“A Darker Shade of Magic” was one of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year, so I was so excited to read the sequel with my friends again and dive back into these magical London’s, and snuggle up next to my favorite sad boi—Kell—and most deadly and clever of thieves—Lila. “A Gathering of Shadows” takes place 4 months after the end of the first book, and all our favorites are dealing with the repercussions of that epic battle. Well, except Lila, she does what she wants, consequences be damned, but more on that later. Kell remains in the palace with Rhy, who he sacrificed everything for. But instead of being thanked for this sacrifice, his adopted family drops all pretenses of Kell being their son. And while Rhy and Kell struggle to find a new balance, to move on, to come to terms with what their lives are now, Lila lives her dreams by being part of a pirate crew, finally “getting” her own ship. Which also introduces us to a new main character—Alucard. Who is really everything you want in a pirate so I loved his introduction to the story. I loved the all too real pain of what Kell goes through now, ostracized and trapped in his gilded cage of guilt and power, but, where I ADORED Lila in the first book, in the sequel, I found myself wanting to shake her.
Here’s the thing with Lila, in the first book, her confidence and thievery is clever. She’s in a new and exciting world and is determined to see it all, to never be doubted again. I was here for that, and still am. And this book does start with Lila being her most wonderful, clever, and deadly self! But then things shift and Lila turns from clever to reckless and selfish, and she knows it. She never stops to consider anything, including the fact that she is still new to this world, the magic, and even the language. She does attempt to learn, but ultimately, she staunchly refuses to listen to those who have been dealing with magic all their lives, who know this world in and out. Each one warns her, begs her not to do things, tells her what she’s doing is dangerous and that there are laws to magic, but Lila—and Schwab really—have decided that rules do not apply to Lila and I… don’t like that. Lila is just doing what she wants, costs be damned, and she gets rewarded for that, while everyone else—including poor Kell—are the only ones suffering for the consequences of their actions, constantly trying to atone.
This second book was a lot slower than its predecessor as well, the main focus being on the magical competition that Alucard is returning to London for. Think the Goblet of Fire on steroids in terms of magical spectacle. There are no real stakes to the games, it’s just a bit of political posturing for the other nations around Red London, so while the competition is fun, and I enjoyed watching these magicians flex their power, there was no sense of danger the way there was in the first book. “A Gathering of Shadows” is purely a character study, which I like, but ultimately this storyline felt more like a companion book rather than something meant to push the plot forward. At least until the very end where things get very exciting, very real, and Kell’s angst finally gets the better of his judgement. Which I don’t blame him for, and am frankly surprised he didn’t give everyone the proverbial finger much sooner. But, ultimately, I found myself far more frustrated and low-key furious at certain characters (not just Lila, either) that this book was hard to enjoy in parts, and that kills me.
Don’t get me wrong, I DID like this book. I thought Alucard was fun and he gives me serious Stormhund vibes in terms of sassy-pirate-noble. I liked watching Kell and Rhy struggle, and loved getting Rhy’s perspective this time. But the actual plot-line dragged, parts of the story got redundant with constantly reminding us that only Kell gets to shoulder the blame from what occurred in the previous book, and with Lila becoming so self-centered and determined to tell the experts on magic that “she’s not like most girls”, that the end of the book left a bitter taste in my mouth. And that’s not to mention the fact that I knew the big “twists” well before they happened. Now whether that means they were too obvious or I’m just getting better at seeing that sort of thing, I don’t know. I still love Kell and Rhy though, and I want to see what happens next, but I didn’t have as much fun with this book as the previous, and because I am still, days later, so frustrated by Lila, I’m giving this book 3 stars. Please don’t hate me…
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