I am Delilah Bard, she thought, as the ropes cut into her skin. I am a thief and a pirate and a traveler. I have set foot in three different worlds, and lived. I have shed the blood of royals and held magic in my hands.
A Gathering of Shadows
By V.E. Schwab
As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.
Schwab does it again. The sequel to last year’s A Darker Shade of Magic– A Gathering of Shadows is just as inventive, breath baiting, and exciting as its predecessor.
The story picks up four months after the first novel ended, checking in with our main characters and where they ended up after the neat(ish) conclusion of the previous story. Pirates, privateers, a disappointed pair of monarchs, and a mysterious new White Court would be enough excitement for a story as-is, but those plot points absolutely pale in comparison to the centerpiece of Gathering : The Essen Tasch.
A combination of the Avatar Universe’s Pro Bending and the Olympics, the Essen Tasch is the hub that the story revolves around. This once every 3 years Magical Dueling Tournament involves the other nations of Red London (Red World?) and comes with pomp, diplomacy, and hidden identities in spades. Of course our troublesome protagonists get involved, in more ways than one.
Schwab does an excellent job painting these games with her words, creating an exhilarating event described with edge of your seat prose and fast-paced details. Alongside the games are the new nations themselves, peoples who are magical and unique without being expected or derivative.
Despite the 500 page length, this book moved fast, jutting from duel to duel, boat to boat, and conflict to never-ending conflict. Unlike the first of the series, however, it does not wrap up in a nice little concluded package. Beware! There be cliffhangers!
If you enjoyed A Darker Shade of Magic, you will enjoy this book just as much. If you never read ADSOM, and are interested in weird 19th century magical mashup fantasy books, go back, read that first, devour this one, and then sit back and wait impatiently with me for the next installment to come out.
Summary from Goodreads