VE Schwab’s popular adult fantasy series, Shades of Magic, has been a hit with readers from across the world. This is a review for the final book in the series: A Conjuring of Light. My reviews for the previous two books, which this review contains spoilers for, can be found at these links: A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows.
A Conjuring of Light picks off where A Gathering of Shadows concludes: Kell trapped in another London, his only hope Lila, who may be an Antari, as the prince of Red London lays dying. But when Red London falls to the curse that destroyed Black London before the doors were sealed a small band of desperate magicians must attempt to save their dying worlds, regardless of their differences.
“Myths do not happen all at once.
They do not spring forth whole into the world. They form slowly, rolled between the hands of time until their edges smooth, until the saying of the story gives enough weight to the words—to the memories—to keep them rolling on their own.
But all stories start somewhere, and that night, as Rhy Maresh walked through the streets of London, a new myth was taking shape.“
VE Schwab’s enchanting writing has only improved throughout the series, drawing the reader into this final adventure. She carefully crafts a tale of love, mystery and adversity, with the perfect balance to keeps readers captivated with suspense, dreading the next scenes, and all the while falling in love with her exceptional characters all over again.
Character development is somewhat stifled in this novel as the world faces peril once again, but it is still prevalent as characters remain core to the plot and pacing. Lila, our fiesty heroine, changes significantly, showing a dramatically different character to the one who left Kell in the first novel. She grows up, takes more responsibility for herself and learns to trust and believe in her friends. As the headstrong, viscous heroine of the tale she never sacrifices her strength or resolve during this development, Schwab maintaining a strong female protagonist throughout the entire series.
“Caring was a thing with claws. It sank them in, and didn’t let go.“
The relationship between Kell, Rhy and Alucard is a perennial theme throughout A Conjuring of Light. For Kell and Rhy this series serves almost as a coming of age tale. Humbled by their priveleged upbringing the two princes stumble to strike a balance between their own desires and their nations, often faced with difficult decisions respecting their stature. A Conjuring of Light sees Alucard, Rhy and Kell embrace a dangerous new age for Arnes as the nations most pivotal players learn the nature of Kell and Rhys powerful, magical bond and struggle to balance their selfish needs coupled with their people’s wants.
The final character who is pivotal to the plot is Holland. Although he doesn’t undergo any actual development during the events of A Conjuring of Light Schwab crafts his character from his past, showing the reader glimpses of the Antari in White London and detailing devastating betrayals and losses. Although this intense added complexity made Holland’s character more understandable he is still mysterious and this complex history isn’t relatable enough to truly emphasise with his dark character.
The London’s VE Schwab created in this series have always been enchanting. In this novel the beauty of the fantasy setting is tarnished by the plague that hits Red London. Schwab doesn’t build, with words, beautiful palaces or busy streets and there is less of a focus on world building, given readers have already been introduced to each London in previous novels. As focus shifts from world building to character development, the reader still gets vivid descriptions and imagery of the events of the novel and the absence of this fabrication isn’t noticeable.
“There were a hundred shades between a truth and lie, and she knew them all.“
The deficit of world building has created a better paced novel overall, with fewer asides to describe situations or new characters. Even with our protagonists hopelessly locked inside the palace Schwab still manages to introduce mischief and turmoil, expertly intertwining romance, action and adventure throughout A Conjuring of Light. The plot, too, is well drawn out and balanced as it presents the reader with equal parts excitement and danger coupled with strong character and relationship development.
As an already very popular adult fantasy series this novel easily appeals to readers of the previous two novels. It does touch on darker themes, particularly in Holland’s backstory and brief narratives, which might unnerve more sensitive readers. Some scenes in the fallen Red London are slightly graphic but not alarmingly so. Furthermore these chapters can be easily skimmed over as they aren’t crucial to the plot.
What are we drinking to?”
“The living,” said Rhy.
“The dead,” said Alucard and Lila at the same time.
“We’re being thorough,” added Rhy.
As a conclusion to the series this final novel doesn’t present the reader with many new themes. Although the plot is unique and largely self contained Schwab dips into past and present to finalise the characters journeys and draws each storyline to a satisfying end. As a close to this popular series A Conjuring of Light is neat, entertaining and well crafted, leaving any reader satisfied with the plots resolution.