Title: A Gathering of Shadows
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic, #2
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
V.E. Schwab once again impresses with her knack for world building and her larger-than-life characters in A Gathering of Shadows, the highly anticipated sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic. The dust has settled, so to speak, in Red London, where Kell, now the only Antari, deals with the aftermath of his choice to save his brother Rhy. The life bond formed between the two means neither feels pain without the other one experiencing it. There’s a lot of love between these two characters though their personalities are often at odds. Rhy is all charm, smiles, and recklessness where Kell feels the weight of the world on his shoulders at every turn. They’ve always balanced each other out, but this bond puts a strain on their relationship. Resentment and anger underline their once effortless rapport, making both long for freedom from one another. Kell, once revered by those in Red London, now finds himself on the receiving end of suspicious looks. Four months ago a darkness descended and many lost their lives; and while no one quite understands what happened, they know that their own Antari had something to do with it. Kell also experiences distrust within his own family, and as someone who never quite felt like he belonged, this is truly heartbreaking.
A Darker Shade of Magic explored the different Londons that exist beside Kell’s own Red London; in this sequel, Schwab opens up the protagonist’s world. The Essen Tasch, or Elemental Games, are set to take place and magicians from the three known empires will gather in London to compete. The competition brings back Lila Bard, who has spent her time at sea in hopes of realizing her dream of owning and captaining her own ship. Lila is coming into her own power, just beginning to discover what she is truly capable of. For Lila, life is full of endless possibilities. She’s got confidence and skill in spades and she is constantly surprising those around her. But Lila is also trying to prove that she is more than a thief from Grey London and her ambition, while exciting, lends itself to attracting trouble and in a world that is unfamiliar, this can be her undoing. New faces are also introduced in this second book, most prominently is Alucard Emery, captain of the Night Spire. The captain rivals Prince Rhy when in comes to charms, but it is his past, full of many secrets, that has me wanting to know more about him.
I thoroughly enjoyed the magical competition in A Gathering of Shadows. Up until now, we’ve only seen magic as displayed by Antari and the Dane twins, so it was such a delight to see other magicians and how magic doesn’t have to be deadly in order to be a powerful force. That being said, this second book did not have a clear conflict like its predecessor, making it at times feel very much like a place holder.