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A Gathering of Shadows, by V. E. Schwab

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

This is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic. I think that reading the first book adds a lot to the reading experience of this one, and it’s definitely a classic middle book structure–there is plot that is resolved here, but there’s a pretty big cliffhanger at the ending. However, if you want to start here I think it actually would do a pretty good job of giving you the clues you need of who is who and what is what–not quite all the emotional depth/implication that you’d get if you read both, and the previous volume is readily available, but still. Should work.

There are four parallel Londons, with differing types and levels of magic, and a few lucky (har, har) people can cross between them. None of these is happy fun-fun land, but some of them are nastier than others. We spend most of A Gathering of Shadows in the most interesting, Red London, which is the least gratuitously vicious and the most magically endowed. If you’ve been missing formal elemental magic tournament battles since Avatar: Legend of Korra finished its run, wow, is this ever the book for you. There’s a lot of battling with earth, water, air, and fire here in formal tournament duel structure.

In addition to the fighting, there’s also torture, revenge, something that might be true love if you look at it funny, and definitely murdered by pirates. Murdered by pirates is good. There are some messed up nobles/royals–messed up multiple ways in multiple worlds–and a few fancy balls with fancy ball gowns, but not so much of it that I think it’ll bog you down if it’s not your thing. It is not really a kissing book, but there is a little kissing. Betrayal. More betrayal. Perceived betrayal. Serious loyalty. Pain shared that is not, in fact, pain halved. Some of you will be serious suckers for this book and find that it pushes your own personal buttons very, very hard. For the rest–if you’re feeling like a fun fantasy adventure, it can be that, as it was for me, even if the buttons it’s pushing aren’t quite yours. And there’s very clearly a big finish yet to come.

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