So I finally finished the Darker Shade of Magic series, about a million years after everyone else! Hooray! You can check out my review for book one, A Darker Shade of Magic, here, or keep reading for my reviews of books 2 and 3!
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
‘“Oh yes, your relationship with Miss Bard is positively ordinary.”
“Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.”’
Four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, and Lila and Kell have gone their separate ways. Lila is living out her dream of becoming a pirate aboard the Night Spire, and is learning about her previously unknown magical gifts from the ship’s charismatic captain, Alucard Emery. Meanwhile Kell remains in Red London helping with the preparations for the Element Games – an international magic competition between the empires of Arnes, Vesk and Faro – and dealing with the consequences of the sacrifice he made to save his brother Rhy. However, their paths are destined to cross again, and the two must again face a terrible branch of dark magic, as another much darker London begins to come back to life…
In my review of A Darker Shade of Magic I said that I liked the book, but the hype slightly affected my reading of it, as I didn’t get as immediately sucked in as I would like…that was not the case with A Gathering of Shadows! I actually liked this book a lot more than the first, and from the action-packed first scene where Lila is conning some rather ferocious pirates, I was hooked.
I just feel like the plot was much tighter in this book, with more focus on action, and a main event – the Element Games, or Essen Tasch – serving as something big to lead up to. I also loved seeing how the magical fights worked, and getting to see people from the other empires of the Darker Shade of Magic world.
I continued to love Lila and Kell, although I did find it slightly frustrating in this book that it took so long after Lila returns to London for them to actually see one another. One of the things I loved most about A Darker Shade of Magic was their friendship/growing romantic relationship, so the fact that for most of the book you don’t see them interacting at all was a little annoying (although that epic kiss scene kind of made up for it!).
I also said in my last review that I wanted to see more of Prince Rhy in the second book, as he was more of a secondary character in the first book. I definitely got my wish in A Gathering of Shadows, as he came more to the forefront, and liked seeing more of his relationship with Kell, and deeper behind his charming facade.
There was also a wealth of new characters in this book, namely Alucard Emery and the Night Spire crew. I found Alucard to be such an interesting character, and his rather turbulent friendship with Lila was one of my favourite things about this book. In many ways they are a match for each other, and I enjoyed their verbal sparring and constant jibes at each other. I also liked the reveal around his history with Rhy and Kell, and was definitely intrigued to see where that went in the final book.
Again, I found the world of the series to be one of the most imaginative and well-crafted of any fantasy I’ve read, even with the story mainly being set in just one of the parallel universes for the purpose of this book. I especially liked seeing more of the world of Red London through the travels of Lila, and the foreign competitors in the Element Games, and I enjoyed seeing magic used to it’s full capacity in the various fights.
Overall I loved this book, way more than I loved A Darker Shade of Magic, and the tense cliffhanger of an ending definitely drew me in. I read A Conjuring of Light not long after finishing A Gathering of Shadows, as I was absolutely desperate to learn the fates of Kell, Lila, Rhy and company…
A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
‘“What are we drinking to?”
“The living,” said Rhy.
“The dead,” said Alucard and Lila at the same time.
“We’re being thorough,” added Rhy.’
A terrible shadow has been cast over the once vibrant and flourishing Arnesian Empire, as another London rises from the shadows. A darkness steals through Red London, taking over all those who stand in it’s way, and it falls to Kell, Lila, Rhys and Alucard to stop it before it’s too late…
My feelings on this series definitely seem to have fluctuated a little throughout: I liked the first book, loved the second, and then went back to just liking this third one (and it’s pretty odd for me to like a second book best out of a series!). A Conjuring of Light definitely had the highest stakes in terms of the danger to the world of Red London and the central characters, yet I found it dragged in parts and not much seemed to be happening aside from the gradual decaying of the world as Osaron takes over.
However, there was lots of things I continued to like about this book, namely the developing of the central characters various relationships. For example, a highlight for me was getting to see Kell and Lila’s romantic relationship finally take off, as well as get the full backstory on Rhys and Alucard’s past. I also liked Lila’s continued friendship with Alucard, despite Kell’s hatred of him, and getting so see Lila actually properly interacting with Rhy. This book was definitely a coming together of all the characters as they fight against the rising evil, and that was an aspect I really enjoyed.
I also liked Holland’s involvement in this book, and especially getting to find out more of his backstory, as he was a character I have been intrigued with since the beginning of the series. As the only significant character from the more brutal White London it was interesting to see how he grew up in comparison to Kell and Rhy, and the tragic chain of events that led to him desperately taking up Osaron’s offer, and letting him loose on first White London, and then Red London.
I also liked the sea voyage interlude in the middle of this book as Alucard, Lila, Kell and Holland set out to fetch back the Inheritor, and the floating market ended up being one of my favourite settings of the whole series. I just loved the idea of a mysterious market out at sea, packed full of magical treasure, and the way you have to pay for items with years of your life was wonderfully sinister.
Overall I enjoyed this final instalment of the series, though not as much as I loved A Gathering of Shadows. It maybe could have benefitted from being slightly shorter (and it isn’t often that I say that about a book!), as at times I felt it dragged, and not much was happening, but overall I feel like this was a satisfying end to the series.
I have been meaning to read this series for so long, and I’m glad that I finally have because it was really enjoyable. I don’t think it fully lived up to the massive hype for me, but I guess that’s just the danger of hyped books! It was still a great series, and had one of the most imaginative and well-drawn fantasy worlds I’ve ever read about. I would definitely recommend the Darker Shade of Magic series to everyone else out there who hasn’t already read these!
So have you read this series? What did you think? Did they live up to the hype for you? What did you think of the ending?