A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic #2)

A Gathering of Shadows is the follow up to A Darker Shade of Magic and again follows Lila Bard and Kell on their continued journey into the limits of their magic and the boundaries they keep pushing against. There may be spoilers for A Darker Shade of Magic below.

I had a few problems with Kell in the previous novel, but I found him to be much more nuanced in this story. After the events at the end of  A Darker Shade of Magic, Kell linked his life to save his adoptive brother, Rhyl the Prince of Red London. Due to this Kell has felt himself become more of a prisoner of the King and Queen rather than part of the family. Kell is unable to tell if this is due to a lack of trust or if they are just being overprotective towards the heir to the throne. Rhyl as well seems much more tempered and grown up, realising that his duty is to his people and has started to appreciate the skills he has, rather than being bothered by his lack of magic.

Lila is still my standout character, finally living her dream of being at sea, even if it isn't exactly how she envisioned it. Working for the privateer Alucard, who keeps the seas safe for the Arnesian crown on the Night Spire. Both Alucard and Lila are keeping secrets from each other, but their banter makes for an entertaining read. The rest of the crew on the Night Spire give a different perspective on Lila, which is not always positive. Being at sea also allows us a wider view of the world and the different people who inhabit this Earth and how their relationships and belief in handling magic differs from what we know of Red London.

A Gathering of Shadows switches between different character viewpoints with Kell and Rhyl working on their issues and helping to organise the Essen Tasch or element games in London. The Essen Tasch is a contest of the best magical users amongst the three Empires. These magicians use their magic to break each other's armour to score points to win, each round becomes harder as the competition is whittled down. The Essen Tasch is also the event that brings Lila and Alucard back to Red London after their adventures at sea.

Lila has always been headstrong, but she really comes into her own within the setting of this novel. Aboard the Night Spire she continues her magical education with Alucard, always pushing herself further without worrying about the consequences. When she hears about the Essen Tasch she is immediately intrigued and willing to put herself in danger with another scheme to test herself. It is ingenious the lengths she will go to achieve her goals.

I don't want to say too much about the antagonist in this novel as it is a major spoiler, but as the characters believe the worst is over with now that the Dane twins have been destroyed, events are beginning to calm in Red London, this doesn't mean that the other London's are not moving on with their own plots and interests. Will Kell and Rhyl ever be safe and able to live without looking over their shoulders?

I enjoyed the way that V. E. Schwab writes the relationships in A Gathering of Shadows, how there is tension between characters when they are both near and far from each other. There is more backstory on Kell and Rhyl, before the events of the last book, and how their relationship has grown and changed by their own misfortune. Kell and Lila, both learn to work on their own again but also realise it is not always necessary to be alone. Allowing both Lila and Kell, to feel drawn to each other, even if they are constantly at odds. With Lila and Kell their friendship never becomes too overbearing to the rest of the story.

Although I wasn't a big fan of A Darker Shade of Magic, I found that I was unable to put down A Gathering of Shadows. The characters are a lot more engaging and the supporting characters feel more well rounded, with the inclusion of other empires the world is far larger and it was really interesting to get other points of view on magic in a world full of it. There are many plot points leading into the next novel, but the cliffhanger really does make you hope that the third book will be coming sooner rather than later as it leaves you wondering what will happen to each of the characters!

9/10 I was unable to put down A Gathering of Shadows

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