Thursday, June 22, 2017

REVIEW | A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Shades of Magic #2
Awards: None
Format: Audio (Library)
Narrator: Michael Kramer and Kate Reading

SPOILERS AHOY!  This is book two in a series so some spoilery type things about book one may be revealed. 

WHY?:  Loved the world and story in book one!

SYNOPSIS:  Four months have passed since the events in book one.  Kell's position in Red London has changed in a negative way and he and Rhy struggle to come to grips with their new linked existence while also trying to prepare for a big international tournament of magic called the Essentasch.  Meanwhile, Lila has found a "home" on a privateer ship in her new adopted world and is learning some magic of her own from the enigmatic and charming Captain, Alucard Emery.  Everybody is reunited for the games where it turns out Kell's life is in danger from an unexpected enemy.

The tone of this book is a good bit quieter and more mundane than book one, at least for a majority of it.  For me that was mostly all right and I in fact, liked this one more than book one and ended it SUPER excited about the implications for book 3.  

Most of the book focuses on the fall out resulting from Kell bringing Rhy back from the dead in book one.  As a result, their lives are inextricably linked which only increases Kell's already strong feelings of being trapped and stifled.  He can't go off and have an adventure, and in fact is almost never allowed to roam too far from the castle, because if he dies, Rhy dies.  Also his suspicions that the King and Queen only treasure him as a commodity and not as a son as they pretend, are completely verified when they blame him for Rhy's "death" even though Rhy was more to blame in the situation and is angry for his parents treating Kell so poorly.  

Rhy's feelings are also complicated and not positive. He is not dealing well with the price that was paid to make sure he lived and he feels responsible and deeply guilty for further tying Kell down.  They are best friends, brothers if not by blood, and their friendship is being sorely tested.  

It's a really interesting dynamic and I could read about these two all week long and twice on Tuesday.  I appreciate that Schwab doesn't jump right into non-stop action and takes the time to really explore her characters and make sure all of that development weaves into the story she is telling.

I just wish she had stuck with Kell and Rhy.  And Alucard - I really loved the addition of Alucard and he and his love interest? Hubba Hubba!  That's a romantic entanglement I can get behind!  I also was enthralled by the developments in White London  - they are VERY interesting and the first scene in White London had me grinning like the cheshire cat.  

No, pretty much all the characters are great. All except, Lila, Lila, ugh, Lila.  I struggled with Lila in book one but by the end had started to warm up to her.  Unfortunately things took a major turn for the worse in book two.  Part of my issue with the character is a personal one - reckless, impulsive characters who act without assessing risk to themselves AND OTHERS, really stress me out.  This is Lila to a T.  She is also unfriendly, lacking in empathy, selfish, arrogant, mean and thin-skinned (she can dish it but can't take it).  All of these traits are realistic, considering she grew up on the streets but the fact is she's not an enjoyable person and yet everyone seems to love her.  She's Kell's love interest, Alucard is immediately taken with her, even the shopkeeper in the bazaar who she met in book one, "lights up" when she sees Lila again.  I really wish she didn't exist, lol, and obviously I didn't enjoy the sections of the book focused on her.  Except her first scene - which is awesome.

After this slow, leisurely start, focusing on the characters, the book really picks up speed with the start of the Essentasch which is essentially a magical Olympics.  Kell as the only one of his kind and the most powerful magician in the red world is not allowed to compete for his country but Rhy finds a way to sneak him in, knowing that he needs the challenge.  The tournament is also a vehicle for revealing more about the wider world outside of London and also about how magic works which is essentially elemental.  Magicians can usually only control one element while the more powerful may be able to control two or rarely even three.  Only Kell can control all four as well as cross between the different Londons.  The tournament is fun and it leads up to a seriously exciting climax!

To close I have a note about the audio format.  I pretty much hated the narrator for book one in the series so was interested to see that he was replaced and that there are now two reader, one for Lila's chapters and one for Kell's.  I liked these narrators so much better and they did a good job bringing the story to life. 

FINAL VERDICT:  An original fantasy story that takes its time to develop its characters but then wallops the readers with a seriously exciting finish and cliffhanger.  It only gets 3.5 stars because Lila.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

Other Opinions are Available: Speculative Herald | The Bibliosanctum | 

No comments:

Post a Comment