Book Review – A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab

Bloggarts,

This book. This whole series. My goodness. If you haven’t had the chance to read my reviews for the first two books, now would be a good time to do that.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

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This book picks up directly after the end of A Gathering of Shadows, and lemme tell ya, shit has hit the fan. Each POV gets an “intro” chapter of sorts and each of them ends in a cliffhanger that made me bite my nails and yell at the book. In this book all the major players get POV chapters; Kell, Lila, Rhy, Alucard, Holland, and Osaron. The first thirty pages of the book is at a breakneck speed where stakes are high and my heart pounded in my chest with fear for all my favorite characters.

So, yeah. Nearly killing all of your characters is one way to start the last book in a series. I’ve been taught over the years that the first chapter sets the tone for your book, that whatever happens in chapter one is what your readers will expect from the rest of the book. As a reader I’m not sure I agree with that, since I’ve read plenty of books that were fast-paced and gripping for the first ten pages or so and then slows down and sets the stage afterward.

But Schwab doesn’t do that here. The stakes are high through this whole book, which is no small feat when you consider that it’s 624 pages long. Red London is under attack by Osaron, the entity Holland brought back from Black London, and it will take sacrifices from everyone to defeat him.

What I loved:

  • The characters. This should be a big “duh” after the reviews I wrote for the series so far. I love them all. Even the side characters that don’t seem all that important. Tieren, Lenos, Hastra, Maxim and Emira. I love them all even as they break my heart over and over again. But of course, it comes back to the main players time and again. I adore Kell and Lila, Rhy and Alucard, and even Holland by the end of the book.
  • The relationships, because that’s what this book is really about. Kell’s relationships a conjuring of light alternatewith Lila, Rhy, Alucard, and his parents. Rhy’s relationships with his parents, Kell, and Alucard. Alucard’s relationships with Rhy, his family (which we see more of in this book), his crew, and with Lila. Lila’s relationships with Kell, Alucard, the crew, Barron, and Calla. We even see more of Holland’s past and the people in his life before the Danes stole everything from him. I think that’s what makes this series so successful for me. I’m a very character-driven, emotional writer. So is Schwab, so her books resonate with me.
  • The magic remains some of the coolest shit I’ve seen in fiction lately. There are rules but there’s still a sense that even the characters don’t know all of them. That there is more to learn, more to the world and powers and the people that simply hasn’t been discovered. And that’s really freaking cool.
  • I loved that, despite all the heartache (and there’s a lot of it) Schwab still managed to give us a satisfying, happy-ish ending. I cried a bunch through this book, and the ending was no exception. But she was able to wrap it up in a way that was satisfying and right. That’s no easy task with any story, let alone one I cherished as much as this.

After all that, was there anything that I didn’t like?

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Not really. I didn’t like that I couldn’t get my hands on the audiobook, which is more a matter of me being too cheap to buy the thing on Audible than anything else. The audiobook has a 6+ month hold through my library, which I’ve kept because I’m going to listen to it and enjoy it (read: cry) all over again. I had to read the book, which I thought would slow me down, but it really didn’t. I devoured it all the same.

I didn’t like that it ended. How’s that for criticism? How dare you stop writing about these amazing people? HOW DARE?

But, you want to know some good news? A Shades of Magic television show is currently in production, and V.E. Schwab seems pretty involved with (and excited by) the process so far. I try to keep my expectations low for adaptations of books, because they so rarely hold a candle to the source material, and this one’s gonna be tough for me. I will have very high standards, which means I will probably hate it.

I’m still gonna watch the shit out of it though, because I am desperate for any and all Kell content. Seriously, it is taking all of my discipline not to shelve my TBR and drown myself in Kell/Lila fanfic. I even found a playlist on Spotify that I CANNOT stop listening to. That’s where I’m at with my obsession right now.

I’d say send help, but I don’t even want it. I’m happy right where I am.

I won’t have another review this week, but I’ll be back on Friday to talk about the SFWA Reading Series event in Portland Thursday night. I’ll be hanging out, drinking beer, and listening to Rebecca Roanhorse and Sam J. Miller read and talk about their books. I am so excited that I’m sure I’ll have a bunch to talk about after the fact.

Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

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Book Review – A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

Bloggos! Bloggo bloggo bloggos!

