A Conjuring of Light by Victoria Schwab

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by Victoria Schwab
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Links:

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: historical fantasy.

My rating:

I’ve asked my husband to simplify my review form a little. The book cover link still goes to Goodreads and you can figure most of the metadata from there, you’re bookish people after all and don’t need me for this. :)

This review was hard to write. It’s nearly impossible for me to say anything bad about Victoria Schwab’s books because I’m a huge fan, but I just didn’t enjoy A Conjuring of Light like I did her previous work. This post contains serious spoilers for the entire series, so if you haven’t read the books (all of them) yet, I suggest you go and remedy that situation before coming back to chat with me. You’ve been warned. Also, if you’re a die-hard fan of the series and can’t hear anything bad said about it, please stop reading. This review isn’t nasty or snarky, but it isn’t as awed as I hoped it would be, either.

I had some issues with A Gathering of Shadows already, namely that the big magical tournament took over the entire book and didn’t really move the plot along until the last couple of chapters. I also didn’t like the way Lila seemed determined to keep herself distanced from everyone (to her own detriment).

In ACOL, the first problem grew worse (I’ll talk about it in a moment), but Lila was much more approachable. I know many people probably disliked the fact that she and Kell hooked up but I’ve been rooting for them from the beginning and was very happy when they (and by they I mean one Delilah Bard) managed to get their shit sorted out and realized they actually belong together. *happy sigh*

But most of the plot consists of defeating Osaron, aka The Evil Entity of Doom (or EED for short). He/It wants to take over the entire world, possibly two, and everyone needs to unite in order to vanquish him/it. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the whole “let’s do this together” thing wasn’t really to my taste.

First of all, EED was such a poor villain. Oh, he was uber powerful and very evil, but also completely black. I like my antagonists a bit grayer – there wasn’t a single moment when I thought “huh, he might win,” because he was one-dimensional and just had to be defeated. So the entire plot of the story wasn’t “will they defeat the EED” but merely “how will they defeat the EED”, which is a bit more predictable. I know, I know, I’m being super harsh… :(

Schwab also decided to redeem Holland. I know he was just a pawn for the Dane twins but he did some really atrocious things and was nasty in the process. So I couldn’t get behind his change – especially not as the justification came in large amounts of backstory that seemed entirely unnecessary. Some readers were probably happy, I know people loved Holland, but I just didn’t.

Then there were the multitudes of POVs. Starting from AGOS, more and more characters got their turn at being heard. This is absolutely a pet peeve (I had the same difficulty with Strange the Dreamer and The Gray Wolf Throne) but head-hopping really bugs me. It takes valuable page time away from my beloved main characters and it never gives enough attention to side characters who remain undeveloped and therefore interchangeable. Here, it felt like the queen, the king, the guard, and the sailor all got their bits of the story so we’d feel bad when Schwab eventually killed them. This sounds way harsh but I just didn’t feel anything when they died!

To be honest, I worried about who she’ll kill by the end of the book. Why is it that we can’t have a HEA for everyone in fantasy books? There are other ways of punching me in the gut without murdering characters. (Okay, this mini rant is closely connected to my feelings about Crooked Kingdom, but we’ll discuss that at some other time.) I’m really glad Schwab didn’t murder any of the main characters – I really feared for Rhy and Alucard for a while, but I think she must have known she’d start a riot if she killed them off. :)

I did like the book, mostly. As I said, I loved Kell and Lila’s dynamic, I enjoyed Rhy’s development so much, I liked how Alucard made amends. They were a good crew and the series as a whole is still very much a favorite.

But I wish it could have been done without the flashbacks and backstory, which made the story stutter and stumble, especially when they interrupted the main action. (This is also a problem I had with Traitor to the Throne. Fantasy sequels haven’t been kind to me lately.)

Anyway, I enjoyed A Conjuring of Light, it was a fast and ultimately satisfying read, but I wish the execution was more to my taste (HA, I wish ALL the books I read were more to my taste. But weirdly enough, writers don’t write books for me exclusively.). I’ll probably even re-read it at some point, I just need some distance from it first. I usually don’t feel the need to apologize for my unpopular opinions, but here I feel like I’m being a huge asshole. I can safely say I know Schwab can write better books because I read most of her work and loved it. So I’m hoping Our Dark Duet, the next sequel of hers I’m waiting for, will be…better. Stronger.

Have you read A Conjuring of Light? Did you like it as a series ending?

Do you ever feel personally attacked when someone disagrees with you on your favorite books?

I’d love to hear from you! :) 

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  • ACOL was what I wanted in a series finale, but I can still see your points! I was expecting the multiple POVs before I started, so I think that helped. I also read it in one sitting, so I didn’t really have time to nit-pick. (Not that you shouldn’t be allowed to do that, even when it’s a favorite author!) Unlike you, I really liked Holland’s character development, although you’re right that it was more “this is why he is the way he is” than “look how he’s redeemed himself.” I hope ODD will live up to both our expectations.

    • I’m really glad it worked for you. I wanted it to work so badly, but sometimes things just don’t add up. It probably doesn’t help that I still haven’t quite shaken my slump. I think the more I study the actual craft of writing, the more I notice the little things that I would have just glossed over before. Like the info dumps with Holland’s backstory – every writing guide I’ve read says not to do that. And I just expected better from Schwab, I know it’s unfair but she’s got like 10+ books published now and I consider her to be one of the best. She still is but I guess even “the great ones” make mistakes. This is a good lesson to remember, actually.
      And yeah, I have really high hopes for ODD. Will you re-read TSS before you start? I’m thinking about it…

      • See, that’s one of the biggest reasons why I’d never want to be an editor or translator. I never want reading to feel like work or to become so critical of books that I can’t enjoy them. Not that I’m saying it’s that way for you, but I think it would be for me.
        I haven’t decided yet. I’ve already read/listened to it 4 (?) times, but I’d also like to convince S to read it with me. I hope you find time to reread!

  • MissBookiverse

    Oh please don’t feel guilty for your review. I find it so refreshing to read a critical opinion for this book. We already shared some thoughts on Instagram but I agree with most of what you say. I do really like the world and the characters but this book (and maybe even the whole series) is not as perfect as it is made out to be. The villain was absolutely useless! It’s just like you said, he should’ve been much grayer! I did like Holland’s redemption but I didn’t care much about his back story either because it was… boring, it held no surprises or was the least bit fascinating which is a shame because he actually is a very interesting character. And yes, all these POVs! I don’t mind if there is a handful of them but not everybody needs their own chapter and I don’t need one situation assessed from several POVs. URGH! So frustrating.