This is the second book in the Shades of Magic trilogy, following A Darker Shade of Magic. I previously spoke highly of the first novel, and saying that, this one is even better! The unique and quirky characters are back, with some new characters entering the fray. This novel is better paced than the first, a heart-pounding adventure leading into an exciting magic tournament.
Lila and Kell are no longer partners in crime, but they sure are busy with their lives. Lila, using her crafty methods, finds herself aboard a ship with a captain who has a connection to the royal family. Alucard, captain of the Night Spire, not only enjoys blundering pirate ships with Lila’s help, but finds her company and potential affinity for magic to be interesting and fun as well.
Meanwhile, Kell is busy keeping Rhy out of trouble. The prince tends to enjoy going out for a drink and the occasional tryst, and thanks to their life/death bond, Kell can feel what Rhy feels, and is the best protection the prince can have. Despite this, the country seems to be wary of Kell, thinking that he was somehow the one responsible for the tragic and devastatingly dangerous events four months ago. Because of their bond, Rhy can tell that Kell needs to use his magic, to blow off steam, so Rhy enlists Kell into the Essen Tasch under the guise of the name Kamerov Loste. If Kell, an Antari, were found competing in the Magic Tournament, he would disgrace his country and possibly face execution by the king.
The Essen Tasch is a tournament where magic users from the three main neighboring countries come together to demonstrate their skill and is used as a bonding scheme for the three countries that already have some growing tensions between them. Kell must choose only one or two elements to use, rather than all five, because triads (users of three elements) are already extremely rare.
When Lila finds out that Alucard will be going back to London for the magic tournament, Lila knows inherently that she must somehow enter as well. Since all the competitors wear masks, it is a matter of displacing someone in order to take their place in the tournament. After moving the ocean, Lila knows she is powerful, and she finds that she may be even more powerful than she first thought. She continues to use her power despite the risk of it destroying her from the inside.
Reunited, both Kell and Lila find each other as a huge surprise in the tournament, not to mention the minor detail that Rhy and Alucard were once (are still?) lovers!
While all this is going on, Holland finds himself awake and free in Black London, where he meets a dark being of magic. This magical being offers to give Holland his freedom if he can give another Antari to him as a host body, and of course, Holland plans to offer up Kell for his own freedom.
Vastly more exciting and enjoyable than the first novel, this book was fast-paced and fun. Getting to learn more about Lila as a character and seeing her magic develop was an enriching quality, and the tournament itself offered the same kind of excitement you see in fighting tournaments across the various media types, but with a risk. The reader reads in anticipation, wondering when Kell and Lila will cross paths again and if Kell will be found out in the tournament. The twists and turns that the characters must take to keep stable is ever-enticing. Now with Kell being sought out by Holland, readers greatly anticipate reading the next book. If you couldn’t get into the first novel, try again, because it is worth it to get to this excellently crafted second book of the series!