A Gathering of Shadows is written by V.E. Schwab. Some of you may know her as Victoria Schwab in the YA aisle. A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in the Shades of Magic trilogy, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Because of the slow starting plot, and the world building, A Gathering of Shadows could almost be the first book in the series. The book references the events in the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, several times throughout the book, but it’s not enough to make the book confusing had you picked the second one up first.
Before I get into the book further, it’s best to know that there are four London’s, each in a different dimension. Kell explains it pretty nicely: “The worlds are like pieces of paper stacked one on top of the other. You have to move [through them] in order; Grey London, Red London, White London. And Black.” (2015-02-24). Grey London would be the London of our world. From there, Red London is a beautifully balanced world of magic and harmony. White London is weak. They don’t have much magic, but they’re bloodthirsty for it. And Black London is dead. The doors to Black London were sealed long ago because they were similar to White London. Only magic consumed Black London until it had nothing else to consume.
Three-fourths of the book revolves around The Element Games. And even though there is an arena, and twenty-four (I think) ‘winners’, it’s nothing like The Hunger Games. The goal isn’t the kill your opponent, but to maim them enough where you move on to the next round. It doesn’t mean that you can’t die in the arena. It’s rare, but it happens.
Just like A Darker Shade of Magic, it’s told alternating chapters in third-person. You mainly get Kell’s, Lila’s, and Rhy’s POV. But occasionally you’ll get a POV from White London. I found myself looking forward to the White London POV’s. They were the shortest chapters in the book, but they were so demanding and gut wrenching. After each White London chapter, I had to put the book down just to steady my breathing and get a level head.
You don’t get to see much of the other London’s in this book. It mainly takes place in Red London. That’s where the games are hosted. You get a feel for Kell’s punishment after the events of the first book. And you also find out what happens to Delilah Bard after she leaves Kell in the first book. Lila goes through an immense character development. Kell and Lila both do. By the end of the book, Kell is able to stick up to the King. And Lila… well, I don’t want to ruin her development for you.
A Darker Shade of Magic had a lot of action in it, and dire situations. As I read through A Gathering of Shadows, I couldn’t help but long for the page-turning action that I read in the previous book. I found it hard to finish the book because the lack of action. And even though they were fighting in the arena, nothing was life or death. Nothing was a threat to the world.
The threat comes into play about fifty pages before the ending of the book. I found myself not wanting to finish the book because I was used to the whole ‘nothing bad is going to happen’. It took me about a week to read through the entirety final fifty pages.
The ending was unexpected. I had speculated what was going to happen. I knew there was only one thing that could happen, but Schwab is a literary genius. She was able to create a twist in the final three pages of the book. And when I finished, I wanted to stare at a wall for several hours just so I could figure out what happened.
Schwab tends to have these types of endings a lot. I’ve read some of her other books, and the endings are never predictable. Each ending always has a punch to the gut, either in a longing way, or a jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching way. She always leaves you with more questions than answers.
Schwab also made her own language in these books. I don’t know how much of it she has developed, but she has phrases and sentences throughout the book. Like I said before: she’s a literary genius. I’d also love to get my hands on the language dictionary.
Although slow to start, the ending of A Gathering of Shadows makes it worth the read; 5/5.