After recently reading A Darker Shade of Magic me and my reading buddy, Lauren, were so impressed we had to get the next in the series. I am so glad to say it not only lived up to expectations, it surpassed them. A Gathering of Shadows picks up four months on from the conclusion of ADSoM, with Lila having found her way on to a ship and revelling in her freedom out at sea. Kell meanwhile is struggling with feeling trapped in his life in the palace until Rhy comes up with a daring plan to inject a little excitement into his life.
I’m not quite sure how she did it but Schwab manages to outdo herself in the second part of her Shades of Magic trilogy. Character development is definitely a factor. The returning characters, Kell, Lila and Rhy are just so likeable and this novel really builds on their development with you getting to know them, in particular Rhy, better. The tense yet always affectionate relationship between Rhy and Kell was a highlight. As much as these brothers love each other to death and beyond, they are also polar opposites: Rhy likes to socialise and schmooze whereas Kell prefers keeping to himself on the outer. Watching them bicker and drive each other up the wall is incredibly endearing, especially to someone with siblings over their own. Lila is as smooth and self-assured as usual and you look forward to the contrast between her fast-talking charm and Kell’s consternation. Although while the reader counts down the pages until these two opposites are back in each other’s company you are suitably entertained by new character Alucard Emery. He is just as suave and switched on as Lila and it is a refreshing change of pace watching someone who can keep up with Lila. I absolutely fell in love with this character, who is definitely more than meets the eye, as you come to expect, just not in a way you imagine.
Schwab keeps our two favourite characters apart for a lot longer than I ever anticipated. She builds an almost overpowering feeling of suspense throughout the novel balancing the stories of each of the characters skilfully. The way she intertwines the character’s perspectives you are aware that certain plot points will occur, yet how and when you cannot predict. The pace of the story really quickens in the last third of the book and I found myself exclaiming aloud to myself more than a few times. I found myself much moe invested in the story than I pictured. This book had me grinning like the Cheshire Cat the way it sucked me in to the storyline. Schwab really has a way with words building the characters and the plot line at a pace that is quick and keeps you on your toes, yet doesn’t rush or try too hard. I note that there are certain aspects of the plot that she held back form in the first novel, which I really appreciated. Rather than trying too hard to build the characters and their relationships too quickly in the first book to ensnare returning readers, a lot of the development occurs within the second book.
Then there is that ending. A cliffhanger for sure, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to last until February next year. There are so many questions unanswered and loose ends to be tied off that the last instalment promises to be action packed. Exciting events are in motion promising to draw you back into the Londons the moment you pick up book three. In fact I have already sought out the excerpt from A Conjuring of Light and it certainly jumps right in. Of all the fantasy series I have read this year that are waiting on the next instalment, this will certainly be my most anticipated.
If you haven’t gotten into this series and you are at all a fantasy fan, I recommend picking them both up immediately. A Gathering of Shadows enchanted me from the first few pages up until the dying words. Rich characters, a unique plot and exemplary use of suspense to keep the plot moving makes this another favourite read of the year. I give A gather of Shadows five of Kell’s Essen Tasch masks.