A Conjuring of Light

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.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Gathering of Shadows Review

A Gathering of Shadows had everything I loved about A Darker Shade of Magic in it: amazing world building, strong and complex characters, incredible writing, the makings of a great plot. It had everything you’d expect a good book to have except one crucial thing: pacing.

The novel picks up a few months after its predecessor, with Lila embarking on her life as a pirate, abandoning Kell with the consequences of White London’s failed takeover and his new, stronger ties to his brother. But while Kell is dealing with Rhy’s temper, the king and queen’s distrust and his people’s scorn, Lila is learning the impossible: magic. When Rhy decides to host a magic tournament that spans empires, neither magician can stay away.

“Impossibility is a thing that begs to be disproven”

There are no cracks in VE Schwab’s world building. It’s complete: I understood each character, their needs, their past, their goals and ambitions. But in a sequel, where we have already met most of the characters and their fantasy setting in a previous novel, do we really need most of the book to be world building? Did we need pages and pages about Lila’s pirate life, following her as she docks in ports and steals ships, and ponders her past, the tournament and her return to London? When most of the important bits of her pirate life are covered in flash backs during the tournament itself? Then there were pages and pages of Kell feeling rejected, Rhy feeling reckless, the citizens prying and the king and queens hostility. I’m not saying it didn’t add to the story and wasn’t needed, I’m just saying it could have been summed up a little quicker.

The plot, and the tournament, only really start three hundred pages in, which made most of the story feel a little, well, pointless. It was well written and easy to read but just added very little to the actual plot. Most of the book felt like filler until Schwab could take us to the ending she had planned and start her next book. Sadly what really let this book down was it’s pacing.

“Everyone’s immortal until they’re not.”

Speaking of, I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending. Although it took a while to get started the plot was pretty fantastic: everyone’s sneaking about in a magic tournament, Kell is on the verge of doing something reckless while Lila is constantly doing something reckless. The world is teetering on the edge of the disaster and all the while White London is plotting it’s uprising. It’s exciting and enthralling and it just suddenly stops. There’s no big, final fight (although many fights are dotted throughout the novel), no self contained plot, the entire novel is build up for the third one. It’s a unique approach and I still don’t know how I feel about it. Although one thing is for sure: after that cliff hanger ending I will definitely be picking up the next one soon.

VE Schwab’s writing is like poetry. Some parts are so simple and engrossing while others are descriptive and captivating in a way that makes even the simplest of scenes seem engaging. Honestly, her writing is what makes the three hundred pages of world building before the tournament manageable. It doesn’t feel tedious to read at all, she’s clearly very skilled and her characters are so unique, so flawed, that they leap of the page at you.

“The kiss was Lila pressed into a single gesture. Her brazen pride and her stubborn resolve, her recklessness and her daring and her hunger for freedom. It was all those things, and it took Kell’s breath away.

Then there’s the characters. The characters in this novel are all so unique and passionate that they bring the story to life. From Lila’s abrasive need to escape the mundane to Kell’s desperate want for freedom, to Rhy’s want of his own feelings, the characters and their relationships are what make this novel so fantastic. They lead the reader through the turmoil of the story, their thoughts so intimately written that’s it’s easy to be caught by their distress and triumphs. Spending three hundred odd pages with just these three characters’ turmoil and anguish during the build up to the tournament doesn’t progress the plot much but it does really draw the reader into their world, relationships and their personal struggles, making the reader really care about the strife they go through.

Oh yes, your relationship with Miss Bard is positively ordinary.”

“Be quiet.”

“Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship”

Overall I did enjoy A Gathering of Shadows. I’d recommend it and enjoyed it as a sequel, but can’t give it the five stars I gave A Darker Shade of Magic. It’s pacing let’s it down and theres just too much filler for me. Although after that ending I will definitely be reading A Conjuring of Light soon.

⭐⭐⭐/5

A Darker Shade of Magic Review

Completeness is, weirdly enough, a mathematical word. It’s talking about logic, a theory is complete when it can always be derived. And as a mathematician all I can say is I like my blog how I like my logic: complete. So here is a dusty old review for a book I read in 2017 publishing before it’s sequels review.

A Darker Shade of Magic follows Kell, a man with magic powers and an ever changing coat who has the rare ability to travel between worlds. He lives in London and the world’s he visits all portray a slightly different version: his own, Red London, is glistening and full of magic. White London is starved of magic and dying, while Grey London is our own London just set slightly in the past. But what happens when White London attempts a hostile takeover in a desperate attempt for survival?

I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”

Her smile widened. “Everything

As my first step into adult fantasy I was a bit nervous picking up this many paged tiny print novel, back in January 2017. In hindsight, my worries were all pointless- A Darker Shade of Magic was a brilliant read.

Adult fantasy is not that big a leap from YA fantasy. The main characters are a little older, but the whole thing feels very similar- creative plots, spunky heroins, and easily accessible. This book is doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s still humour and an engaging plot which I was slightly worried it would lack. It’s very readable and digestible, I’d say it’s a good bridge between fantasy YA and adult fantasy (not that I’ve read much of the later).

VE Schwab has the power to make time slow down with her writing. The events of the novel take place over a mere two days yet are so exciting and enthralling that I didn’t feel the plot was dragged out at all. So much happens in such a short time: epic fights, characters fears and flaws, and even a classic ball scene in a mere two days. This novel is remarkable.

“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still”

This quote sums up Lila perfectly. She’s a girl who tags along with Kell, desperate to leave her mundane life in Grey London and longing for something new. Also she dreams of being a pirate- definitely my kind of heroine. What I liked most was how Lila reacts to the masquerade ball in this novel. Similar to the classic trope she gets all dressed up, a tailor specially making her outfit and picking out her mask. But unlike other novels she doesn’t wear some massive, flowing, princess dress. Because that’s just not Lila. She gets some proper boots, a nice suit, a scary mask: practical attire for the night ahead. It’s so true to her character and so unexpected, one of my favourite book ball scenes.

Kell’s character is more serious and determined. Confined to his job he has one small act of rebellion: smuggling trinkets between worlds that later lead to dire consequences. It’s nice to watch how Lila and Kell’s characters grow together and how they come to care for each other as the unlikely partnership forms.

Rhy laughed silently. “I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”

“I apologize for shooting you in the leg,” said Lila. “I was myself entirely.”

The final character I particularly enjoyed was Rhy, Kell’s brother and the crown prince. His charming exterior hides his fear for lacking magic, making him a complex and funny character to read who instantly comes alive on the page. The brotherly relationship between Kell and Rhy is sweet and adds more tenderness to an otherwise sharp novel.

Overall I’d recommend this novel to any fantasy fan. It is slightly more gory than younger YA is, but is very accessibly written for older readers who haven’t read much adult.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Rating: 5 out of 5.