Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What we're reading: V. E. Schwab

I am a big fan of author V. E. Schwab. I consider her book Vicious to be one of my top 10 favorites, and given how many books I read per year, that's pretty significant! Her fantasy series called Shades of Magic is likewise a great read, and is wonderfully imaginative. The third book came out just a short time ago, and I finally fit it into my schedule this past week.

The series imagines a world in which there are four Londons. They exist in parallel worlds, in the same location, but each has its own character. Red London is on the ascendant, with a flourishing, magical society ruled by a beloved monarch with assistance from his adoptive son, Kell, one of three existing Antari, magicians with the ability to travel between the Londons. Grey London is more like our own, ruled by Mad King George, and practically devoid of magic. White London is a battleground with a new sovereign every time the old one is assassinated, and with wild magic that is difficult to control. And Black London, which was apparently the original source of all magic, was shut off from the others generations ago, to protect them against a dangerous foe.

      

In the first two books, A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows, we became acquainted with an eclectic cast of characters from across all the Londons, and one person, Lila Bard, a thief and pirate, actually makes a transition from Grey London to Red, in the course of her dealings with Kell. At the end of Book 2, all the major characters, including Lila's charismatic pirate mentor, Alucard Emery. are engaged in the Essen Tasch, or Element Games, pitting the most talented magicians against one another (purely for fun and glory). But there are ripples from the other Londons that threaten the safety and well-being of Red London and everyone who lives there, and the ripples become a tidal wave in book #3, A Conjuring of Light.

The balance of power has tipped among the Londons, and an ancient threat has arisen, using Holland, former slave of the Danes of White London, as its tool to defeat Kell, supposedly the only other surviving Antari. But anyone with Lila Bard as a friend is fortunate that she's stubbornly insistent on disregarding the odds when she gambles; perhaps a team that includes both Lila and Kell (backed by Rhy and Alucard) can rally others to stand together against this powerful foe. The alternative is unthinkable--a Red London overwhelmed by evil.

What a great ending to this trilogy--lots of action, hard circumstances to accept, difficult alliances forged, impossible battles assayed, and further character development of all our favorites (Kell, Lila, Alucard, Rhy, and Holland), with a completely satisfying conclusion that nonetheless leaves things open for further adventures. I will be happy to return to Red London any time!

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