I tucked this book away on my TBR what seems like forever ago and I wasted so. much. time! Thank goodness(?) for that migraine*, else I may have never prioritized it, and would have totally missed out on a new favorite.

*Not really. Migraines are the literal worst and I would not wish them on anyone. They are debilitating and awful and if you get them I am with you and we should get help, ASAP. There are no upsides to migraines, no matter how hard I try to tell myself otherwise.

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

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This book. You guys. I loved everything about it. I loved the characters, the world(s), the magic(s), the freaking plot! There’s a rivalmance! (For non-fanfic folks, that means rivals become romantic interests over the course of the story).

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Steven Crossley, while I was down and out with a really bad migraine. This book made me laugh and smile when I was otherwise trying not to cry or even worse, puke. This book made a really painful couple of days manageable, or at the very least helped me get through them.

What I loved:

  • Every single character. There’s Kell, a powerful and rare type of magician called the Antari, who is far more dashing than he realizes and I am madly in love with him. Lila, a starving cut-purse who steals from Kell, and inadvertently stumbles into a really dangerous adventure with him. I love Rhy, the suave Prince and Kell’s brother by all but blood. I even liked Holland, the Antari from an alternate tyrannical London, who spends much of his time as the book’s bad guy, even if it’s against his will. His king and queen, the twins Astrid and Athos, are absolutely terrifying and I LOVED it. They were creepy in all the best ways and presented a very real and original threat.
  • The worlds. The book takes place across three different Londons. Grey London, where Lila is from, where magic has dwindled away to almost nothing; AKA our London, pre-industrial revolution. Then there’s Red London, Kell’s London, where magic is in balance with the world and almost everyone has some sort of talent. And then there’s White London, Holland’s London, where everything is cold and dying, where life is a constant power struggle and nothing comes easy. And of course, the fallen Black London, consumed by a magical plague 300 years ago, and not really in this book.
  • The magic! There’s basic elemental magic that most folks have some ability with at least one. There’s Water, Fire, Air, Earth, Metal, and Bone. Some people can wield two or even three of the Elements, but anything more than that is exceedingly rare. Unless you’re an Antari. They can bend all the Elements to their will, AND use Blood Magic, which actually has verbal commands and requires the Antari activate the command with their blood. White London also has some tricky Runes and Seals, but those are illegal in Red London because they bind people against their will, etc.a darker shade of magic audio cover

So yeah, there’s a lot going on in this book and I enjoyed all of it. Like, literally every second. I already intend to read the books over again once I’m done with the series (and manage to find time to sneak in a reread), because I love them that much.

What I didn’t love:

  • Um… the narration? It definitely wasn’t bad, but it was kind of stuffy. Kell sounded too bored, or too impersonal a lot of the time and his magic commands were super dramatic, to the point I couldn’t really understand what he was saying. I liked Crossley’s interpretations of Lila, however. The bad guys had either German or Eastern European accents which felt a little… cliched.
  • That I couldn’t get the second book on the Libby app right away (the hold list is an estimated SIX MONTHS!) so I had to sign up for Audible, again.
  • That I waited so long to try this series! What was I thinking! Why didn’t someone tell me!

Okay, seriously now, all frothing aside, this book obviously ticked every box for me. I have a theory as to why. It felt like fanfic and I mean that in the best possible way. It was FUN. It hit the beats of fanfic, where there’s banter and intrigue and while Schwab does it so skillfully you don’t even notice, she melds all these cutesy moments into the book and makes them matter. Things were predictable, but in a satisfying way. Characters said and did things I wanted them to, and when they did? It was better than I imagined.a darker shade of magic alternate

Perfect. This book was perfect for me, and probably perfect for me at this point in my life. It was the exact book I needed and wanted. It’s been a long time since I had a new favorite series, and I forgot how intoxicating that feeling is. I am currently over the moon with feelings for this series. So, yeah, this is my fangirly, foaming at the mouth review. Whatever that’s worth to you.

Expect more of the same this month because my queued reading is insane! I’m already halfway through A Gathering of Shadows, I’ve started Trail of Lightning, and behind those is A Conjuring of Light and Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. It’s going to be a book review heavy month here at the blog and it’s about damn time.

Barring any news submissions-wise, you won’t hear from me until Monday, when I’m back with the weekly update. Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