still)! This book is wonderful! Now excuse me while I bury myself in A Conjuring of Light.

Overall rating: 9.2/10

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