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
It 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.