I’ve written recently about book hype and the fact that I felt like it ruined my experience of reading The Girl from Everywhere, and that there are now a couple of much-hyped books which I am now consciously avoiding. Although a lot of people have been talking about A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab’s previous book, I’ve not seen a huge amount of pre-release hype about the follow-up, A Gathering of Shadows, which came out last week. This pleases me, because it means nobody had the chance to spoil it for me.
It also pleases me because A Gathering of Shadows is BRILLIANT.
I developed a great love of A Darker Shade of Magic when I read it last year; I liked how compact the story was in terms of characters, even as those characters were crossing into different dimensions and worlds. I liked the dynamic between Kell and Lila, as well as enjoying them individually. I loved the whole concept of four different Londons, each with their own idiosyncrasies, and I really loved the magical elements to the story.
I’m so happy to be able to say that A Gathering of Shadows delivers in every one of these areas too. Schwab picks up the story with Lila, now achieving her ambition of living life on the high seas, with the addition of pirates, which makes what was already an awesome fantasy world even better. Kell, meanwhile, continues to be tormented by events at the end of the previous book, particularly the fact that he had to bind the life of his adopted brother, Rhy, to his own in order to save the latter.
Fantasy series often suffer from a ‘second book syndrome,’ by which 8000 new characters are introduced and it’s impossible to keep track of everyone (cough, Glass Sword, cough), and, although Schwab expands the cast for A Gathering of Shadows, I never felt like I needed a notebook to write down everyone’s name and defining characteristics. And some of the new characters are awesome; I developed a particular love of Alucard, despite the repeated references to his hairclip. His pirate crew convey and effective amount of both humour and menace, and his relationship with Lila is a source of slow-burning fascination.
Another area in which A Gathering of Shadows beats its fantasy competitors is the fact that it is actually funny. As with A Darker Shade of Magic, Lila proves a particularly masterful creation in her ability to engage in witty banter with basically everyone. Even in amongst moments of peril and family drama, there’s plenty of entertainment within these pages, and the banter made me smirk in the fashion of someone listening to old friends bicker; even after just two books, I feel at home with these characters.
I don’t want to say anything else about the plot because the surprises are enjoyable and I wouldn’t want to spoil them. But Schwab continues to make great use of three of the four Londons (I really, really want to know more about Black London. Now, please), as well as the magical worlds in which they belong. I love the magic in these books; all the detail about the different elements, the language Schwab invents to refer to it, everything.
Look, basically, I love A Gathering of Shadows. It is as good, if not better than A Darker Shade of Magic. I have both on my Kindle and am already annoyed not to have actually bought the paperbacks, so that may need to happen in order to have a more pleasurable reread sometime soon. This is one of my favourite books of 2016 so far. It’s dark but fun at the same time, which makes it basically perfect.
Have you read A Gathering of Shadows yet? Do you, too, want a tattoo of Alucard? Perhaps you have an urgent desire for Kell’s coat too. Please tell me in the comments.