Whatever I am, let it be enough.
A Gathering of Shadows is the low-key sequel to the excellent A Darker Shade of Magic. It’s no surprise that my newly discovered adoration for V. E. Schwab extends to this sequel. What is surprising, however, is the reasoning for my love. A Gathering of Shadows is a different kind of book, and excellent on its own.
Four months have passed since the events of A Darker Shade of Magic. Red London is preparing for the Element Games, an international competition for magic users. Whether they want it or not, the competition proves effective at bringing these reluctant allies back together.
Usually the Element Games is a plot device that would pop up in a series starter. The main characters meet while engaged in a battle of skill or wits while something sinister lurks in the background. In a way, that was this book, except we were aware of the sinister-ness in the background. These games also had something unprecedented…none of our heroes could actually win. (Well, I guess Alucard is someone to root for, but he was never meant to be the main character or center of our attention.) That took our focus (rightfully so) away from the competition itself. And so, for once, the games were a background instead of the forefront, something I don’t see much in the books I read that do have competitions like this.
A Gathering of Shadows is the perfect middle book because it stands on its own. Each of these books tie together, but they have isolated stories. In this one, we have the games. We meet a new villain. It shifts our attention to some side characters. Lila and Kell are still the beloved main characters, but Rhy and Alucard are pretty awesome and important too. These character dynamics are more important than ever for driving the story. And there is some awesome kissing. 😉
This book is lighter, but more suspenseful. The events of the first book shook our characters to their very core, so the stakes feel higher than ever. And, of course, we get an evil cliffhanger.
Schwab continues to delight and engage with this series, though I admit I feel the need to pause before the last one. (It’s so long!) I’m thrilled to know that A Conjuring of Light isn’t the last book in this universe, though yes, technically it is the last book in the Shades of Magic series. (If you don’t know what I mean by this, check out Schwab’s website/blog!)