A Gathering of Shadows (2016) – V.E. Schwab

The second installment in V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy transports me easily, and enjoyably back to Red London, as well as fiving us glimpses of White and Grey Londons, but before you pick it up, a little warning… this is book two of a trilogy, you have to know that this one is going to end in a cliffhanger, and boy it’s a doozy!

Thank goodness the third novel, A Conjuring of Light, is already available.

It’s about four months after the events of the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, and we check in with all of the characters we met in the first tale, Delilah Bard, Kell, and Rhy, and catch up with where they are now. Kell and Rhy, the Antari (a gifted magician) and the Prince, are connected more than their brotherly bond would suggest. Kell has bond their two lives together, having returned Rhy to life at the end of the first book, tying their hearts together, as long as Kell lives so does Rhy, who is to be the next King of Red London.

Lila, meanwhile, has made herself the best thief aboard a privateer, which introduces us to Alucard Emery, a bit of a charming rogue character, and one who has his own connection to the royal family.

Everyone is returning to Red London for the Essen Tasch, a magical combat competition between the three largest nations of the world. Rhy has a plan for Kell to enter it, risking his position in the palace, Alucard has been listed as one of the competitors, and Lila, despite originally coming from Grey London (our world) where magic no longer exists, has a powerful affinity for elemental magic, and is coming up with a way to sneak in and replace one of the competitors.

While all of this is going on, an enemy is lurking in the shadows of White London, preparing itself to strike, and in the final pages of the book, things get very dangerous and troublesome for our heroes, and not just for their hearts, as connections are made and reforged between the characters.

The last novel is going to be huge, I’m sure of it!

I love how Schwab crafts the tale, invests the characters with humanity, humour, pathos, and history, every single one of them feels real to me. The characters are grounded in reality, which then makes their fantastical surroundings, and abilities, all the more believable.

I love the threads of continuity that run through the two novels, bringing back characters, reminding us of moments, and preparing us for what comes next, which I’m sure is going to be an epic confrontation. I cannot wait to dig into A Conjuring of Light!

If you haven’t read this series, and are looking for a fun, well-paced, joyously written fantasy book, check out The Shades of Magic Trilogy!

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