A Gathering of Shadows – Where Does The Magic Reach?

Book Review : A Gathering of Shadows
Shades of Magic #2

By V.E. Schwab

Spoiler Alert!



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. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I have mixed emotions about this series.


Schwab uses cliche phrases, such as, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Every high school english teacher tells their students to avoid cliches.

Periodic language is another problem. Schwab releases the F-bomb about 4 times in the book. Since they’re in a different, alternative universe with different languages, must we be submitted to foul language from our own world? She has developed a vocabulary of Red London epithets which I prefer; they are clever and don’t have the same sense of being crude.

The characters fail to progress. Too much time was spent on the separation of Kell and Lila, where each is eaten up by their choices, but unable to progress into making new choices. Another character which didn’t develop was Rhy, we already knew that Rhy wasn’t picky about his lovers. There are a couple of steamy scenes; one, an encounter with an unnamed girl, and another steamy kissing scene with a man (but I’m not revealing his name). I can’t say that this added anything to Rhy at this point. He has become more brooding after his brush with death, but as a secondary character it didn’t seem that important, yet. The king and queen of Red London probably had the biggest shift in their characters, now they have revealed that they loath and blame Kell for all that has befallen their true son, Rhy.

A plot devise that has been used (think Harry Potter) with contestants from other nations competing for the glory of being the best magician feels overused. It served it’s purpose to bring Kell and Lila back together. The contests are not a blow by blow description, which is actually a pro, but she moves to the essence of each battle.

I’m a little confused if this is a young adult book or was it written for adults. It feels like young adult; it’s brooding, hyper-emotional, has a devil-may-care attitude towards authority and has a romance. It’s as if the alternative universes had to come together just for Lila and Kell. With that said, I wouldn’t want my kids to read this book until they are over 16 years old. My library has it listed under adult fiction, but sometimes they are funny about their placement of books.


The magic system is different than other fantasy series. I always like originality. Because the traveling magicians need to use blood for some of their magic it is a darker twist than some series.

I know this sounds contrary to one of the cons, but overall I find Schwab to be above average in her writing. She uses some creative metaphors that are fitting, such as, Lila’s smile being described as a knife.

Once the story gets moving it clips along at a good pace. This one had a bit of a slow start, but once Kell and Lila were both in London it moved fast and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I plan to read the third book, so that is always a good sign that I’m enjoying a series even if it has points I pick at.

The stirrings of White London and the culminating events that have led to Holland’s rise in power (after he was thrown into Black London at the end of book 1) were an interesting plot development. I honestly would have liked to see more out of White London in this book, instead of having to wait for the sinister dealings that will be laid out in book 3.


3.5 out of 4 stars

  • Michelle

A good author to check out would be Brandon Sanderson if you enjoyed this series. He has done a lot of writing; he is well known for his Mistborn series, but I also enjoyed books like The Rithmatist and The Emperor’s Soul.

Another good author to discover is Patrick W. Carr who is currently writing his second series. The first series begins with A Cast of Stones and the new series starts with a novella, By Divine Right.

I would love to hear your suggestions for authors you enjoy!

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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