Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | A Disappointing Sequel

Publication Date: February 23, 2016 • Genre: Fantasy | Adult • Series: Shades of Magic #2


It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.


A Gathering of Shadows (AGOS) is the second book in the Shades of Magic trilogy. Unfortunately, this book is the most disappointing sequel I have ever read and I actually DNF’d it for a week because reading it felt like a chore. When I reviewed ADSOM (see review here) last summer, I mentioned that I was okay with the way it ended and didn’t feel a need to rush to bookstore to get the rest of the series. I wish I could preserve that memory because AGOS wasn’t my cup of tea. NOTHING happened in this book for 400 pages. The book is 512 pages, with acknowledgements. How is it possible that nothing happened? I’m not a person who necessarily needs a book to be filled with action from start to finish, but I need character development and there was none. The emotional beats were off, the pacing was incredibly slow, and finding the plot was like searching for a needle in a haystack. The best aspects of this book were Kell and Rhy’s relationship, Holland, and Alucard.

I did not like Lila in this book. She was insufferable and the things I grew to like about her were no longer fascinating or entertaining. In ADSOM, I found her annoying at times, but she eventually grew on me and I liked her resiliency. In this book, she has no personality. She’s selfish and annoying. I had hoped that being out at sea would show us there was more to this character, but that didn’t happen. It felt like someone was beating me over the head with “badass”, “unlike other girls” and “thief” tropes the entire book. Her journey to magic and learning Arnesian seemed unnatural. No failures. No mention of struggles. No consequences for her selfishness and terrible decision making. In A Darker Shade of Magic, I understood her actions were motivated by survival and desperation. In AGOS, I didn’t understand her motivation. When I found myself cheering against Lila, rolling my eyes, and wishing for her demise, I knew it was wrap and nothing could make me like this character again.

Meanwhile, Kell moped around the entire book and I was disappointed with the writing for him. Kell had potential. He was flat and one dimensional in ADSOM, but AGOS could’ve changed that. He had potential to be a really well-written and developed character. Kell was treated poorly and deserved better. It almost seemed like the writing didn’t want us to like him and that was maddening. I couldn’t understand why he brooded and pinned after Lila the entire book. The relationship felt forced and unnecessary. I liked them as friends. Kell’s dreams, which were mentioned in the synopsis and should have signified something dark and ominous was flat. There was no follow through.

Considering the Elemental Games were mentioned in the synopsis, it was insignificant and underwhelming. There was no build up or anticipation of the games. Low stakes and no emotional payoff. It happened in the last 100 pages and I didn’t care about it. Given the decisions Kell and Lila made, I thought something bad would happen during the games. Nothing happened.

Despite all of this, there were some aspects I enjoyed. I enjoyed Kell and Rhy’s relationship. I wish we had more scenes of them together. I love reading about sibling relationships and that gave me all the feels. Alucard was a great addition and he made the scenes with Lila bearable. Holland was great, but there wasn’t enough of him. The last 100 pages were filled with action and entertaining. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to change my disappointment.

I would’ve liked A Gathering of Shadows if it was about 200 pages shorter and had less Lila. Finishing this series is no longer a priority for me.

P.s. I live tweeted A Gathering of Shadows. If you’re interested in my reactions as I went from excited to disappointed, check my Twitter thread.

Have you read A Gathering of Shadows? If so, what are your thoughts?
What’s the most disappointing sequel you’ve read? Let me know in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | A Disappointing Sequel

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