Book Reviews

Review: A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

V.E. Schwab kills it again with A Gathering of Shadows, book two in the Shades of Magic series.

This book messed with my emotions in so many ways, which–let’s be real–was in large part what made me pick up book two.

In A Gathering of Shadows, Schwab further explores Red London and the place of the Arnesian Empire amidst its neighbors. She explores this world through the Essen Tasch, a magical tournament that allows mages from around the world to test themselves against one another and represent their kingdoms. The event is a chance for political dealings and and peacekeeping.

As Rhy is coming into his own as heir to the Arnesian throne, Kell continues to rail against the boundaries imposed upon him by his adoptive parents and the self-imposed boundary of his life tie to his brother. Kell is desperate to be somewhere else. To be someone else. To be more than the shame of what he has done. Schwab does a great job with Kell, as while at times I’m quite annoyed with him, I also really feel for him. Ultimately, Kell’s resolve to maintain the boundary between worlds and not submit to the deeper impulses of magic is tested once again.

Lila’s boundaries are only increasing. She is living her best life as a pirate and aspiring magician. Lila finds herself shore bound once more in Red London, as her captain, Alucard Emery, is to compete in the Essen Tasch. Being a a new, dangerous experience that could take her even further away from the life as Grey London street thief, Bard decides that she must compete in the tournament. So she does it, posing as someone else. And she advances to almost the final round. Lila is such a badass. Like her crew mates, I’m not sure if I admire her or am terrified of her. But that’s probably as it should be.

Brilliant work. 5 stars, but damn that ending.

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Book Reviews

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has been on my TBR for some time. It was nice to not be disappointed.

I loved this book.

A Darker Shade of Magic is primarily driven by its characters and their desire to live beyond their station. Kell, apparently a pampered Prince of Red London, longs for the unattached freedom of normal life as he illicitly trafficks items between worlds. Lila Bard, street thief of Grey London, longs for more than what life has given her, for a real adventure.

While Kell and Lila desire freedom, the villains of White London desire power. It’s vile monarchs, Athos and Astrid Dane, are the stuff of nightmares, especially in the way Athos controls Holland. The later is perhaps the most complicated character of the bunch. It’s unclear to me whether Holland would been a “good person” without Athos’s control. Or if he would have simply been a free bad person.

The underlying pain and desire that suffuse this book have lodged the Londons in my mind, and I can’t let go. When I finished this book, I could not wait to jump into A Gathering of Shadows. Five stars.

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this week in fandom

This Week in Fandom (1/31/20)

Graphic Novels/Comics

I’m behind on writing this week, but it’s okay, I compensated by reading a lot. In order to meet my lofty 2020 reading goals, I need to count graphic novels and comic books (TPBs not single issues–I’m not a total barbarian). This past week I caught up on some of the comics I had waiting on the shelf. Several upcoming reviews in the queue:

  • Kick-Ass (Mark Millar, John Romita Jr.)
  • Blackbird Vol. 1 (Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel)
  • Trees Vol. 1 (Warren Ellis, Jason Howard)

For now here are reviews of Adventure Time vols. 5-6 (Ryan North) and Captain America, vol. 2: Captain of Nothing (Ta-Nehisi Coates).

On deck to read once I finish the aforementioned reviews:

  • Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl (Millar, Romita Jr.)
  • Adventure Time vols. 7-8 (Ryan North)
  • Watchmen (Alan Moore)–somehow I have never read this
  • Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation (Damian Duffy, from Octavia E. Butler)
  • Trees, Vol. 2: Two Forests (Ellis, Howard)
  • Superman: Year One (Frank Miller, John Romita Jr.)
  • Invisible Kingdom (G. Willow Wilson, Christian Ward–I actually have all six issues of this series on order, as the first run was amazing.

I’m always looking for recommendations of great graphic novels/comics. I generally stray from Marvel/DC, but only because of the sometimes sharp learning curve and extended history of certain characters. I will definitely check out mainstream superhero books that pique my interest and seem moderately self-contained (and so Superman above). Have any other suggests? Let me know in the comments!


Otherwise I posted one other review this week–Annalee Newitz’s spec fic time-travel novel, The Future of Another Timeline. Find that here. I enjoyed this book, even more than Newitz’s debut, Autonomous. In both, Newitz weaves together the political, the social, and the personal with technology.

I finished The Hero of Ages this week (my third time through Mistborn Era 1) as part of my reread of the novels in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere. I’m to the Era 1 short fiction (“The Lost Metal,” “Mistborn: Secret History”) from the Arcanum Unbounded collection. This is a bit of a deviation in my Sanderson reading plan, as I typically read the books in more or less published order (though always leading into The Stormlight Archive).

Tor, 2015

I also finally picked up a book that has been on my TBR for a long time: V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. I’m enjoying it so far! My introduction to fantasy was really through magic “systems,” e.g. The Wheel of Time and anything by Brandon Sanderson. While I clearly still dig Sanderson, my interests have been verging more toward the “low magic” side. Not that these types of magics don’t have rules, but the rules are neither necessarily clearly defined nor intricate. I’m thinking of someone like Neil Gaiman here, especially The Ocean at the End of the Lane. As it happens, Gaiman is one of Schwab’s big influences, so. Look for a review of the first in the Shades of Magic trilogy next week!