Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Rating: ★★★★ // A magical series I can get behind!
“Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out.” (From A Darker Shade of Magic).
“We’re all here for a reason, Bard. Some reasons are just bigger than others.” (From A Gathering of Shadows).
“Life isn’t made of choices, it’s made of trades. Some are good, some are bad, but they all have a cost.” (From A Conjuring of Light).
The Shades of Magic Series follows the adventures of Kell, one of the last magicians in London, and Lila, an orphaned girl who wanders into Kell’s path and seems to have some kind of magic of her own.
The setting is London, all four of them (well, technically all three of them, but there are four). Each London is layered on top of each other, Black being the first, White the second, Red the third, and Grey the fourth. In this story we are in the time after a war that had destroyed Black London, left White London in a state of poverty, left Red London basically unscathed, and taken away the magic (and memory of magic) from Grey London. After the war the doors to the London’s were closed and only the magicians could travel between them.
These mini reviews are mostly spoiler free and completely free of crucial spoilers.
A Darker Shade of Magic
This book had a lot of hype around it when I finally picked it up, so I was a little nervous I would be disappointed. Luckily I had avoided reading any reviews that had spoilers, and I really didn’t read too deeply into the plot, so I found myself entranced as it unfolded. I had a lot of fun with this novel, and I think I liked it most because it can easily be read as a stand alone novel (I LOOOVEE it when first books do this). Yes, after reading it you want more of our dark eyed prince and our thieving mystery girl, but the initial story is done, and no major holes remain to be filled.
Oddly for me, I didn’t find many things that I disliked in this book, which is why I’m having a hard time figuring out why I didn’t come away from this book head-over-heels in love with it. I liked it a lot, but it didn’t grab me enough to where I go into my obsessed state, I just can’t figure out why.
The setting is phenomenal, Schwab sets up the different London’s flawlessly and the characters in each fit seamlessly into their assigned London.
The characters are very interesting, yes, I guess each of the main ones, Kell and Lila, did annoy me from time to time, mostly because they are both prone to feeling sorry for themselves while insisting that they are the only ones who don’t feel sorry for themselves…an annoying trait in anyone. Holland is a great evil character, mostly because he’s only mostly evil. Rhy is an o.k. character, but I’m not as in love with him as Kell is and that bothers me a little, because it makes it hard for me to really get invested in his character’s well-being. Oh, and Kell’s coat is the coolest and it’s basically a character of it’s own.
The plot was very good and it keeps the book movie with a satisfying speed. The magic is explained in a way easy to understand, yet there remains some mystery to it, which is important when it comes to magic. My one complaint in the magic department is that Kell insists through the whole book that the words aren’t important, but at the end the words seem to be the most important part, so that kind of confused me. Maybe I didn’t understand the explanation, but that seemed like a semi-major inconsistency for me.
Anyway (this was supposed to be a mini review..yikes), I did really like this book, and the hype was not too over hyped for me.
A Gathering of Shadows
Woah, now that’s some character development, if I do say so myself.
I did not like this one as much as the first, but I will say it grew on me as the book went on. The opening scene was actually really awesome, but the rest of the beginning was kind of bland. Once the plot of the tournament was introduced, the pace picked up, and so did my interest in it.
One new major character is introduced, Alucard Emery, and he is WAY more complex than any character in the first book. This guy has layers upon layers, and his character forces the development of Lila, Kell, and Rhy, which is a key aspect in this book.
My main complaint for this book is there wasn’t enough of the side plot, and it showed up so infrequently I actually forgot about it until it appeared again. I think more of it would have improved the pace of the book and given it a greater sense of haste.
This book is not a stand alone, which is fine, I just assumed it was so when I got close to the end and realized there was more things that needed to happen than there were pages, I got a little nervous. Furthermore, I was so mad that it ended where it did, not because it was a bad place, but just because it was at such a crucial point.
Again, I can’t figure out why I’m not completely crazy about this series, there’s something about it and I can’t put my finger on it. But regardless, after reading this book, there was no question that I would pick up the third…excellent use of the cliff hanger, Schwab.
A Conjuring of Light
All things yes.
This is definitely a third and final book, meaning there are no major plot points introduced, just the expansion of the plot formed in the second book. That’s not saying it is boring, because it isn’t at all, nor is it saying that there are no twists to the plot, it’s just saying that it is a perfect continuation of the second book…which is exactly what it’s supposed to be.
While I don’t think this was the best book of the series (I still think the first was the best) this book made me like the series much more…I can’t explain it, but it was just the perfect third to bring the other two together.
The one thing that really threw me for a loop had nothing to do with the plot, but more about the main character Kell–he’s like 18 years old!!! (or something like that, I don’t remember the specific age, but I think he’s 18). I don’t know if his age was mentioned his age in the first two, but I was definitely picturing someone a little older than a teenager, or I just thought he was ageless, or something magical like that. I know it’s a silly thing to get caught up on, but it really threw me for a loop.
Other than that, I really don’t have any complaints about this book. Like I said, it just a great 3rd book. Traditionally, the third book of a series is my least favorite, but Schwab really showed she has pure, raw skill with this book.
I don’t really want to talk about this one because I don’t want to spoil anything. I especially don’t want to tell you if the ending was awesome, tragic, or bland…ok, it wasn’t bland, it was one of the first two. But I will say that it is an ending, it doesn’t leave any strings untied or twists unresolved.
I really can’t get over how much I liked this series. It just got better and better as it went on. The characters continued to grow more complex, yet they are still completely them. The Kell we meet in the beginning of the first book is still the Kell we have at the end, same with Lila…they are just expanded. It’s really wonderful.
The plot is fun and fast. The different view points offer fresh outlooks, and it moves the plot along at a very interesting pace. Usually I’m not the biggest fan of jumping from character to character, but I since the narrater remained 3rd person throughout the book it made it much better than books that jump from 1st person to 1st person.
Overall, awesome series. It is one of the best newer series I have read lately and I highly recommend it.