Note: This is review is free of spoilers for the Shades of Magic trilogy.A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab • contains 512 pages • published February 23, 2016 by Titan Books • classified as Fantasy, General Fiction • obtained through purchase • read as paperback • shelve on Goodreads
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.
A Gathering of Shadows is much more intense than A Darker Shade of Magic. Schwab has a way of putting words to a page that is incomparable to other authors. The wit that underpins her snarky characters is first class, and Lila is a prime example. What makes it so great is that Lila doesn’t try hard — it’s who she is. A Gathering of Shadows increased my love for her, Kell, and Rhy manifolds, and also sucked me right into the spheres of Alucard and Tieren.
Lila, Kell, Rhy and Alucard each have massive flaws, and yet, I couldn’t help but root for them. Their levels of recklessness are mind boggling but it’s that which makes the plot unpredictable and all the more entertaining. Even though there’re so many different characters, they’re each portrayed with great depth and individuality. Reading A Gathering of Shadows made me feel as though I was an observer present at the sidelines because the characters are so vivid.
Before picking up A Gathering of Shadows, I saw many exclaim over the ending. Given the sinister undercurrents that were building up through subplots, I fully expected the outcome. Still, I must say, it especially demonstrates Schwab’s ability to tell the pressing story while keeping in mind the larger picture of a series.
The overarching tale confused me a little at times. I found myself rereading some sections, wondering if I missed out on a few details. They didn’t undermine my understanding, but they did give me pause. In any case, my questions will probably be answered in the next book.
Despite the original world building, A Gathering of Shadows didn’t fully evade clichés: competitions are a staple of dystopians published within the last decade. Schwab, however, managed to spin the Essen Tasch to fit her own creative agenda. It was wholly immersive, filled with a lot of surprises. With that, the quote on the cover from Publishers Weekly very rightly declares A Gathering of Shadows to be “Fantastic”!