I’ve been waiting for this wondrous book to be released for just under a year now, I first read A Darker Shade Of Magic (the first book in Schwab’s Darker Shades series) last May and I immediately fell in love with Schwab’s beautiful, almost poetic writing and the incredible world she weaves for the intricate and captivating characters. AGOS was absolutely worth the wait! HERE is the link to a summary of A Darker Shade Of Magic at Goodreads and HERE is a link to the Recaptains summary so you can catch up if you need to!
Summary of A Gathering Of Shadows from Goodreads:
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 neighbouring 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.
QUICK WARNING!: There will be some spoilers from here please don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled or haven’t read the book yet!!
So as you can tell simply from the summary, the magical world of many Londons has come back into our lives with all the same fast-paced action, witty banter and awe-inspiring magic but this time with more sparkling characters (including the charming Prince of Power, Alucard Emery), fantastic duels and twice as much tension, both romantic and dramatic. V. E. Schwab is one of my favourite writers ever and she also falls onto my list of favourite authors as people, HERE is a link to her Twitter because you should absolutely be following her, she’s funny, intelligent, constantly interacts with readers and best of all, she is probably the biggest fan of fans of her books ever. (Also she has killer taste in coats!)
First, I’d like to talk about a little issue I had with most summaries I read, while the Element Games play a big role in the book, including Schwab’s captivating and spectacular descriptions of the duels, arenas and balls, it is by no means the majority, please don’t go into it expecting something similar to the Hunger Games where the book is based on the one event; AGOS is so much more than that! You’re treated to flitting between the seas of Red London’s Arnesia, Red London itself, a few visits to Grey London and finally the terrifying sub-plot in White London, in this instalment we also get to experience a couple more points of view, including the much anticipated voice of my dearly beloved cinnamon roll, Crown Prince Rhy Maresh!
So in respect to the White London subplot; I loved the dark suspense it kept the entire book in, every time we returned to the haunting London I got physical chills. One of Schwab’s skills that makes her a supreme writer is the cinematic quality she evokes, reading Schwab is like watching a film in your head and when she takes you to places as chilling as White or Black London you can physically feel everything and see everything so clearly and vividly that it’s incredible and one of the things I love about reading is the escapism that comes with it and picking up any of Schwab’s books give you some of the best escapism imaginable. However a small niggle I had with the subplot was the excuse of Rhy not visiting White London because he thought it would be too dangerous, after 4 months and then what I presume to be at least 2 weeks that AGOS takes place over you would think Rhy would visit once or twice to see the fate of a whole world. However as it is clear that is going to be the entire plot of the finale I’m hoping this might be addressed!
One of the truly amazing aspects of AGOS (and ADSOM!) was the characters, usually what you look for in books is character growth and don’t get me wrong all of the characters have arcs absolutely, but the most amazing thing about the characters is their complexity and their perspectives on each of their current situations. While it’s true that we mainly hear only from Kell and Lila, a bit of Rhy and rare splashes of Holland or Ojka, Kell, Lila and Rhy all have such tempestuous inner battles that you truly feel like they are realistic. While I’m aware that AGOS is an ‘adult’ book Schwab is aware that this series is followed by her pre-existing young adult audience and has been passed around lovers of fantasy of all ages and she keeps the sophisticated emotions and depth and breadth of feeling in each of the characters. To be specific Kell and Rhy’s relationship is simply fascinating, I’ve always loved characters with telepathic links but I’ve never seen it done as conflicting as Schwab presented it. The idea is that Rhy is sharing Kell’s life and so has gratitude to Kell for allowing Rhy to one day inherit his Kingdom, guilt as Kell now can’t do everything he always wanted as he has someone else’s life in his hands, guilt as Kell is treated terribly by the people he once looked to as his parents, guilt and shame that Rhy put himself and his kingdom including the people that died because of his pride, at tremendous risk in the name of power and so, so much more. Kell is even more conflicted and emotional and don’t get me started on Lila. What Schwab does is raise complicated questions for you to ask yourself; e.g. yes, Rhy feels guilty for succumbing to greed for power, as he probably should, but if I were surrounded by a world of magic and had to rule over people without any myself, would I not do the same thing? The answer is absolutely yes! Schwab and her characters don’t talk down to you as a reader, they bare all and show you a mirror to look at yourself through them, that’s something I barely ever experience away from this writer.
The last thing I’d like to pick up on technically, applies to all of Schwab’s books, much like all of my compliments of her writing in general! But specifically Schwab used to read and write poetry when she was younger (I don’t know if she does now but I hope so!) and you can tell she was clearly good at it because her prose is so poetic and beautiful, I’m going to leave a few of my favourite quotes at the bottom of the post and I’d like you to read them aloud, the rhythm and the flow of her sentences is something to marvel at and from a single quote you can be left intrigued and with a tingle of true Schwab magic!
I’d like to finish by talking about the delicious slice of angel cake that is Alucard Emery, but if you haven’t read AGOS and experienced the best character I’ve ever read, you need to go away and fix that right now! Alucard, Alucard, my charming, witty, talented, gifted, beautiful, handsome, suave, sexy, guarded, romantic, humble Captain of the Night Spires you truly are the best character I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet! I don’t want to give anything specific away because he is one of those characters you have to fully experience to truly love but suffice to say, he is a perfect fit for the series and has fascinating and hilarious experiences with our main characters, Rhy, Lila and Kell as well as the perfect backstory. And thank you to Victoria Ying for designing the most beautiful card for him and three of the other competitors, they are comfortably situated on my wall, ready to protect me with their elemental magic if I’m ever attacked during my sleep! You can see the cards HERE!
- “Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.”
- “I am Delilah Bard, she thought, as the ropes cut into her skin. I am a thief and a pirate and a traveler. I have set foot in three different worlds, and lived. I have shed the blood of royals and held magic in my hands.”
- “I do not know why you two are circling each other like stars. It is not my cosmic dance. But I do know that you come asking after one another, when only a few strides and a handful of stars divide you.”
- “What do you want to know?”
Lila returned to the chair and leaned forward, her elbows on her knees. “Everything”
- “Strength and weakness are tangled things,” the Aven Essen had said. “They look so much alike, we often confuse them, the way we confuse magic and power.”
- “Everyone’s immortal until they’re not.”
Hope you enjoyed this review, if you have any book recommendations please leave them in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!