Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.
In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.
“Magic and magician must between them balance. Magic itself is chaos. The magician must be calm. A fractured self is a poor vessel for power, spilling power without focus or measure from every crack.”
A Gathering of Shadows, the second book in the Shades of Magic trilogy, does not disappoint!
The world of the story has grown from A Darker Shade of Magic. The first book takes place entirely within the Londons, although we know that there is more to each world. In this book, we are starting to learn more about what lies beyond them, and the different kingdoms and peoples. Schwab has a way of using all your senses to make this world come to life in your head as you read it.
We also learn more about the magic system, with which my fascination knows no bounds. It is not only intriguing but also logical. Borrowing certain elements (ha! see what I did there?) from other systems we are already familiar with, Schwab combines them and adds her own special touch to make them into something new and unique.
“Traveling magic only worked two ways. Kell could either transfer between two different places in one world, or travel between the same place in different ones.”
There is a lot going on in this book. We are introduced to more characters that have central roles, and see the story from more perspectives than before. But our main characters have grown in many ways. Their experiences from the first book have shaped them, and they are full of tension and layers and feel so realistic (you know, aside from the whole being able to do magic thing). The bulk of the plot centers around the Essen Tasch (aka Element Games) in Red London, but we are drawn into the games themselves slowly as the first quarter or so of the novel reminds us of what happened in the first book and lays the foundation for the rest to stand on. Once the games begin, the action picks up, through the tournament itself as well as forcing the characters and their storylines back together.
The tournament plot line is something I’m sure we’ve all seen so many times. And yet, there were multiple plot twists that I didn’t anticipate. A couple felt vaguely contrived to keep the story moving, but for the most part, after finishing A Gathering of Shadows and thinking back on it, it seems that it was nothing more and nothing less than exactly what it needed to be. Schwab is amazing at creating a story that is so unlike anything I’ve read before that I have no idea what to expect next.
Unlike the first book in this trilogy, this one ended in a massive cliffhanger that left me with my jaw on the floor. I can’t wait to pick up A Conjuring of Light to see how the story ends!