It’s been months since Kell and Lila had to face White London, and things are settling. Lila has gone to be a pirate as she’s always dreamed, while Kell is trying to find his place with the royal family again. But things are tense, having lost the trust of the King and Queen and still having to figure out the changed relationship with Rhy. With the approach of an international magic contest in Red London, it is even more imperative that things start to run smoothly again. But the other Londons still harbor some surprises.
A Gathering of Shadows was a good, quick read, but I did have my problems with it, starting with the magic tournament angle (incredibly overdone) to character development.
It took me a while to get into the book, but once I did, I blazed through it and I enjoyed reading it. There was definitely a pull to the story and a page-turning quality to the book.
I also liked new character Alucard. He and Rhy must have been an unbearable duo before the events of the last book and I would have loved to see that at the time. Although I did like their banter now, too.
But the thing is, I hated the way the relationship between Kell and Rhy developed. And not in a good “I just hate that this characters have to go through that shit” kind of way but in the “this doesn’t make any sense to me and is just there to create tension in the story” kind of way. Rhy’s bitterness in particular was never believable to me. And I know we’re talking about magic here and it doesn’t need to be logical, but at the same time, I don’t understand why there was only pain shared and not the good stuff, too.
And the King’s and Queen’s reactions were horrible to me as someone who has adopted siblings. I can’t imagine just … stopping to see them as family because they did fucked up shit (they all did). They’re family, no matter the genetic material.
Lila was a bit much for me, too. For a while there, I thought that the story would make her out to be the villain of the piece all of a sudden, and that development would have been interesting. Very interesting. Although I would have needed other female characters of note in the story who don’t turn evil to really make that fly. (Generally, other female characters of note would have been greatly appreciated.) But the story doesn’t dare to go there anyway. Lila remains a good one. [She’s also a very Chosen One(tm). I didn’t mind that all that much, but your mileage may vary regarding that point.]
That I still liked reading the book despite all of these issues is a testament to Schwab’s fluid writing. I’ll read the last book of the trilogy for sure, but it’s simply not my series.
Summarizing: Problematic, but enjoyable.