“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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