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A Gathering of Shadows (A Darker Shade of Magic) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
This one was much more about the character development of Kell, Rhy and Lila, and also the introduction of Alucard Emery. It did this through the 'Element Games' which are 1-1 battles by leading magicians in Red London, and this gave the book some great descriptions and fanfare.
The overarching story of the battle for control over the different Londons by black magic was interwoven, but wasn't the focus of the book. But of course the cliffhanger ending has ensured it will be the focus of book 3 :)
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The entire rating system for books needs to be revisited now. 5 stars is not enough for any Victoria Schwab book, but if I looked up at the night sky it wouldn't hold enough stars to rate A Gathering of Shadows. I can't find a single fault in this book (I only want to throw it out the window because the set up for the next book is killer and I need it NOW). Everything is utter perfection. The world building is stellar. The writing is up there with Neil Gaiman for genius. Kell and Lila are my favourite characters from any book ever. Simply put, this series has rocketed past everything else I've ever read and is sitting firmly in the number one spot.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
The first half / two-thirds of the book is pretty slow. We get to learn about what Lila has been up to in the last 4 months since the ending of the first book. She is now the best thief on The Night Spire working for an unusual captain. Right away he is interested in Lila due to their connection over fluently speaking High Royal (English), which is rare amongst commoners. They spend their evenings talking in a English and practicing magic. Slowly it is revealed to us that the Night Spire is actually in the crown's service and royalty himself.
During this time Kell is for the most part "suffocating" as he deals with the consequences of saving Rhy by bonding their lives. He and Rhy are just sneaking off drinking and getting into trouble which felt a little unnecessary to me. During Kell and Lila's separation (approximately 75% of the book) I was a little bored and anxiously awaiting for their reunion.
Finally Lila & Kell meet during the Essen Tasch which they both have coincidentally fixed in order to participate in. This part seemed a bit forced to me since both Kell and Lila stand out it seemed a bit of a stretch that they would be able to pick up a stolen identity so easily. Once the Essen Tasch begins and Kell & Lila are reunited the book really picks up. Lila is awesome on her own, but sadly Kell on his own wasn't as exciting for me.
Throughout the book there are short glimpses setting up the villain and the plot for the third book, but it is revealed slowly and ends on a cliff hanger. This book took me a while to read due to the slowness of the first half. I probably would've been on reading a condensed version of that part of the book and then getting more of the action at the end. I'm glad I waited to read this until now because I don't know how long I can wait for the next book.
The underlying potential threat from White London is interesting and should have been more of the focus of this book rather than the tired and overplayed "let's have an Olympics of magic" contest that dominates so much of the story. Overall, the idea of the magical contest (Like Goblet of Fire) seems to read too much like an author's fantasy rather than a developed plot. It's weak, overused, and a bit of a crutch- especially in any fantasy-related genre.
The characters don't seem to have developed much, if at all, and are becoming a little one dimensional, and stereotypical. That makes them predictable, which is the real enemy of fiction. I'm hoping book three regains my interest.
For those of you who are new to Schwab's Shades of Magic series, I'll give you a quick run-down. The books follow the adventures of Kell, an Antari (incredibly rare magician), his brother Rhy (a prince), and Delilah Bard (thief extraordinaire). The first book is great because it does spend quite a lot of time world-building: explaining how Antari magic works and the alternate versions of London, but it also gives the reader plenty of adventure and quite a bit of angst.
A Gathering of Shadows picks up about five months after the conclusion of A Darker Shade of Magic. Without delving too much into the plot, because spoilers, I'll tell you that we're reunited with Kell, Rhy, and Lila. We also meet mysterious ship Captain Alucard Emery. The Essen Tasch (Element Games) are taking place in Red London and the lives of our characters are about to change forever.
A Gathering of Shadows raises the stakes for our beloved characters. I love that the chapters are told from alternating points of view and that the book is divided into segments. These two things allow us time to connect with and learn more about our protagonists. Alucard, Kell, Lila, and Rhy are all fascinating, complex characters, and I love that they're portrayed as actual human beings- neither completely good or bad.
The Essen Tasch is an interesting premise- think Triwizard Tournament but without the wands and a little more violence. It takes us beyond the magic of the Antari, which Schwab focused on in the first book, and builds our understanding of elemental magic. Lila played an interesting role in the Games, but I will say that she was the one character who sort of irked me in this book.
Really the only con I have with AGOS is Lila. When we meet Delilah Bard in Grey London, she is a thief, yes, but she also has a conscience. While we do get glimpses of that girl in this book, it seems more like she has lost any sense of what it right or wrong. The thirst for magic has taken over her life and causes her to make many questionable decisions. The Lila we met in A Darker Shade of Magic was not this selfish!
Overall, I highly recommend picking up A Gathering of Shadows. It's a fantasy adventure of the best sort, and I can't wait to see how the series ends!
What I liked
The characters. Right from the beginning, Lila had me chuckling along with her sassy attitude and I sympathised with Kell and Rhy as they tried to come to terms with the events of the previous book. Some new characters are introduced, notably Alucard Emery. This is a particularly interesting new addition as both our protagonists have very different attitudes towards him. This leaves the reader somewhat torn about how to feel about him. He’s rather a mysterious characters - It’s clear that he’s a lot more than just the pirate - excuse me, privateer - that he claims to be. I really hope we learn more about him in subsequent books.
The romance. The relationship between Kell and Lila was so cute and beautifully done, especially given how little time they actually spend interacting with each other in the book. There were so many adorable instances of Lila thinking things like “oh, that guy’s hair is almost the same shade as Kell’s” or Kell’s seeing something pretty and thinking of how much Lila would enjoy it. Of course, if confronted both would vehemently deny being in love. A clear case of showing, not telling. Brava Victoria.
Interesting pacing. As the book blurb indicates, a significant focus of this book is the Element Games, a magical equivalent of our Olympics. Yet, they do not provide much dramatic tension. They are generally non lethal, and the outcome of winning is little more than achieving bragging rights. In fact, until about 85% of the way through the book very little actually happens. Towards the end, it was very clear that this story would not be self contained in the way that the first one was, and that I would have to prepare for a cliffhanger. The wonderful thing, however, is that I really didn’t care. I was having too much fun following these two crazy kids and their mixed signals romance and the magical world in which it takes place. The last few chapters of the book really speed things up though and I can’t wait for the next book.
What I didn’t like
Lack of variety in the Element Games. Each level of the competition follows the same format. I would have welcomed some changes in structure for the subsequent bouts. Also I did have to suspend my disbelief at certain participants. Did Stasion really think he could compete at Olympic level with his limited experience of magic?
Despite those minor gripes, I adored A Gathering of Shadows and it gets a well-deserved five stars out of five from me.
I loved AGOS, either just as much as A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC or maybe more. It's impossible to decide. The Essen Tasch (Elemental Games) was mind-blowingly action-packed and fun, and it was great to see the world of Red London outside of the Maresh empire. The new characters are great, and Lila's and Kell's expanded growth made this all the more rewarding. Plus, you learn so much more about the magic system in this book.
And that ending. HOLY CRAP, THAT ENDING. I was already planning on reading A CONJURING OF LIGHT as soon as I finished AGOS, and I'm so glad I did. Because if I had to wait for a year instead, I probably would have clawed my hair out. *ouch*