A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – Book Review

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It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift – back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighbouring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Where do I even start? My love for this series is only growing with each book. This book is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, in what I’m going to guess is going to end up being a trilogy. Frequently, I find that sequels end up disappointing me but honestly this book was even better than its predecessor.

In my review for A Darker Shade of Magic I talked about how magic becomes a character in itself and this only gets explored even more in the sequel. I also found that the second book had a lot more world building. It explored the Black London a bit, which is only mentioned vaguely in A Darker Shade of Magic, and only really as a cautionary tale to those who would like to abuse magic.

Red London, where the bulk of the story takes place, is also expanded upon by having the plot revolve around a Magicians’ duelling tournament involving the three largest lands in the Red World. Each of the lands selects 12 of their best magicians to participate and they all come together to battle each other in the London in the Red World. This allowed Schwab to expand upon the geography of the Red World and the way its citizens differ in looks, beliefs, magical abilities, and language based upon their region.

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As Lila is from another world, having her see all these people for the first time let Schwab describe each person in vivid detail to the reader and have it seem natural. As a reader I got to experience Lila’s awe at all the different cultures and drink in all the new details as she did. The description is done well, but still left me constantly wanting more simply because it is such a cool world.

The plot is excellently developed. There is the main storyline in this book that revolves around both Kell and Lila and this ginormous magicians tournament, and then there is the subplot that is centred in White London that is hinting at what is to come in book three and is developing magic as a character more. I really enjoyed this because you get an action packed brand new storyline with the tournament and you continue to see the development of the overarching series plot through the action in White London.

Honestly completely adored this book and can’t wait for the third one to arrive!

Rating: 4.5/5

Similar Books: Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

 

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Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau – Book Review

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In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. InIndependent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

It  was quite a long gap of time between when I read The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau and when I started reading the sequel, Independent Study. Getting back into it was a little tough, at first, because I couldn’t really remember which character had done what or even which characters were trustworthy or not. Despite this, I got back into the flow of the story pretty quickly.

The plot could be compared to the central ideas in The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, so it does sometimes seem a tad bit like a rip off, but is great if you’re craving something with a similar society and almost identical conflicts. The part that I really enjoyed was a deadly scavenger hunt that the university freshmen had to play in order to be accepted by their peers. Anytime there’s any sort of scavenger hunt or treasure hunt I get really into it. National Treasure, anyone? I know Nicolas Cage gets some serious hate, but how can you not like that movie?!

The scavenger hunt section ended up taking up about two thirds of the book, so there wasn’t a big focus on developing the political conflict going on in their society. Because of this it was a really fast-paced read and highly enjoyable, although it is quite predictable.

Cia is highly intelligent and extremely compassionate. She is easy to root for because she is such a good person, but this also seems unrealistic. Her character can be at times flat and one-sided and seems to be written entire in black and white with no ambiguity. She’s also somehow able to see things everyone else misses, carry a harder course load in school than anyone before, and have one of the top internships at the same time all without showing any sort of emotional distress. It just all comes too easy to her.

Overall, it was an enjoyable and entertaining but not amazing read.

Rating: 3.5/5

Similar Books: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Matched by Ally Condie

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Book Review

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Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.

The cover of A Darker Shade of Magic is what first intrigued me enough to pick it up. Look at the stunning cover! I recently bought the second book and the pair go so nicely together *swoon*.

The story follows two characters: a male character, Kell, who lives in Red London as a part of the royal family and is one of only two magicians who can travel between worlds; and then there is Lila, a somewhat androgynous female thief who wants to travel the world. The narrative switches between their viewpoints, starting with their story lines being separate and having the main conflict bring them together and open up Lila’s eyes to the world she had always been waiting for but never imagined truly existed.

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The multiple Londons are written so well and Red London, with all of its magic and people being able to wield different element, was written so beautifully I fell in love with it. I do also have to say that, as I am currently halfway through the sequel, the world building gets even better and the I’m loving the second book even more than the first. White London is really creepy and depressing, matched in darkness by its ruling King and Queen (a twin brother and sister).

I enjoyed the main plot line quite a bit, having magic itself basically becoming a character with its own motivations. So far, the sequel is only further expanding on the conflict from A Darker Shade of Magic and is diving even deeper into the origins of magic, the balance between power and control, and the various Londons (including going to Black London, which is not explored in the first book).

I really enjoyed this book and am already whipping through the second book. Highly recommend for fans of fantasy, magic, and multiple universes.

Rating: 4.25/5

Similar Books: Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – Book Review

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My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I recently began reading Everything, everything by Nicola Yoon because I had received an ARC of it. I had read a lot of good things about it on bookstagram posts and the blogosphere.

Unfortunately, the book did not live up to the hype (at least, in my opinion). It’s categorized as a YA novel, but it read more as a 9-12 book with YA subject matter. The book is made up of a lot of illustrations, instant message chats, and uses large font with many blank spaces. The book already looks quite small, but when you add in how little text there actually is it is quite a fast read. Despite how short of a read it was, I still wasn’t able to force myself through the book. It was an interesting concept that was executed poorly.

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I understand that a girl who has been trapped inside her house for her whole life would obsess over the attractive and intriguing boy next door. I did not, however, understand why the boy next door began an interaction with her so quickly and became so insanely interested in her that he made his life revolve around a girl in a bubble. He comes into the story and then all of a sudden is magically infatuated with her. It all happened too quickly and seemed very juvenile to me. The love story is really one of the only things going on in the book and because I was so disinterested in it the book just didn’t do it for me.

I never finished reading the book so I cannot truly judge how the book was as a whole but the fact that I couldn’t power through it is not a great sign.

Rating: Could Not Finish