“Life isn’t made of choices, it’s made of trades. Some are good, some are bad, but they all have a cost.” // Review of A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab

Title: A conjuring of Lights (Shades of Magic #2)
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: New Adult/Fantasy/Historical
Date Read: 17/03/2017 – 28/03/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

That’s it. It’s time for me to admit that V. E. Schwab and I just aren’t meant to be. I’ve tried, I really have, but with the exception of A Darker Shade of Magic, none of her books have really worked for me. I’ll try to keep this brief, and not too ranty.

The thing is, she is a great writer. She has an amazing way with words. And I think she has great ideas. I think her plotting is where she falls down. In my review of This Savage Song, I noted several moments where I thought the plot or world-building were quite weak, and it was the same in this book. It was too long for a start, and there were so many sections from the points-of-view of characters we barely knew, because they had only ever been on the sidelines in the previous books, if that.

On top of that, this was one of those books where I never felt like the stakes were particularly high, even when I could objectively see that they probably were. The Big Bad is threatening, sure, but he never moves beyond that. He just sort of… hangs around and postures? I get that the idea was that he was robbed of his power source, but it just took the life out of him. And I found I had lost my love for the rest of the characters. I don’t know if that was because it had been so long since I read the previous books, because I was feeling slump-y while reading this, or because eventually the book got too long for me and I just wanted it to be done. But whichever it was, the fact was that I was no longer rooting for them. I’ve got to admit, I kind of ended up on the Holland bandwagon, just because he was more interesting (and I do like hardened characters who make bland comments at the others) though at the same time, I didn’t really see the flashbacks to his past as necessary.

Anyway. Obviously Schwab is a good writer and her books have rave reviews so don’t take my word for it. I honestly think it is a case of “it’s me, not you” and I feel like it is only fair to give an author a decent chance (especially when I did like the first of her books that I read). But now that I’ve concluded this series, it’s time to jump off that bandwagon.


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“Don’t you see? He wasn’t coming to pay your debt. He was coming to see if you’d returned to pay it yourself.” // Review of A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Title: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: New Adult/Fantasy/Historical
Date Read: 29/04/2016 – 03/06/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

A Gathering of Shadows FinalIt didn’t actually take me a month to read this, I promise. But the distance between the two dates above just goes to show how easy I found it to put down this book when I had a pile of library books I had to finish first. I know that one of my issues was that it had been some time since I read the first book and I struggled to remember some of the details, but while I still love these characters and the world they inhabit, I have to admit that I found this book to be a case of Middle Book Syndrome.

In the four months since the events of the first book, Kell has been dealing with the aftermath of the sacrifice he made for his quasi-brother, Prince Rhy, as well as having lost the trust of most of the people of Red London. Lila, meanwhile, has found herself a ship just like she always said she would, but her captain, Alucard Emery, is returning to London to participate in the Element Games, an international magic tournament. But as our main players are reunited, others are on the hunt for them.

Kell, Lila, Rhy and newcomers such as Alucard Emery are as delightful as ever. Their relationships to each other, particularly in regard to the fallout from the previous book, were wonderful to read; you feel like you have been with these characters for a long time, and you can feel how deep their relationships with each other run. I think that one thing that made the story feel sluggish to me was the fact that for so much of the book, Kell and Lila were not having adventures together, as they had done in the previous book. Even once Lila is back in London, a significant amount of time passes before they are reunited.

The big buildup throughout the book is to that of the Element Games, but apart from giving us some very cool magical displays and revealing some of Lila’s newly discovered talents and Kell an outlet to let off some of the stress he’s been feeling, they do very little to advance the plot. It reminded me of the majority of Quidditch matches described in the Harry Potter books. While they provide a setting for events that might advance the plot, they are given too much time for something that isn’t actually advancing the plot itself. And the Games are won off-screen while our main characters are occupied elsewhere, so it’s not even like we got to witness the  big finale.

Some of the events throughout the book, along with the ending, have provided a concrete setup for the third book. I think that book will be back up to the standard of the first one. I should, perhaps, do myself a favour and re-read the first two in the lead-up to that one’s release.


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Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: New adult/fantasy/historical
Date Read: 01/09/2015 – 10/08/2015
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

darkershadecoverThis is kind of weird metaphor, but this book was like a warm, comforting Friday night in after a long week. It had a nice slow pace, interesting and likeable characters, and built its way up to a great climax. To be perfectly honest, I’m not even entirely sure why I’m only giving it four stars… star ratings are really based more on a vibe than any kind of critical analysis for me, and the vibe I got was four. Probably just because it took me a little while to get into it.

Kell is a rare magician who can travel between worlds, specifically Red London, White London and Grey London (Black London no longer exists). While smuggling between worlds is illegal, Kell has a vast collection of artifacts hidden away, and comes across a new one that will put him and all three worlds in a huge amount of danger. While he’s trying to divest himself of this, he meets Lila Bard, who has been waiting her whole life for adventure. She gives Kell no choice but to let her help him, and together they travel between the three worlds to destroy the magic that threatens to destroy them.

