A Gathering of Shadows is the sequel A Darker Shade of Magic written by V.E. Schwab. It also appears to be the second in a series of three books1, because three is a magical number (also refer to recent popular book and movie success The Hunger Games, and somewhat less successful Divergent series).
It picks up from the end of the last book, four months after Kell and Lila parted ways in Red London. Kell has no idea where Lila is or what has happened to her; he just assumes she has gone off to board a ship to explore more of the world as she had told him she wanted to do. Meanwhile, he is slowly unravelling being cooped up inside the castle, his movements limited and monitored by the king due to the events in the previous book.
And now here I must cut off the rest of the post with a warning: there will be a few spoilers underneath, at least regarding character development. I will still try to keep most of the plot unmentioned.
In my A Darker Shade of Magic review, I mentioned that I did not care much about Lila, and I realise after reading this book that it is because ADSoM was written with Kell as the very main character. In A Gathering of Shadows, Lila gets more page time and the most character development. She becomes a sailor, befriends the captain of her ship, and finds out she has magical capabilities. Despite coming from Grey London where magic is almost completely bust, this development was hinted at in the previous book, so it was not much of a surprise.
Meanwhile, Kell is slowly wasting away psychologically, as he is wracked with guilt over his brother’s almost demise, and the consequences of having him alive despite it. He is also bothered by his lack of capability to harness his magic, at least compared to his counterpart and supposed equal in power, Holland. It was glaringly obvious in their encounter in the first book that while they are equal in power and potential, Holland is more skilled, and Kell addresses this in A Gathering of Shadows.
We get introduced to a few new characters in this book, and Schwab broadens the world of Red London for her readers by telling us of different kingdoms and the political machinations within them. Red London is where the action is centered, but things are happening concurrently in other Londons as well. White London gets expanded a teeny, tiny bit, and I do love details of fantasy worlds.
I liked this book well enough, but it did not endear itself to me as much as the first book. This is mostly due to Lila’s character development — it is bordering too much on Mary Sue territory for my taste. There is a four-month time difference from the last book, and on this one, we learn she discovers her magical skill and is powerful enough to get as far as the late stages of a tournament in magical combat. The only reason she did not win was she is merely skilled but not yet adept in using her abilities. We are made to obviously deduce that she has immense magical power, and I reckon this will be explained as a consequence of her handling the object mentioned in ADSoM. On top of that, she has honed her knife-fighting skills even more that she is deadly with one. Her major flaw of being impulsive and trouble-seeking is negated by her ability to weasel out of it.
Another issue I have is the romance between Lila and Kell. Towards the end of the first book, you get a feeling that there is a burgeoning something between them, but other than a chaste kiss, there is not much to indicate how deep their passions are. On this book, they spend more than half of it apart and not communicating with each other; however, the intensity of their reaction, when they see each other again would make you think they were in the middle of a relationship that was abruptly cut short. It was confusing for me and unrealistic, and it is something that I would understand to see in a YA novel. However, this is published under her pseudonym V.E. Schwab which means that this is an adult book2.
I do maintain that the continued world-building and storytelling is still fascinating, and I found myself quite interested in some of the new characters, and even the secondary characters. Schwab’s build up of events in the other Londons and how it will come to head can make one pine hard for the third book. I’m not too sure I count myself as one of them though. The fact that I would rather read about secondary characters than the main character, which is Lila in this book, does not bode well. However, if she is keeping to the theme of having a different main character as the central one in every book, then I might pick up the next one if it has Holland. The only other Antari character in the universe and you do not explore his history and motives and thoughts? I have so many questions regarding his character that Schwab really, really has to address (like, please god, do it). I don’t even mind getting to know Rhy either, just anyone but Lila!
“Standing there on display was painful enough. Now came the truly unfortunate task of socializing.”
– V.E. Schwab, A Gathering of Shadows
see ratings explanation
Let’s have a chat!
I know I may be alone in my opinion of the Lila character. What do you think of how she has turned out?
Is there something else that you did not like so much in the book other than what I have mentioned?