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BOOK REVIEW:

A Gathering of Shadows

In A darker shade of magic Victoria Schwab presented Kell and Lila set within their worlds of four different Londons. The magic and adventure continue in this sequel.

It has been four months since the Black Night, when the rulers of White London attempted to take over Red London, leaving chaos and casualties in the wake of the attack. While Kell saved the kingdom from this threat, he is also blamed for what happened. Once a trusted member of the royal family, he is now viewed with suspicion, doubt, fear and animosity. The King has ordered a pair of guards to accompany Kell at all times, resulting in the loss of the little freedom and solitude that he once enjoyed. Kell feels trapped within a gilded cage.
 
Lila has fled Grey London into Red London in pursuit of her dream of becoming a pirate. She is in a strange world knowing almost nothing about the culture and able to speak only a few words of the common language. But she has managed to join the crew of the Night Spire, captained by Alucard Emery, who is mysterious and contradictory. Lila’s hard work and natural inclinations assist in her quick integration into the ship’s crew, but she is still marked as someone different. Lila’s early life has made her wary of belonging to any group or individual, and this makes the crew equally wary of her. But then Captain Emery announces that, after months at sea, the Night Spire is heading back to London for the Essen Tasch, the Elemental Games, an international magic tournament in which the best magicians compete. Lila has always known that, at some point, she would return to Red London, but not this soon.  And, returning forces her to confront her desire and reluctance to see Kell, the one person to whom she has a connection that even she cannot deny.
 

A gathering of shadows continues the plot and story of Kell and Lila, with only a four-month gap from the ending of A darker shade of magic. Schwab expands and further develops their worlds, introducing additional developments, characters, cultures and locations. The port of Sasenroche is particularly striking. It is a port city hidden in a literal no-man’s-land both between and straddling the three major kingdoms in Kell’s home world. Schwab’s descriptions of the port, and the black market that thrives there, are marvelous.

All of the major characters, and some minor ones, are back and further developed, as is the increasingly complex relationship between Lila and Kell. While it is still true that they both long for their own ideal of freedom, what is also clear, after this second adventure, is how well they complement each other. Lila can go anywhere she wants at any time, which, as an Antari for the crown, is forbidden to Kell. And Kell has grown up with strong familial ties, which Lila clearly wants, but actively avoids from fear. Each has what the other desperately needs (even if they do not actively want it), and it is clear that this aspect of their relationship will play a larger role as the series develops.
 
Like A darker shade of magic before it, A gathering of shadows is a marvelous and engaging adventure. It ends with a very pronounced cliff-hanger, which is not surprising in a series, but does increase the anticipation for the next volume. Here’s hoping that the wait will not be a long one!

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