I posted a small note in March about the 3rd book in the Shades of Magic Trilogy, A Conjuring of Light. While I still stand by that post, I thought I would review the trilogy as a whole since it is one of my favorite fantasy series since Harry Potter.
Shades of Magic Trilogy by V.E. Schwab:
A Darker Shade of Magic, Rating: 5 stars
A Gathering of Shadows, Rating: 4.5 stars
A Conjuring of Light, Rating: 5 stars
The first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, introduces us to three additional worlds that exist parallel to our own. They are distinguished by colors denoting the presence of magic in each, and the only city that is constant in each world is London. Our London is Grey London, in a world where magic may exist but just barely. Red London is teeming with magic, and most of the citizens in that world are capable of controlling at least one element with magic. Red London is home to Kell Maresh, one of the last of a rare breed of magicians called Antari. The Antari can use powerful blood magic and travel between worlds. There are just two Antari left, Kell from Red London and Holland from White London. White London has been drained to its bones of magic as the citizens struggle desperately to control the magic and it fights back. The final London is Black London, but magic overtook Black London long ago and nothing has been heard from it since.
While Kell is officially the ambassador from the Maresh empire, he unofficially smuggles items between worlds (something that is expressly forbidden). On one smuggling expedition with an object of uncontrollable magic he runs into Lila Bard, a thief in Grey London who manages to rob him and save him all in one night. When he has to go back to Red London to take care of the havoc the object has unleashed, Lila insists on joining.
Now that the initial plot is out of the way, we can talk about the characters. Lila Bard is one of my favorite characters of all time. She is a total badass and way too confident for her own good. She doesn’t let anything, from her class, her size, or her gender stop her, a feat that is especially difficult in Victorian London. She doesn’t let anyone discount her because she’s a woman, and always prefers pants to gowns (better for movement and hiding knives). She has her many faults, of course, including extreme trust issues and an inability to stop when she’s ahead. Lila also does not have the best reactions to danger, rushing in headfirst to avoid a her greatest fear: living a boring life. What girl growing up didn’t face that same fear? She is the perfect counter to the serious (or brooding) and cautious Kell.
A Gathering of Shadows centers on the Element Games, an extravagant international magic competition meant to strengthen the ties between neighboring countries. The second book introduces another great character, Alucard, the captain of the pirate ship Lila finds her way on and former love of Rhy Maresh. As they head for Red London for the games, Rhy and Kell are planning a dangerous scheme that could jeopardize Kell’s standing in the royal family and risk diplomatic ties between the three countries in his world. Shadows also has great character development for Rhy, Kell’s brother and the crown price of the Marsh empire and delves deeper into Kell’s relationship with his adopted family and his sense of never truly belonging.
Holland was probably my second favorite character after Lila because of his complexity. When you meet him in the first book he is the second of two living Antaris and the ambassador from White London. He is also completely under the control of the sadistic rulers of White London because of a dark magic that binds his soul to their whims. He will stop at nothing to get his London back to it’s previous glory, where magic flowed as freely as it does in Red London. Unfortunately, it seems that one world must fall for another to rise, and he is willing to sacrifice Red London for his cause. While he is a villain to us, he also cares deeply about his home and suffered so many losses throughout his life as White London deteriorated to its current condition. He also believes in honor and has his own moral code that he will not break.
I rated the second book a half star below the first and third mainly because it suffers from what many middle books suffer from: a set-up plot. While the tournament is an intriguing story, the last third of the book felt rushed to put everything in place for the cliffhanger that leads to the crazy intense action in A Conjuring of Light. However, all three books are amazing. They run along at a breakneck pace, and you will never find yourself closing the book because you reached a slow part. There are no slow parts.
If you haven’t read them yet, drop everything to start A Dark Shade of Magic. Trust me, you won’t regret it.