Book Review: A Gathering Of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows Final

5star

Title: A Gathering Of Shadows

Author: V. E. Schwab

Series? Yes, 1 of 3.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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Book Depository


This review contains spoilers for the first book of the series: A Darker Shade of Magic.

A Gathering of Shadows was one of my most anticipated release of 2016. Its predecessor, A Darker Shade of Magic, was one of the first books I reviewed on this blog and a top ten read from last year. Victoria Schwab is back in fine form in this sequel – once again giving us banter, heartstopping action, and Lila Bard – with more swagger than ever. Although I wish our main characters developed more depth, I can’t argue too much as the book was thoroughly entertaining.

AGOS-Review
Vector of the warriors by freevector.com used under CC License, graphics by me :D!

“She bent most of the rules. She broke the rest.”

It’s no secret that my favourite character in this series is Lila Bard. She’s quite the polarising figure, with reviewers either loving or hating her – and to be fair, I would find her incredibly obnoxious if we met in real life. However, as a fictional character, I love her bull-headed selfishness and penchant for showmanship. Lila Bard fights with all her extensive might to be different, to buck against everyone’s expectations, to be more. With her mix of grand ambitions, coupled with the inability to keep a low profile – Lila is quite unique amongst fantasy’s offering of noble-hearted protagonist. She speaks in one liner, she weaves songs and superstition about herself, she seems to think she’s invincible, she keeps insisting she’s ‘not like most girls’ – in other words, she’s one flawed heroine. However, Lila does it all in such style, I can’t help but be smitten.

“If anyone could make the strange seem ordinary, the impossible look easy, it was Delilah Bard”

Nonetheless, I did hope to get more expansion on Lila’s character in AGOS. As it stands, I don’t think I know her any better as a person despite a 500+ pages addition to the story. Lila got little development in this installment, especially in comparison to Kell. Instead, her inner issues and conflict are beginning to stagnate. We are still faced with the same inner monologues she had in ADSOM: wanting to be free, wanting to escape. Although Lila gained a lot more power in this book in a physical and social sense, I felt her character could have been pushed further. Things come almost too easily for Lila: whether it be the sudden aptitude for magic and Arnesian, or half-baked plans that falls neatly into place thanks to authorial intent. Her chief function is ‘being really awesome at everything’ – and that’s cool, but I hope we will see more development in the final book.

“I gave him my life, but you cannot ask me to stop living.”

On the other hand, I love the direction the book took with Kell’s character. When we met him in ADSOM, Kell was living a pretty charmed life – adored prince and the most powerful magician in four worlds. Sure, he played at rebellion and teen angst, but he ultimately cruised through life up until the events of the first book. Now, we get to deal with the fallout and the real meaty stuff: Kell has lost favours with the Red London monarchs, he’s literally binded to Rhy for life, he’s in an incredibly dark and confusing place. Things seem to be falling at the seams for Kell, who’s desperation to keep it all together was difficult to see. Kell ultimately remains good and squishable, but I loved seeing circumstances challenge him time and again. His relationship with magic, now more than ever, is fraught with tension.

Magic was power, of course, but it wasn’t the only kind. Rhy told himself he could still be strong without it

Kell’s relationship with Rhy is also tested – and to my delight, we got to see a lot more of the Red London prince in this book. I enjoyed the development on Rhy’s character, who begins to move beyond the label of playboy and naive prince. His devotion to both his kingdom and Kell made for a nice turn, as is his struggle with his lack of magic. Alucard, a new character, is also fully fleshed out and made a nice foil to the rest of the cast. He mostly served as exposition in Lila’s chapter, but he had a strong and magnetic personality of his own. His past history with Kell and Rhy also begs to be explored – I want more, please!

The plot itself took a while to get going, with most of the AGOS acting as set up for Book 3. The Essen Tasch tournament is the main event in AGOS, but it did not start until the last 1/3 of the book. What happened in the first 2/3rd of this lenghthy novel, you ask? Even more set up to make it believable that our protagonist could join in the fray of the games (I don’t count this as spoilers, because I’m sure we’ve all seen those preorder cards on twitter). This is especially necessary for Lila, who went from Grey Londoner to well-versed practicitioner of the elements in the four months gap between the books. I thought she was more interesting as a non-magical human who still managed to run circles around people much more physically powerful than herself – but I think we had enough foreshadowing from ADSOM to make this turn of events inevitable.

