Another awesome book from V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic universe, A Gathering of Shadows follows Kell and Lila through the progress of an international tournament that pits magician against magician. I feel a little less in love with this book as I was with the first of the trilogy, but this is normal for sequels.
On the one hand, this book introduced a host of new characters to fall in love with—ALUCARD!!! Be still my beating heart!!!—and gave us a more in-depth look at characters like Prince Rhy, who in the last novel felt like he wasn’t fleshed out enough and who in this book was a Precious BB Will Defend With My Life. Even getting to see old characters who only made brief appearances in the last book was nice, like the mask lady who dotes on Lila because she thinks Kell is banging her. On the other hand, we are still stuck with the insufferable Lila Bard as one of our mains. I think I came around to tolerating her a little toward the end, but I’m kind of thinking that’s just because she had one of her brief moments of likability during the final act and the book ended before the illusion was shattered.
One thing that was AWESOME about this book was the Kell+Rhy dynamic. The whole tragically-n-magically-bound-soulmates thing is a trope that really Gets Me Going (I endured pretty much the entire mortal instruments series for the brief Jace+Alec scenes we got and have rabidly followed the show. Plz, if u know of any tragic/magic soulmate bond novels, hmu. Platonic/romantic/whatever). I love the dynamic of being stuck together because you love each other but hating each other for it. Plus the whole suffering each other’s pain thing is next level angst which is what I feed on. I am now about 1000x more eager to read the next one because I have to know what becomes of the soul bond—this is actually the #1 thing I care about going into book 3.
The pacing of this book is a little wonky, unfortunately. Kell and Lila are focussed mostly on character-building and this tournament that Rhy is planning, and aren’t really involved in the “plot” that continues from book 1 at all, which mostly takes place in White London + Black London with a few brief allusions to it during Kell’s chapters. Throughout the book are chapters that focus on the evil/magic building in White London which in theory should be interesting but really aren’t because it takes us away from the characters we spend the bulk of our time, well… caring about. One thing that is exciting about the plot-driven part of this book is that one of the characters from White London we thought was dead, and one that I thought died way too soon without enough page time, comes back in this book.
This installment actually ended up being a lot more enjoyable than I expected given the slow pacing of the second half, and OH YEAH I FORGOT TO MENTION THAT WE HAVE A MAIN SAME GENDER COUPLE NOW WHICH MADE IT EVEN BETTER!!! Final rating: 4 twitchy whiskers out of 5.
If you’re thinking you also need this book in your life, check it out here (Amazon link)