It was only February last year when I read and reviewed the first book in V.E. Schwab’s epic fantasy series, A Darker Shade of Magic and that seems like a lifetime ago. However it only took a few pages for me to remember the different colours of London, the magic between worlds and the memorable characters that stand out in the story.
The second instalment, A Gathering of Shadows, picks up four months on from the last book, where magician Kell is feeling trapped in his role at the palace, as well as guilty after the events that cost so many lives. He is also missing Lila Bard, who has forged a new life for herself as a thief at sea.
But they are soon to be reunited when an epic tournament between three major empires is being held in Red London and competitors are drawn to the city to compete. However it is not only competitors and spectators that attend the festivities and a dark power emerging from Black London could threaten to endanger Red London once again.
All the different Londons are so well defined, I feel like I already know each one intimately. A Darker Shade of Magic spent a lot of time setting the scene for each of the Londons – Red, White, Grey and Black – and even though most of the action happens in Red London for this story, the other versions still have their unique parts to play in the story.
Apart from being reunited with some interesting and familiar characters; surly Kell, headstrong Lila and dashing Prince Rhy, there are also some fabulous new ones to meet. I loved the privateer Alucard Emery, the charming captain of the Night Spire (the ship Lila finds work) and also a competitor himself with ties to the royal family. He has a unique relationship with Lila, Rhy and Kell individually and I enjoyed the elegance, charm and wit he brought to the tale.
Another epic literary feat in this novel is the Essen Tasch – the magic tournament where competitors fight by wielding elements against each other. It kind of put me in mind of a simpler yet more adult version of the Triwizard Tournament from Harry Potter; a riot of colours and emblems, parties and celebrations and all the epic magic!
Just when I thought things couldn’t improve much from the first book, this one really kicks the action up a gear and leaves you seriously craving more. I don’t think I can wait a whole year for the next book!
With pirates and princes, thieves and magicians, I wholeheartedly recommend both books to all readers for an action-packed, dark and dangerous, magic-fuelled fantasy adventure.
Watch out for my spot on the AGOS blog tour on the 3rd of March where I have a guest post from the author and a giveaway!