“Everyone’s immortal until they’re not.”

That’s not to say that ADSOM was not exciting, instead – despite the plot’s relative lack of motion, the book was thoroughly entertaining. Filled with the sharp banter and engaging action scene that Victoria Schwab is known for. In the background to tournament fairs, there’s also a more sinister movement and imbalance in the magic of the world. You thought the Dane twins were creepy? You haven’t met the real antagonist of this show yet. I have no doubts Book 3 will be a bloodbath.

“Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.”

Finally, the fangirl in me is immensely satisfied with the shippy developments in this book. Sure, my OTP did not see each other for most of the book – but their connection is more tangible than ever. The moment when they almost reunited was heart-pounding! Their personalities just play so well together, the chemistry between them is palpable. Opposites attracting is totally my weakness, and this relationship has conflicts and clash of personalities in the spades. There’s also a new ship in the horizon, one I am totally on board for.


 

Wow, I totally thought this would be a review filled with gushing – but apparently I had more reservations than I thought. This is what happens when you leave your reviews unwritten for an entire month, kids. Despite my misgivings, they were overshadowed by the utter joy this book brought me, so it’s still a 5 stars read all around and a contender for Top 10 of 2016!

43 thoughts on “Book Review: A Gathering Of Shadows

  1. Great review. Think I agree with pretty much everything. I do love Lila but I think I just really want to adopt Kell. I felt so sorry for him throughout AGoS. I’m hoping the author will be kinder to him in the final book but it seems doubtful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I want to take Kell in my pocket and let him run free, magic is such a burden on him *sobs*
      Victoria Schwab keeps hinting at death scenes on her twitter, my heart cannot take it!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg the moment when Kell and Lila were about to meet in the market and all the people shipping them like Rhy and the seamstress. I CANNOT.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooo which quote did you use? I almost died when she said that Kell came back all the time to see if Lila has returned. Omg the angst and the fanfic potential!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. THAT ONE. Where the seamstress mentioned they were doing a cosmic dance and all Lila had to do was GET IN THE DAMN CASTLE. I practically melted at the comment.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so pleased you loved this one! I read ADSOM last year, and while I enjoyed it, I found it quite hard to get into, because I thought it was a bit slow to start with. I’m scared that I won’t love this one, because everyone else seems to! I own it, and it’s so thick, which intimidates me even more. I loved the characters in the first, so hopefully I’ll love this, and them, in this one! I love fantasy, so I’m glad to hear there’s loads of action and death.

    Great review, as always, Aentee! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this one 🙂
    Denise | The Bibliolater

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you loved ADSOM you will absolutely have a blast with AGOS. I am so excited for you, I will be here to hold your hand when you reach the end of this book – trust me, you’ll need my emotional support haha.

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  3. I still need to get to this one – but I’ve forgotten so much from the first book! The relationship between Rhy and Kell was definitely one of my favourite aspects from the previous instalment, and I’m glad to see there’s progression in AGOS. It’s a pity Lila isn’t developed as well, but at least she’s an incredibly capable woman.

    Also, that graphic = <3. It immediately caught my eye on Twitter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you can read a recap of ADSOM from ReCaptains, so you can save yourself the drama of rereading the first book.
      I didn’t feel Rhy too much in the first book, tbh – but he’s definitely well fleshed out here. I still love Lila, and I hope she will start developing more once she realises she doesn’t have to run away all the time.
      Thanks so much ❤

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  4. OMG. OMG. I need to get my hands on this book! And the first book in the series! I’ve never been a huge fan of the book covers since they don’t exactly ring WOW to me but anyway, they seem to be a huge hit with the rest of the crowd! I’m a huge fan of banter because it brings all of the funnies and all of the feels! ❤

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    1. They are so awesome Keionda, and I can now confirm to you that they have kickass romances as well – so long as you are willing to wait for it!

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  5. Just like you, I had a few reservations about AGOS, but overall, I loved it! I expected the tournament to happen much sooner, especially considering the preorder cards and the fact that it’s mentionned all the time in the book. But well, when it happened, it was amazing. I think we’ll get more development for Lila in the third book, especially considering how AGOS ended. But well, this thing was to be expected since the first book. Now that I think about it, you’re right, some of my favourite characters wouldn’t be my friends in real life, Lila could be one of them. Great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt like I was waiting forever for the tournament to start – but at least the last third of the book had enough momentum to make up for the relatively sedated first third. I do think there are grander things in Lila’s future – I am ready to love her even more!

