Why I Loved A Gathering of Shadows (But Maybe Not as Much as Book 1)

February 25, 2017     Michelle     Book Reviews, Magic

Why I Loved A Gathering of Shadows (But Maybe Not as Much as Book 1)A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab
Narrator: Michael Kramer, Kate Reading
Series: Shades of Magic #2
Published by Tor Books on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Pages: 512
Format: Audiobook
Series Rating:

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift--back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games--an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries--a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

I finished A Darker Shade of Magic about a month before reading this one, and it was with ZERO hesitation that I decided to continue the series. It’s a spectacular premise for a world, beautifully executed, and with fantastic characters. What’s not to love? The only reason I waited as long as I did to start book 2, in all honesty, is because I was out of Audible credits, and since I started this on Audible, I wanted to finish it that way.

And now I am SUPER glad that I waited as long as I did, since now I can jump right into A Conjuring of Light. But more on that later … First, let’s talk about all of the things I love so much. And I’ll try not to be redundant to my review of A Darker Shade of Magic. To be clear, all of my opinions from that first book still hold; I’m just not going to repeat them over and over.

The Worldbuilding was WONDERFUL.

I know, I know. I made all that fuss about not saying the same things as my review of book 1, and then I go and start off with Worldbuilding, which I RAVED about before. But I mean it in a slightly different way this time.

A Darker Shade of Magic explored the surface level of several worlds (Grey London, Red London, and White London). A Gathering of Shadows really gave us some depth to the world that contains Red London. We got out of the city. We learned a heck of a lot more about how magic works (which I LOVED). We saw different cultures. We got some STUPENDOUS imagery from a black market (which I suspect included some lovely foreshadowing).

I was thrilled to see more of this incredibly unique, imaginative world. I loved the concepts that were introduced in the first book, but in this one we really got to know the world. And that in and of itself kept me hooked.

The first half was super slow, but the pacing still felt right.

Perhaps my one complaint is that the pacing in the first half of the book was a little on the slow side. And this doesn’t really count as a complaint, because I was already halfway through when I realized that nothing significant had really happened, and yet I still didn’t want to put the book down. It’s not that things weren’t happening. Just that particularly significant things weren’t happening.

And that felt completely natural to me. It actually ended up adding to the suspense when the actiony bits DID start because it made them stand out so much more starkly against the rest of the book.

I think I’m in love with Alucard.

Don’t get me wrong, I ship Lila and Kell all the way. And I love them each VERY much. But Alucard is totally someone I would love / love to be annoyed at in real life. He just about always made me smile.

This book is so VERY much about the characters it’s not even funny. (That’s a lie. It is funny. In a very “this isn’t supposed to be funny” way.)

That first half? Yeah, it’s all about the world-building and character development. And the characters are AMAZING. There’s so much tension that we just KNOW is going to blow up somehow, some way, and we’re just waiting to see what exactly sets off the explosion.


Yes, it was tragic humor. And maybe slightly cynical humor. But I was DYING of laughter at several points.

The stage is set very nicely by that first half of buildup. There are several pieces that all fit together in very interesting and precarious ways. And we are helpless to do anything but watch (and shout at our books/phones/kindles) as everything comes into explosive alignment. And the utter REAL reactions had me laughing almost my entire drive into work one day. (This is impressive because my commute is about an hour).

I don’t know if it was actually supposed to be funny or not. But it was kind of like dominoes — so much time and care was spent arranging the pieces just so, that when we finally reached a tipping point, EVERYTHING went all at once, and this entertained me thoroughly.

The Parallelism.

The parallelism is in more than just the parallel worlds, and I LOVED it. Events would happen in one world that vaguely mirrored events in another world. And I totally didn’t even draw the connection until I had a sense of deja vu with some of the language. There were phrases/passages that were copy/paste from previously described events and it was beautiful.

There are also references to mirrors not infrequently. It’s not frequently enough that I would really call that a theme, but they’re mentioned just often enough to make me wonder about how much the idea of mirrored events inspired Schwab. Just a personal thought 🙂


I am BEYOND glad that I am able to immediately start the third book. When I checked the status towards the end and saw that I had less than an hour left, I was pissed. There was clearly more than an hour left of plot. And then … Terrible wonderful breath-taking things happened. And then … IT ENDED. WHHHYYYYYY???!!!!

Super duper recommend this book!

If you haven’t started this series, do it NOW. Especially since you can just binge-read them and not get stuck with that cliff hanger.

Rating Report
Writing Style
  • I think I preferred ADSOM to AGOS too. Not that AGOS wasn’t perfectly entertaining, because I loved the contest and Alucard was amazing (and notice how his name spelled backwards is Dracula? People have been bugging Schwab about that forever hahaha). I did really love visiting Black London! The different Londons are definitely my favourite part of the book. And Holland. And Kell’s coat. And Kell. And Rhy. Man I really need to pick ACOL up.

    • Michelle

      Hahahaha — OMG, I had totally not noticed that about his name! (Mostly because I listened to the book, probably, and so I didn’t even know how it was spelled until I looked it up write my review, lol!) That’s hilarious.

      I did really love AGOS, and the games were awesome to “witness.” And the ending OMFG. And Black London. And Alucard. And Kell. And Kell’s coat (I REALLY WANT ONE!). And LILA. My god I love her. I started ACOL as soon as I finished AGOS because I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! And since it just came out, I could do that 🙂

  • I’ve never read and heard about this book but it sounds great. I know it’s terrible sometimes to have an unsatisfying ending but I’m glad you still loved and enjoyed it.
    Have a great weekend, Michelle. Love your review. 😀

    • Michelle

      Thanks! The series overall is really great. The end, actually, was spectacular, but I would have been SUPER RANTY about it if the third book hadn’t been out. Such an amazing awful spectacular cliff hanger!