So a couple of years ago, I was at Loncon 3 and listening to a panel about (I think) urban fantasy. One of the people on that panel was talking about a book she’d written which was set in a sort of library of souls and I thought ‘Ohhh, that sounds interesting,’ made a note of the author and book and then put it on my wishlist. And so my infatuation with Victoria/V. E. Schwab was born. (That book was The Archived by the way, and it was fabulous, but I didn’t read it in 2016.) My infatuation was only strengthened with every book I read, and I ended up attending some of her UK signings this year with a massive pile of books, including A Gathering of Shadows, which might just be my favourite of her work. (She’s LOVELY, in case you were wondering.)
(Skip the synopsis under the cover picture if you haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic, as it kind of spoils that book!)
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.
So A Gathering of Shadows is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, and it is amazing. I already loved Kell, Lila and Rhy, but this book just made that love more intense, and introduced a new character, Alucard, who immediately joined the ranks of fabulous characters I adore. I think I shipped him with pretty much all three of the others, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been so desperate for two characters to kiss as I was at one point in this book! But yes, I loved Alucard with his mysterious ties to Kell and Rhy, and his role as reluctant mentor to Lila. He was a great addition to the cast, and I think he was a large part of why I prefer this book to its predecessor.
I’m not really going to talk about the plot here, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but it is a rollicking read, and ends with a terrible, terrible cliffhanger, which I’m STILL bitter about even though I finished the book in April. Lila continues to be one of the best heroines in fantasy literature, although sometimes I wish she’d think a little more before going off in some wild plan. (I don’t really. If she did that she wouldn’t be Lila, would she? But my heart would beat a little more normally when reading if she did. :)) I love her. I love that she discovered a world full of magic, just took it in her stride and is now off making the most of it. She leaves the only people she knows in search of adventure and freedom – don’t we all wish we could be like that occasionally? I felt desperately sorry for Kell for large parts of this book though. I won’t say why, but he’s not having a good time, and Rhy’s not doing much better. A Conjuring of Light, the forthcoming third book, has a lot of work to do for the happy ending – I cannot wait!