Review: A Gathering Of Shadows by VE Schwab

review a gathering of shadowsIt actually took me a couple of days to pick up A Gathering Of Shadows once I finished reading A Darker Shade Of Magic (click here to read my review) and even longer to actually finish reading it. I had mentioned in my February wrap up that I had a difficult reading month and I think I was still feeling all of it when I picked up AGOS which probably contributed to it taking me almost two weeks to finish the book (among something else that I will get into in my review in a second!). But I finally did it and now I get to share my thoughts with you guys!

Plot

We pick up four months after the events of A Darker Shade Of Magic as the kingdom and Rhy, in particular, are preparing for the Element Games that are being held in Arnes this year. We catch up with our favorite characters and are introduced to Alucard Emery and his crew aboard the Night Spire.

Even though A Gathering Of Shadows says it’s about the Element Games that are about to take place, it takes us a good 300 pages to actually get to the games and I just did not enjoy that. And it’s not like the story was bad or boring before we get to the games, not at all! But if your synopsis says we’re about to experience this competition I expect a good part of the book to be about the competition!

Another thing I didn’t enjoy about the competition was the fact that there were seemingly no real stakes for the winner or losers. I thought this would be more of a ‘to the death’ type of scenario and was a bit disappointed to find out that’s not at all what was going to happen. All losing a game did was eliminate you from the next round. That’s it. I would’ve loved more action and higher risks!

I was also expecting to be introduced to some kind of ‘big bad’ that would come in and disrupt the games and what they stood for and wreck havoc on Arnes at some point but again, there wasn’t much of that either.

We are introduced to the ‘big bad’ and I am terrified for all of these characters’ fates in A Conjuring Of Lights but it felt like AGOS was used as more of a setup for the final book and that’s a bit disappointing, to be honest. It almost feels like this could’ve been a duology if things were shifted around a little bit.

There are great things about the plot though, I don’t want to make it seem otherwise! I loved that we further explored Kell’s feelings about his place in the royal family and we get to experience why he feels that way. We get to explore how Rhy feels about the events that took place in ADSOM and the after effects those events have on both Kell and Rhy and their relationship.

The first chapter of this book was just so much fun to read and once again showcased how god damn brilliant Lila Bard is and just how stupid and easily fooled men are. I admit I was a bit worried for her at first and by the end of it all, I was just laughing because of course. Lila and her journey in this story were so much fun to witness and I couldn’t be more excited for what is yet to come!

Writing

I have really quickly come to like Victoria Schwab’s writing and I actually find myself imagining the world she has created in this trilogy – which I don’t do often. Or ever, probably. People often have ideas of how characters look like in their minds but I am just not that reader. You show me a picture of a character and say ‘That’s what XYZ looks like.’ and I will be like ‘Okay!’.

And while I don’t have pictures of the characters in my mind for Victoria’s books either, I often feel like I am in the middle of the story as things are happening. Especially during the Element Games. I felt like I was in those arenas with the magicians!

The writing of the games – or more of the fighting during the games – was so well done! I could feel time slow down when it did during the fights and I could feel time pick up and almost fly by too. I also want to mention a scene in ADSOM that I absolutely loved because of Victoria’s writing (pages 131 and 132) where I felt like I was watching a movie and could the scene play out in detail before me – which, again, isn’t something that happens often!

I’m only two books into Victoria’s works and I am already wanting to pick up everything else she’s released (I keep eyeing This Savage Song!) because I love her writing so much!

Characters

Oh how much I love these characters! I was sold on the main trio from the very beginning and I keep thinking about how attached I was to especially Rhy after his introduction and nothing has changed about it. I am actually more worried now than ever before – for all of them. But especially Rhy. The young prince has really grown on me! But let’s break this up into individual characters and get into a bit more detail, shall we?

Let’s start with Lila as she’s also the first person we check in with! I’ve just mentioned how awesome Lila is in that first chapter and she continues to be the kickass woman we were introduced to in the first book but she also starts to slowly open up to people and lets her guard down a little bit and I really loved seeing it! We also get to see her trying to figure out her magic and where the limits are – are there any? 

Someone who Lila spends a lot of time with is Alucard and can I just say how quickly this guy stole my heart? Not as fast as Rhy, but it was fast! He is just so much fun to read about and his different personas are interesting to explore and I need to hear all about his backstory and what led to the events he talked about – because it was still kind of vague and then we get comments from other characters about Alucard and I’m just sitting here like ‘Gimme more!’ [I hope none of you have that Britney stuck in your heads now].

cofI had made a note while reading ADSOM about how I was worried about the effects the Vitari magic might have on Kell in the future and we actually got to see more of it in this book. We witness Kell dealing with feeling restless and needing to release some of that energy by spending hours upon hours fighting and training.

