A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows (A Darker Shade of Magic) - V E Schwab

I was hoping I'd love this book, since I had really liked the first one; unfortunately, not so much.

I keep liking the world, what we learn about Red London and a bit more about the world around it (the other empires, the seas and their trade, etc.). Even though there isn't that much action, I enjoyed reading about the places the characters went to, the magic, the Elemental Games themselves, the way the other Londons are evolving—some answers, but also more questions, and an antagonist that has the potential to be extremely dangerous in the next book.

I also liked that Lila managed to remain ruthless. Not always at the right moments (see below), but in that she remained... I'd say "self-centered" (in a good way, as in, "living for herself"). She doesn't let anyone tell her what she should do, even when her choices aren't the best ones, and I find that good—I'm not for female characters who're supposed to be selfless and stuff just because they're women and that's what is expected from women and blah blah blah. There's something dark and dangerous about Lila, some untapped potential that she's grazing then embracing more and more here, and this could make her a hero or a destroyer of worlds, so to speak. In fact, there's a lot of self-destructive potential in the main characters (Rhy, Kell, Lila); in a way, all the angst grated on my nerves after a while, and at the same time was also understandable when it came to the two brothers, who love each other yet have to come to terms with the fact any hope of freedom has been dashed forever for them.

However, this novel suffers from the dreaded Second Book syndrome: not so much because "not much happens" (a character- instead of a plot-driven story can be pretty interesting), but because it felt more like paving the way for the next book. The impending threat should've been given more importance, not just a few glimpses here and there, and the Elemental Games, with their fights full of magic, deserved more screen time (I'd have liked seeing more of Kisimiyr, the previous Games' champion, since she was rumoured to be so strong... and it'd have been even better if Kamerov's involvment had really been because of a suspected threat).

And I could've done with less repetitive angst, and with more justification about Lila's plans regarding the games (it felt more logical towards the end, with the few flashbacks about her training; had it been introduced sooner, her choices would've seemed just daring, and not "completely stupid").

I still like this series, but book 2 is definitely not in the same league as book 1. :(