A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab is the second in the Darker Shade of Magic Series which centres on Kell, an Antari magician who has the ability to move between different worlds, and Lila, a young woman from “our” London who has ended up in Kell’s magical home world. I really enjoyed the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, and was very much looking forward to this next instalment. I LOVED this book and am happy to recommend it.
What I liked
The characters. Right from the beginning, Lila had me chuckling along with her sassy attitude and I sympathised with Kell and Rhy as they tried to come to terms with the events of the previous book. Some new characters are introduced, notably Alucard Emery. This is a particularly interesting new addition as both our protagonists have very different attitudes towards him. This leaves the reader somewhat torn about how to feel about him. He’s rather a mysterious characters – It’s clear that he’s a lot more than just the pirate – excuse me, privateer – that he claims to be. I really hope we learn more about him in subsequent books.
The romance. The relationship between Kell and Lila was so cute and beautifully done, especially given how little time they actually spend interacting with each other in the book. There were so many adorable instances of Lila thinking things like “oh, that guy’s hair is almost the same shade as Kell’s” or Kell’s seeing something pretty and thinking of how much Lila would enjoy it. Of course, if confronted both would vehemently deny being in love. A clear case of showing, not telling. Brava Victoria.
Interesting pacing. As the book blurb indicates, a significant focus of this book is the Element Games, a magical equivalent of our Olympics. Yet, they do not provide much dramatic tension. They are generally non lethal, and the outcome of winning is little more than achieving bragging rights. In fact, until about 85% of the way through the book very little actually happens. Towards the end, it was very clear that this story would not be self contained in the way that the first one was, and that I would have to prepare for a cliffhanger. The wonderful thing, however, is that I really didn’t care. I was having too much fun following these two crazy kids and their mixed signals romance and the magical world in which it takes place. The last few chapters of the book really speed things up though and I can’t wait for the next book.
What I didn’t like
Lack of variety in the Element Games. Each level of the competition follows the same format. I would have welcomed some changes in structure for the subsequent bouts. Also I did have to suspend my disbelief at certain participants. Did Stasion really think he could compete at Olympic level with his limited experience of magic?
Despite those minor gripes, I adored A Gathering of Shadows and it gets a well-deserved five stars out of five from me.