Kell is the somewhat broody, somewhat rebellious but very dashing magician with a mysterious past, while Lila is a street urchin yearning for something more. Both Kell and Lila could be cliched characters if not handled correctly, but fortunately, that isn’t the case in this book. I honestly couldn’t tell you which character I liked more; they were very different from each other, but I got very attached to both of them. The supporting characters, such as Kell’s almost-brother, Prince Rhy, and the royal families of both Red and London, are also well-drawn and interesting.

I think the world-building is what makes this book, though. It’s a different take on parallel universes, particularly the fact that it’s magic, not sci-fi, that allows travel between them. And it’s set in the early nineteenth century. While London has the same name in every version of the world, that is the only similarity; the empires and languages are entirely different, and a lot of detail goes into highlighting these differences. The magic system is not entirely unique, but it is also well developed, and Schwab put enough of her own spin on it to make it feel fairly original.

It does get a bit dark at times, and fairly violent, so fair warning for that. There’s quite a bit of blood (both from the fact that a lot of the magic is “blood magic” and requires Kell and the other magicians to slice their hands open in order to use it, and the fact that people are running around killing each other). Having said that, it is a fairly easy read, and I recommend it!

#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 09 September, 2015

The weeks are flying by and it’s once again time for a Wednesday blog post. How does that keep happening? Anyway. First up this week is WWW Wednesday, a blog hop in which we answer three questions about what we’re reading. This is hosted by Sam, and you can visit her blog to take part. Here are my answers:

  • wwwwednesdayWhat are you currently reading?

I’m still reading A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. It took a little while to get into but now that I’m there, it’s becoming quite enjoyable. I’m also listening to Blood Charged by Lindsay Buroker. This series is a great deal of fun. Though every time I go to that page, I get distracted by the attractive man on the cover.

  • What did you recently finish reading?

I dropped The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (the style and language just weren’t doing it for me), but it’s been a slow reading week, so I haven’t actually touched anything else.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

My colleague has loaned me The Gone-Away World, so I should probably start that. It’s fairly long, though, so I’ll probably have something else going at the same time. No idea what, though. I also have a bunch of audio books, including The Museum of Thieves and A Ghost in my Suitcase, because I’m going to Melbourne on the weekend and there will be about eight hours of travelling all up, plus airport waiting time. Oh! And the Hollow Boy comes out next week! I’ve only been waiting a year!

I think that’s the shortest WWW I’ve ever managed. You can tell it’s been a slow reading week for me.

wippetwednesdayI had a breakthrough last night with the new fantasy story I shared from last week. And that breakthrough led to more breakthroughs, which has been quite delightful. It does mean that a lot of what I had already written doesn’t actually work anymore, but I should still be able to incorporate the gist. And sometimes you need to write the stuff that never gets used in order to find the plot that will. For my WIPpet math this week, I’m taking nine (handwritten) lines from my notebook. Nell is overhearing a wee-hours conversation between Jasper and a stranger at the door.

“Jasper Cortain?” A young woman’s enquiring voice floated up the stairs, and Nell saw her foster father nod. “Sir, I’m sorry to wake you up so late, but I need your help.”

She paused, and Nell saw her open her hand out towards Jasper. Nell couldn’t see what was in it, but as soon as Jasper saw whatever it was, he bowed low.

Ooooooh.

Join in on WIPpet Wednesday by posting an excerpt from your current WIP that somehow relates to the date. Then link up with us here.

I only have four pages left in my notebook! Could I fill them tonight? Maybe. It’s always really exciting getting to start a new one. It is late though. I should probably just head to bed. I have first aid refresher training all day tomorrow, but I have had a sore throat for most of today. It’s still hanging around, but since this training is only once every twelve months, I really feel like I should only skip it if I’m dying. I’m not sure if work would pay for me to go do one of the external refresher courses if I miss the internal one. Anyway. I should stop rambling! Goodnight everyone!

~ Emily

#teasertuesday – A Darker Shade of Magic – Pt 2

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too

You would think that I would have finished less-than-400-page book in a week, but the truth is, I didn’t get a huge amount of reading done over the past week, so I’m still in the middle of A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. It has quite a slow pace, but that works for the story. I’m really loving the world building, and I think I’m actually getting rather attached to the main character, Kell.

darkshadecoversmallLila gave him a derisive glare and fondled the stone. “Oh, no,” she said. “I’m just getting started.”

Technically three sentences, but I’m counting the dialogue all as one. 😛

Here is the GoodReads page, if what you read here intrigues you and you want to find out more.

Check out A Daily Rhythm for more TT posts!

I’ll see you all tomorrow!

~ Emily

#teasertuesday – A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Hello, and welcome once again to Teaser Tuesday. I’m glad to be back to my blog hops this week!

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too

Last night I started A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, and I was so taken with the first two sentences of the book that they are what I am sharing with you today.

darkshadecoversmallKell wore a very peculiar coat.

It had neither one side, which would be conventional, or two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.

Here is the GoodReads page, if what you read here intrigues you and you want to find out more.

Check out A Daily Rhythm for more TT posts!

I’ll see you all tomorrow!

~ Emily