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A Gathering of Shadows | Review

A Gathering of Shadows Final

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by VE Schwab

Minor Spoilers Below

The second installment picks up a few months after A Darker Shade of Magic left off, with Lila fulfilling her pirate dreams and Kell and Rhy experiencing some new setbacks in their relationship. Their lives magically tied together, they can feel each other’s pain and emotions, and it’s starting to take its toll on the boys.

Kell is frustrated and can’t seem to expel the energy he has pent up inside, and Rhy is conflicted over feeling grateful he’s alive but wishing he’d had a choice in the matter.

Meanwhile, Red London is gearing up for the Essen Tasch, a magical tournament between the three neighboring kingdoms (a la Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) which pits twelve magicians from each kingdom against one another in four rounds of fighting.

While this is happening in Red London, White London is mending itself, and the darkness from the first book is slowly creeping its way back into control. A Gathering of Shadows, indeed.

The characters are what made me love the first book so much, and they continue to astound me and captivate me here, as does the newcomer, Alucard Emery, who is contesting to be my new favorite. He’s charming, magical, has secrets, and he’s a Captain, what’s not to like?

tumblr_nw8mfvX7nT1qaryrmo1_500I also really like the relationships between this cast of characters, and how they’re all varying and intricate. Not to mention, the romantic relationships that start blooming set my ships asail. My favorite ship from the first book totally sunk, but was replaced with one I may even like better. Also, yay! gay/bi characters! and Schwab’s light touch on the romance aspect. This is a fantasy, after all, NOT a romance. There’s some light kissing, but that’s about the extent of it.

The pace was about on par as the first book for me, which is to say, it’s a bit slower, but I attribute that to the rich writing and detail and my desire to savor the moment rather than rush it. Also, Schwab’s writing never feels very rushed or particularly fast-paced, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting.

The Essen Tasch itself was really cool. I liked seeing how the magicians used magic as a weapon and learning more about the magic system itself. My only complaint is that I wish there’d been MORE! I do love tournaments and games though, which is why Goblet of Fire is my favorite of the Harry Potter books.

I also kept thinking more was going to happen with the neighboring kingdoms that were visiting. There were some subtle, throwaway lines about that, so my mind kept predicting massive slaughters and backstabbing during the Games. The ending is “catastrophic,” (it’s the name of the chapter), but not in that way. The book overall kind of feels like too much of a setup for the next book, as not a lot of major plot happens, but there’s some cool stuff and development along the way.

That catastrophic ending was close to what I’d predicted it would be, and I’ll be anxiously awaiting for the third (and final?) book next year.

4.5/5 stars

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Vicious | Review

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Vicious by V.E. Schwab

If Magneto and Charles Xavier were crueler characters with more ambitious hubris, the X Men would look more like Vicious.

Eli and Victor are both top-of-their-class smart, with successful futures guaranteed. Lurking beneath the surface for both of them, however, is an insatiable hunger of darkness, of something cruel and vicious.

Eli’s graduate thesis is about finding EOs – ExtraOrdinary’s – and figuring out if they exist, and why. When Victor suggests taking the thesis a step further and experimenting on themselves to test their creation theory, jealousy and hubris get in the way, ripping the friends apart.

The story is told through multiple perspectives over the course of ten years. While it is mostly Victor’s POV, it sometimes shifts to the other supporting characters, but vary rarely does it transfer to Eli. The flashbacks are mostly set to ten years prior, when the events of creation existed, and the lead up to the final showdown between Eli and Victor.

trading-card-group-finalNeither character is good, and neither is solely bad. In the public’s eye, Eli is the hero, saving the world from the EOs (read: Magneto), and Victor, the one trying to stop Eli (Professor X), is the villain. But it’s so much more than that, because while Eli believes in what he is doing, that EOs are wrong, that it’s God’s will to exterminate them, he is also playing God (though he won’t admit to it). Victor, a quiet, lurking guy, a wolf with pain at his fingertips, isn’t all bad, but he’s not so good either. Vicious plays with what it means to be good and what it means to be evil, much like Gregory Maguire did with Wicked.

The characters are so complex, and the relationships fractured and layered. The people the characters choose to surround themselves with speaks volumes to their characters as well. Both Eli and Victor come in contact with a young EO, Sydney, but their separate reactions to her, though both selfish, show more of who they are as a character than most of their other actions.

Much like the world of Heroes, where heroes and villains intertwine seamlessly, quietly shifting in the gray middle area, Vicious tackles the concept of normal people with abilities, and how those abilities change who you are as a person, how some slowly define you, and how others make you feel invincible.

Wonderful, gripping, and an interesting take on the concept of superheroes.