VE Schwab returns to Red London with the second book of her ‘Shades of Magic’ series, A Gathering of Shadows. With a mix of new and familiar characters and less of the world building than the first book, it’s an excellent addition to the fantasy series.
It’s four months since the events of A Darker Shade of Magic took place, and Kell is dealing with the consequences of his actions. He no longer has the trust of the king and queen, and his bond with Rhy is causing complications for the both of them. Meanwhile, Lila is enjoying her new life in Red London. She’s aboard a ship called The Night Spire, and the fact that she’s from another London hasn’t been discovered. However, she grows close to the ship’s captain despite herself, and her secrets are in danger of being uncovered the longer she stays on board.
There’s less world building in A Gathering of Shadows than in A Darker Shade of Magic, but the characters are more developed, and have more developed relationships with other characters as such. We see how the events of A Darker Shade of Magic changed Kell, and how he now feels restless and caged to the palace in Red London, as well as extremely guilty for the harm he caused. Rhy, too, is taking on a lot more responsibilities than he did in the first book; one of which is the Essen Tach, a competition between neighbouring countries to strengthen the ties between them. We learn a lot more about magic and how it works through the Essen Tach, and from Lila’s growing abilities to use magic. Characters such as Emery, Lila’s captain, are returning to Red London for the Essen Tach, and reveal information about Rhy and Kell’s past.
White London features in A Gathering of Shadows too, and we see the effect Kell and Lila’s actions had on that world. As well as White London, we also see Grey London, and worrying signs of magical activity in both. There’s a definite sense of foreboding in this book, and although the action was slow in the beginning, it picked up in the second half, with the third book of the series promising to be action-packed.
A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab is a fantastic addition to the Shades of Magic series and one of the best fantasy books I’ve read this year. With an original plot, entertaining characters and moments that are both funny and heartbreaking, it’s definitely worth getting.