A Gathering of Shadows picks up a few months after the ending of the first novel. Lila hasn’t gotten exactly what she wants but she’s getting there. Kell on the other hand is finding himself wishing that he had gone off with Lila at the end of the previous story. Since he bound his life to the Prince, the Royal Family has tightened their leash on him to protect the prince’s life. Kell loves his brother and doesn’t regret saving him, but he’s finally realizing just how many consequences there are for his actions.
The focus of the novel is the Elemental Games. Mages from all over the word are coming to Red London to compete. Everything is being organized by Prince Rhy, who’s starting to flex his power as the future king. As a gift to his brother, Rhy enters Kell under a different name, hoping that Kell will blow off some steam and not feel as trapped. This novel is very character driven, and Schwab takes her time to flesh out all of her characters instead of focusing just on her two leads.
Kell is and will probably always be my favourite. As mentioned before he’s dealing with the consequences of binding Rhy to himself. Throughout A Darker Shade of Magic he always felt sorry for himself and his relationship with the royal family. In this book that becomes extremely prominent. The King and Queen blame him for Rhy’s almost death and have gone cold towards him. Any familial feelings that they had before are gone. Kell is constantly debating on abandoning them but he’s unable too because his sense of duty and his love for his brother.
I had a really hard time with Lila and her actions in this novel. She is one of the main sources of conflict. Never does she feel out of character, but some of her decisions I had a hard time relating too. The moment she realizes that she is happy she feels the need to abandon her captain and crew. She doesn’t want to settle because she always believes that there is somewhere where she might be happier. She’s extremely impulsive and doesn’t think about her actions at all, this causes her to hurt characters close to her. The moment she hears about the Elemental Games she has to participate. Even though she’s not a talented magic user. I found myself sitting there shaking my head and wondering what she thinks is going to happen. How is this going to end well?
Kell and Lila work best when they are together because they balance one another out. Kell grounds Lila and Lila makes Kell more impulsive, forcing him to think out of the box. They’d make a cute couple or a solid friendship. I’d be happy with either. The book really took off for me when the two of them were finally reunited.
Out of all the characters, Rhy undergoes the most change. After his brief stint with death he’s grown. In a world where magic dictates power, Rhy has always associated it with being a good ruler. In this novel he really comes into his own. Gone is the party animal and in his place is a charming young man who wants to do right by his people. He still has a few lessons to learn but when the time comes he will make a great King.
Alucard was a great addition to the cast. He’s Lila’s Captain and has a romantic history with Prince Rhy. Their scenes together we’re probably my favourite. Rhy who’s aways a smooth talking charmer becomes nervous and stumbles over himself. The two have great chemistry and I hope they can get past their past in the next book. They make a great couple.
But everyone makes a great couple. I honestly can’t call where this book will go romantically. Everyone has great chemistry with everyone. Schwab could change up her pairings and it would still come off as natural. They could all end up in one massive relationship. That would be great too.
Where the first novel jumped between all the different London’s Shadows takes place mostly in Red London. I liked how we are offered Kell and Lila’s perspectives on the city. Kell grew up there and is used to the way the city works. Lila on the other hand has the chance to be amazed by everything (even though she keeps a straight face so she won’t blow her cover). These two perspectives give depth to the world, cementing it’s realism.
Shadows suffers middle book syndrome. Its soul purpose is to set up for the conflict in the third book. The main plot doesn’t pick up until the last fifty pages of the novel. Instead the majority of the book follows a side plot with focus on character development. It still manages to work because of the characters themselves and Schwab’s writing style. If you liked the first novel then I suggest you pick this one up and continue on with the series. But be warned, the cliffhanger ending will slowly drive you crazy.