A Gathering of Shadows — V. E. Schwab

May 23, 2018

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

TITLE: A Gathering of Shadows
AUTHOR: V. E. Schwab
SERIES: Shades of Magic, #2
RELEASED: February 23rd, 2016; Tor Books
GENRE: Fantasy
SYNOPSIS: It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as 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.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.


I cannot believe that I waited nearly a year between the first book and this one, but here we are, and now I’m convinced that Victoria sacrificed an unhealthy number of virgins for her writing skills, because this series is absolute magnificence. I loved A Darker Shade of Magic so much that I was nervous to see if the second book would hold up, but let me tell you, it absolutely did, and now I am both horrified and desperately in need of seeing how it all ends up.


“I am Delilah Bard,” she thought, as the ropes cut into her skin. “I am a thief and a pirate and a traveler. I have set foot in three different worlds, and lived. I have shed the blood of royals and held magic in my hands.”

I only thought that I loved the characters of this series in the first book, but that was nothing compared to the feelings that I have for them by this point. There’s Lila, who took me a little bit of time to be won over by in ADSOM, but who has me utterly captivated in this installment. Her brash, headstrong, clever nature is only magnified even further as she comes into her own in the world of Red London, and while she still feels this evident need to prove herself and to come out on top, her entire attitude has been tempered—if only slightly—by the pains that her previous actions have caused. She’s also still determined to avoid dealing with her feelings towards a certain redheaded Antari, which lends beautifully to the incredible slow burn of the brief romantic undertones to these books.

“I do not know why you two are circling each other like stars. It is not my cosmic dance. But I do know that you come asking after one another, when only a few strides and a handful of stars divide you.”

Precious Kell, on the other hand, is still my favorite; I’m constantly torn between being amazed by his skills and abilities, and wanting to jump in and protect him from the cruelty he faces, not only as one of the last remaining Antari, but as the neglected adopted son of the King and Queen. My years of reading fantasy novels have taught me that it’s difficult for me to relate to “lawful good” characters who rely so heavily on their virtues and honor, as Kell does, but Victoria writes him so flawlessly that it never grows stale or predictable. On top of everything else, his relationship with his brother, Rhy, is one of the most wholesome, pure, and precious things I have ever seen in my entire life.

Rhy held Kell’s pain in his hands, while Kell held Rhy’s life in his.

Rhy Maresh is, I think, one of the most lovable fictional characters who has ever been written. I don’t know if I have ever met a fan of this series who does not adore him at least a little bit, especially upon getting to know the quiet self-loathing that resides under his charisma and charm. He broke my heart so many times during his struggles with the lengths Kell has gone to in order to save him, and the fact that he values his own presence in the world so little is crushing, yet nevertheless, Rhy is a constant source of drama, amusement, and sweet brotherly love in a world full of violence and fear. The fact that both of these princes would so readily give up everything for one another is perhaps my single favorite aspect to this gorgeous series thus far.

“Fix your crown, my prince,” he called back as he reached the door. “It’s crooked.”

Of course, this review would be wholly incomplete without taking a moment to talk about the utterly fantastic addition to the cast: Alucard Emery, privateer, playboy, magical aficionado, and captain of the Night Spire crew. He is hilarious, delightful in every way, and an absolute deviant who never fails to keep you guessing. I love his entire presence in the story, and though I am left with a million and one questions about his past and how it relates to the lives of the Maresh family, it is easily one of the things that I am most excited about tying up in A Conjuring of Light.

“Magic is tangled, so you must be smooth.
Magic is wild, so you must be tame.
Magic is chaos, so you must be calm.
Are you calm, Kell?”

Besides the wonderful cast of characters (including one special individual who I’m not going to mention here for fear of spoiling anyone, but let me say that I am absolutely ecstatic to see things through his perspective on occasion, and terrified to see what he will do next), there’s also the fact that, once again, Victoria proves her writing prowess through incredible action scenes and magical world-building. There is a tournament featured in this installment that never grows stale or dull; despite its potential for repetition, as is frequent with “trials” in books, not once did I lose the feeling of gripping the edge of my seat.

“I gave him my life, but you cannot ask me to stop living.”

This sequel also delves much further into the history of Red London and its surrounding lands, as well as the political climate between the kingdom of Arnes and its allies and potential enemies. It was such a fantastic buildup of information, but I can’t help but wonder how it can all possibly be addressed in the finale. That said, I have no doubts that I will be pleased with how everything turns out (and it doesn’t hurt that I know there are further books coming along in the future, too!).

They crashed into each other as if propelled by gravity, and he didn’t know which one of them was the object and which the earth, only that they were colliding.

I don’t think I can say too much more without spoiling any of the twists and turns in this installment, so I’ll end this review on this note: if you enjoy fantasy worlds with lovable characters, a brilliant (yet never overdone) magic system, world-building and history for days, and enough twists and turns to never let you find a moment’s rest, I cannot recommend this series highly enough—and I cannot wait to read the final piece to the story!



More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

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    1. I honestly have no idea why I’m still struggling with getting this one read! I already love Alucard, and Lila is my precious murder babe. ARGH! Why must work get in the way of diving into Red London?!

      1. Ughhhh, I feel you! I still haven’t finished ACOL even though I feel like I started it forever ago. This has been a weird reading month for me. I hope you get to pick it up soon!

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