A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5

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!

A Darker Shade of Magic-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5

I dived into this book not really knowing much about it or what to expect. The beginning was a bit slow in that it took a few chapters to get into the mechanics of the worlds and how the main character travels between, but once it picked up, it really picked up! A great first book for a series that keeps the reader itching for more, something we need more of in today’s fantasy publishing’s.

While there are characters that are relatively young in age, this is not a young adult novel, it is a fantasy novel (also confirmed by the author, depending on which name she uses on the book will determine the target audience).

Kell is one of the last Antari, a magic user that can travel between worlds. There are four worlds, although one has been seemingly destroyed by dark magic. The remaining three worlds exist like sheets of paper, one placed on top of the other, and they have absolutely nothing in common save for all the worlds have a city named London in a similar place geographically: Grey London, Red London, White London, and the no longer existent Black London. Each of the London’s has its own unique features. Grey London is just that: grey, boring, and lacking magic (somewhat reminiscent of the London we know in our reality). Red London, Kell’s London, is bursting with festivity and magic and the ruling empire is flourishing, while White London is controlled by whoever is the strongest, whoever can kill and murder their way to the throne.

When Kell is given a package to deliver to another London, he is nearly killed in the process. Opening it to find a half jagged and half smooth black stone, Kell recognizes it as an implement of black magic, a relic from Black London that must go back. When his stone is pick-pocketed by a young thief, Delilah Bard, he must get it back, and expose the secret of magic to the citizen of Grey London.

Lila seeks adventure. She would love to have her own pirate ship one day, but when magic is introduced to her world, she aims to follow Kell in his trek to return the black magic stone to Black London. Kell can only travel between worlds if he has a relic from the world he is traveling to, a piece of that world that will allow him to connect. Black London is at the bottom of the stack, and getting there means moving through each of the London’s.

When the rulers or White London are found to be responsible for harboring the black magic stone in the first place, Kell and Lila must join forces to bring down the evils of White London and to get the stone back to the destroyed Black London from whence it came.

After starting this book and not knowing what to expect, I was drawn by the craft and characters that Schwab lays forth in her novel. Kell and Lila are both vastly interesting and unique characters that make me want to follow their adventures into the next book. The chapters are written episodically with a title for each section to get the reader thinking about what might be coming next. I would highly recommend this book for not only fantasy readers, but readers who enjoy a fast-paced adventure with great characters, so yes, you SHOULD read this book! I am looking forward to following Kell and Lila in the next part of their adventure in A Gathering of Shadows, the second book in the trilogy.

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