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  6. Kell stole the show for me in this book. His emotional turmoil and the building frustrations with these new limitation being put on him allowed us to understand why these feelings of being like a possession festered to begin with. My heart truly went out to him and there were so many moments where I wanted to shake the royals and make them see the damage they were causing. Kell basically just needs a hug haha.
    Rhy. Oh how I love him. I really appreciated getting a look into his mind because the events had a direct impact on him. Plus it gave us some more insight into his relationship with Kell and I absolutely adore their brotherhood.
    I definitely agree with your reservations, especially with regards to Lila. One thing I did like was seeing her form these new connections among the ships crew. It’s obvious that Lila only really trusts herself because she’s always had to fend for herself but being in Red London has given her the freedom she craved but it’s also unwittingly pulled back some of the walls she built. When she does realise this those walls are built back up but I feel like this openness and allowing herself to trust someone else will be further expanded upon in the third book.
    Also my shipping heart was going wild in this book and I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from that ending haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just wanted to give Kell a big hug as well – the poor thing. And smack the king and queen of Red London in the head – how dare they when he has GIVEN HIS LIFE for their son?! Rhy is such a darling though, I am so glad Kell has him even though their relationship is strained.
      I love what you have to say about Lila and I agree – I think once her stubborn walls are down we will see a lot more development.
      I still can’t get over the seamstress and Rhy shamelessly shipping Kell and Lila. YASSS.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ha, I had a similar experience with this book: I loved it SO MUCH but when I think about it rationally, I can see some flaws. I had hoped for more character development in Lila and it seemed to me that the overall plot of the series barely moved forward because of the Element Games.
    But yeah, the relationships between characters (both romantic and platonic ones) were fantastic and I can’t wait for Book 3 to see how it all turns out! Kell had better be okay or I’ll have some serious complaining to do.
    Nice review, as always! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we can see flaws in everything if we squint hard but who cares when this was so goddamn good- right?! I did wish that we had more plot development but I guess it couldn’t entirely escape middle book syndrome. But what it lacked in plot progression it more than made up on the character building front.

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  8. Wonderful review, Aentee! I so agree with you I loved how the relationships were expanded on in this installment. And I ship Kell and Lila more than ever now. They are just gah together. 😍☺️❤️ And I didn’t really care for Rhy before since I didn’t really understand him but I loved his role in this. And his relationship with our newly introduced character! 😝

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    1. Kell/Lila is something I was invested in but not sure if would come into fruition. I was so delighted by the developments in this book omg. I agree about Rhy, I didn’t know why people liked him so much in the first book cos we barely saw him but after this book it’s like OMG MY POOR BABY LET ME HUG YOU 😂

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  9. I’m reading A Darker Shade of Magic right now and am really enjoying it so far, so I am so glad that the sequel lived up to your expectations! Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so stoked to hear that you are enjoying ADSOM Zoe! This series is such a winner and I can’t wait for you to catch up and come discuss this book with me ♥️

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    1. Omg you need this book! Can you believe I haven’t really read His Dark Materials? I promise to fix this before the BBC series comes out.

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  10. Great review! I liked this one slightly better than ADSOM, though I still think the characters are problematic, namely Lila and her hackneyed and obnoxious “go it alone” mentality. I also didn’t think we made much progress in the main series arc until the very end, so I hope the next one will have some major things happening!

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    1. I can get that Lila is sometimes frustrating. But I think when her walls and insecurity comes down in Book 3, you’ll like her more? I hope anyways hahah.

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    1. Omg I know. There’s so many books to review but with this one I couldn’t resist. I basically dropped everything and read this instead haha.

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  11. I haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic yet, so I skipped you review because of spoilers. But your 5 Stars rating is really promising. I’ll check out your review when I finished the first book.

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    1. I think these books have really great audiobook narrators as well-so I rec you check those out since I know you’re a lover of audiobooks!!

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  12. I really need to read a V.E. Schwab book already. I’m dying to check out this one in particular mostly because of all the stunning reviews I keep reading about it, like this one. And the ship sounds so good! God knows I need to find some great new OTPs to flail over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes!! Start with either ADSOM or Vicious, they’re the best ever. You will not regret it- she just appeals to everyone.

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