Source: purchased (paperback).
Genre: historical fantasy.
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.
It’s no secret that Victoria Schwab is one of my all-time favourite authors. Becky and I even did an Author Addiction post on her and I gushed about her writing. So A Gathering of Shadows was, without a doubt, my most anticipated book of early 2016 (rivalled, perhaps, only by The Thorn of Emberlain, which is supposedly being published in July).
I’m going to do a two-part review here, mostly because I want all of you to be able to read at least a part of it. The first part is spoiler free, but it does contain spoilers for A Darker Shade of Magic (you can read my review for the first part). The second part – clearly marked – contains spoilers because I want to discuss some specific plot points with those who have already finished it (I guess a lot of you have, anyway). I was SO SCARED of reading a spoiler myself, I nearly stopped following some people and thought about blocking some hashtags (this is why I was so eager to read the book as soon as possible). But I made it! And I’d never spoil things for you, but you have to promise me you won’t read the second part of the review if you haven’t read AGOS yet, okay?
THE SPOILER-FREE PART
Victoria Schwab has managed to keep me on my toes for the entire novel. It’s rare that a book entirely lives up to its hype (at least for me), but she made it work. I re-read A Darker Shade of Magic prior to starting the sequel, which was a good idea as it put me in just the right mood. Her style is still fantastic and she’s a master (mistress?) of pacing – the tempo of the story is just great and makes it really hard to put the book down.
The story picks up four months after Lila left London – and Kell. She has almost fulfilled her goal of becoming a pirate captain and is sailing the seas with a cool crew, already building a reputation of her own. She’s the Lila we know and love – sharp, guarded, and lethal – but she’s learned some new skills and is trying to figure out whether belonging to a crew is a good thing or a hindrance.
Kell has twined his life with Rhy’s when he saved his brother from dying. But neither of them knew they would be feeling each other’s pain and other feelings, too, not just sharing a life force. The encounter with the dark magic has left him with a restless energy that seems to be searching for a way out – and then Rhy provides him with a perfect solution (which turns out to be less than perfect, of course).
I liked the addition of new characters though I did wish for more women in the main action. The scope of the world also changes, widening from the four Londons to encompass more of Arnes (the country of which Red London is the capital). I liked reading about that, it’s always good to see more of the world.
All in all, this was a fantastic second part of the trilogy and I can’t wait for the final instalment. I can’t believe we’ll have to wait for a year!
HERE BE SERIOUS SPOILERS
So. You didn’t think I’d write all that praise without pointing out what bugged me, did you? :) If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your take on these issues – they weren’t deal breakers for me, not at all, the book is still definitely a 5-star/heart read for me, but they were things that popped up when I was reading.
First of all: did the tournament really move the plot forward? Half the book (or so it seems) is about the Element Games and while it was good to give both Kell and Lila a playground on which they could test their abilities (Lila especially), I found that it didn’t really bring anything to the overall plot of the series. Look, it was great to watch the duels – but the only plot that really moves forward is the White London parts, which were possibly the least interesting (because there was no Kell or Lila or Rhy).
This brings me to my second point: Lila and the women of the world. I know (IknowIknowIknow) she’s all about being alone and independent and that this fact is both her greatest strength and greatest weakness, but I wish there were more important female characters in the story. Okay, so Ojka looks like she might get a larger part in book 3 but she’s essentially a puppet, then there’s Calla, the seamstress who sees too much and knows not to comment, and the Queen, who doesn’t have a really big role at all. I’d hoped Kisimyr, at least, would be a more important player. I would love to have found out more about her. But none of these women touch Kell and Lila’s story (except Ojka, but we know she’s Holland’s tool).
But wow, that ending! As Victoria wrote in the acknowledgments, she hasn’t finished a novel on a cliffhanger yet, but now she definitely made up for that. I knew something horrible was going to happen even without the “catastrophe” chapter title, but this really makes me wonder how they’ll be able to defeat that murderous shadow monster. What are you planning, Victoria?! Oh, it’ll be agony to wait for a year for the final part.
So, I’d love to hear your thoughts – whether you’ve already finished this part or not.
Did the book meet your expectations? Were they crazy high?
Tell me all! :)