“Everyone’s immortal until they’re not.”
A Gathering of Shadows is the second installment of Schwab’s shades of magic trilogy, and was a book that unfortunately left me feeling slightly disappointed. While I afforded the first novel a full five stars, I felt that I could only give this one 3.5. This preference for the first book by no means implies that this sequel was bad, it just didn’t live up to my (probably unrealistic) expectations. I had a few issues that I couldn’t quite ignore, making for a read that wasn’t quite as spectacular as the first.
This novel is more character driven than the first, particularly in the first half. This allowed for my wish for more character development to be granted, particularly concerning Kell and Rhy and the further development of their dynamic. Rhy has more prominence in this novel, allowing for the audience to see beneath his cheerful exterior and understand him more deeply. The integration of his relationship with Alucard was also a warmly received aspect of this novel and is certainly something that I hope is explored further in the final installment.
With that said, I couldn’t help but feel that the lack of plot and slow pace of the first half of the novel were down to the implementation of a character exploration that was not thorough enough of a substitute. While I did enjoy getting to know the characters a little better, I couldn’t help but wish that there was more going on plot wise that perhaps could’ve been used to aid this character exploration. However, the plot did pick up around the 50% mark, making the second half of the novel considerably more enjoyable! I liked the implementation of the games as it made for a story that was more high stakes and led to a cliffhanger ending that left me wanting more!
Lila Bard was another story. While I enjoyed reading about her in the first novel, I found that she became irritable and acted in ways that were mildly infuriating in this one. She gradually slipped into the “I’m not like other girls” mindset which I’m not sure was intentional, but was rather infuriating all the same. Her cold wit and her mindset acted to me to make her slightly less realistic, resulting in me unfortunately caring about her less and less as the novel progressed.
Despite this there were many positives to this book. The aforementioned dynamic between Kell and Rhy was executed well, with the world building aiding this. We see Kell deal with further ramifications of using his magic which was incredibly interesting, and we are also painted a portrait of these other Londons in beautiful detail. Schwab’s prose remains something to marvel at, and is just as beautiful as it was in the first. These aspects, alongside Holland of course (no spoilers though, just know that strangely he’s my favorite), helped to redeem the novel for me and certainly made it more enjoyable!
Overall, this book was good. It had its flaws, but it also had its redeeming factors, making it quite enjoyable. I’ll definitely be reading the final installment soon, especially after that cliffhanger!
“Kell would say it was impossible. What a useless word, in a world with magic.”