by V.E. Schwab
Reviewed by SA
For those of you who have been with us since the beginning (we love you!) you may know that I’m slightly obsessed with the Darker Shade of Magic world. I even found ADSoM to be my favorite book of 2015. It was brilliant! So naturally, when the sequel came out, I pounced on it. And it did not disappoint: it filled me with the magic I sorely missed.
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.
The plot is so, well, cheerful, this time around (until the end that absolutely destroys you, you have been warned.) Everything revolves around the Essen Tasch, or Element games. Lila has returned to London for the event, and many of our friends have gone undercover just so they can participate. But something dark is lurking back in White London, where a certain left-for-dead Antari has returned and is bringing his world back to life, at a price.
That’s probably what makes this book so much fun: the looming threat is known only by the reader, so the other characters have their own struggles to deal with while we do all the worrying for them. And the Games themselves are incredibly fun, as if the Olympics had pro-bending as their main event (speaking of which, anybody else try to imagine if Korra had entered? Now there’s a crossover I want to see.)
What’s fantastic is that the author also expands on the world she’s created. We learn more about Red London, and the other countries that surround it, about the political situation, about life on the sea, and we learn more about Magic. This is worldbuilding at its best.
But the best part is those amazing characters we came to love in ADSoM: Lila is more than she seems, and is badass per usual. I can’t wait to see where her story leads. Kell’s life has changed since the events of the last book, and he’s learning to fight. Rhy’s now linked to Kell, and his lifestyle must adapt. And who is this Alucard, whom Kell seems to hate and Lila begrudgingly admire?
Some may argue that this book is slower than the first, as there is much less going on. It’s all building up to the games, and then the ultimate conclusion (which, even if I saw coming, made me anxious as heck). Which seems like little for 500 pages. But I blew through this, and it felt like only 40 minutes had gone by. For me, there was never a dull moment, and I was excited from start to finish.
So basically – if you likes ADSoM, you are going to love A Gathering of Shadows. And if you haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic, what are you waiting for?