Saturday, June 18, 2016

What we're reading: Magical fantasy

Last year, Daryl M. wrote a great review for our teen blog of A Darker Shade of Magic, an alternate-worlds fantasy by author V. E. Schwab. (Schwab divides her writing into books by Victoria Schwab, which are intended specifically for a teen audience, and books by V. E. Schwab, which are intended for adults but are fine for older teens.) If you don't know this author or this series, read Daryl's review and let him persuade you to try the first; and also consider reading what is, in my opinion, her best book, Vicious. (My review of that book is here.)

The second book in Schwab's "Shades of Magic" series, A Gathering of Shadows, was published in late February, and I was finally able to check it out last week.

It's been four months since the events that took place in the first book, and for some those four months have been quite eventful. Lila Bard, who always wanted to buy, borrow, or steal her own ship (despite the fact that she doesn't know how to sail), has not yet quite achieved her own captaincy, but has found a place on a crew and has departed the Red London docks in search of adventure, which, knowing Lila, she will certainly find. Kell and Rhy, now tied together by one life force, are becoming increasingly restless at their forced inactivity--particularly Kell, who has had to give up his smuggling activities in the other Londons and stay in the Arnesian capitol in Red London, in order not to put himself or Rhy in jeopardy.

But for all the players (and some delightfully complex and slightly weird new ones), the primary focus is the upcoming Essen Tasch, or Element Games, an international competition of magic being hosted this year by the Arnesians, designed to maintain a healthy relationship devoid of war between their country and two others. Rhy is in charge of designing the games and the venue, while Kell and Lila eventually play their own complicated (and surprising) roles. Meanwhile, as the book's synopsis mysteriously says, "A shadow that was gone in the night will reappear at morning." Something sinister is in the works...

Don't you love it when the sequel completely fulfills the promise of the first book, which you already loved?

This series has great characters, both from the previous book (Kell, Delilah, Rhy) and from the current one (most notably the pirate Alucard Emery!). Lila is still one of the best heroines out there--smart, fierce, and funny.

Schwab's language is beautiful, with detailed and evocative descriptions, and the dialogue is sharp and snappy, with wonderfully snarky repartee. The world-building and spectacle continue. Things are happening behind the scenes that set us up for the next book. And hey, you can't go wrong with pirates, nor with a magical tournament! This book was definitely worth the wait!

Editor's note: Burbank Public Library owns the first book in hardcover, audio, and e-book. The second book we have only as hardcover.

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