Kell’s arc in this book was probably one of my favorites so far. We get to repeatedly hear him voice his loyalty to the royal family and especially Rhy and to see that loyalty be questioned was so horrible to read.

Lastly, let’s talk about my favorite prince: Rhy! He has definitely grown as a character and he seems to be taking his role as future king much more serious in this book and it was almost frightening to see him put on his ‘king shoes’ if you will. There is this scene in which he talks to Kell’s personal guards and that transformation was insane.

Just like Kell, Rhy also has to deal with the aftermath of the events in ADSOM and you see him really struggle with what Kell did and the gift Kell gave him and in a way, that struggle is what sets off the events of the Element Games and the events that follow after.

We’ve seen the dynamics between Lila, Kell and Rhy so it was fun to throw Alucard into the mix and see how he switches things up and influences situations – and boy was it fun! I was eagerly awaiting for these four to finally come face to face and the payoff was definitely worth it! And with how this book ended, I can’t wait to see how those last few moments are going to further change the dynamic between certain characters!

Pacing

Certain plot points and the pacing were the two things I struggled with in this book. I feel like the beginning of the book was stretched out too much and could have been shortened quite a bit. On the other hand, I would have liked to see more of the games as they were the focal point of this novel – at least to my understanding. There was such a build-up to the games and then they took part over less than a hundred pages (I think). That’s just not well balanced enough for me.

To my understanding (and my German teacher is going to be so pissed if I get this wrong) a story is acted out in three parts:

  • Build-up
  • Climax
  • Resolution

and I feel like we stopped mid-climax and that again doesn’t sit right with me. Obviously, Victoria wants to keep the reader on the edge of their seats and keep them wanting more and for them to pick up the next book but I feel like that could have been done differently. Or maybe if the events of the book had been more balanced the ending wouldn’t irritate me as much?

It felt like we were just getting somewhere and then the book ended – in the most horrible way ever and I can’t believe people had to wait a year for the final book! I don’t know how you people made it through!

Enjoyment

Despite my problems with a few plot points and the pacing, I still very much enjoyed this book! The character dynamics were so fun to read about and getting to see a bit more of the world Victoria created was fantastic too!

In my reading updates I talked about how the last 30-40 pages felt like I was falling off a very steep hill and there was nothing to stop or slow down my fall and I weirdly enough really enjoyed that feeling while reading those final pages? I was yelling at my book because surely that couldn’t be happening right now? Surely Victoria wouldn’t play us that dirty? Right? Wrong.

That to me is a sign of a great story, though! I want to feel emotions while reading your book! I want to laugh with your characters. I want to cry (or at least tear up) with your characters! I want to feel rage at what is happening to your characters (so, so much rage)! And I got all of that while reading A Gathering Of Shadows! 

Final thoughts

I went into this review not knowing what I was going to rate this book (I haven’t given it a rating on Goodreads yet either) even though I had written down mostly positive notes after I finished reading this book and I still stand by that. This book was great for the most part. But I feel like the pacing and balance of the story are really throwing me off here. I gave A Darker Shade Of Magic 4 stars on Goodreads and I was originally going to give the same rating to A Gathering Of Shadows, but I don’t know if I can do that.

Let’s summarize my thoughts really quickly (hopefully this is going to help me with the rating)!

The good

  • the writing – I would give it 4/5 stars
  • the characters and their dynamics – I would give it 3.5/5 stars (I am still missing more female characters who play a prominent role)
  • Enjoyment – I would give this 3.5/5 stars too

The bad

  • the balancing of the plot – I would give it 3/5 stars
  • the pacing of the book – I would give it 3/5 stars too

Okay, taking all of this into consideration A Gathering Of Shadows is getting a 3,75/5 star rating from me! It’s actually 3,5 when you do the math but I feel like this book deserves an almost 4 star rating, so I’m bumping it up to 3,75 stars!

If you have actually made it all the way to this paragraph I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart! I did not expect to write a review that was going to be this long (I’ve just passed 2,1k words :O)! I hope you find it helpful in deciding whether or not you want to read A Gathering Of Shadows – which, you definitely should! I would recommend this 100%! 

Have you read this book already? What were your thoughts on the balance of plot points and the pacing? Did you enjoy it? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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