Hi, I’m back! I loved this book! This review has spoilers, let me know what you think!
It’s been quite some time since I’ve felt up to writing a review, due to time constraints with school and a lingering depression from personal troubles over the summer. This book, however, completely knocked the wind out of me. I read A Darker Shade of Magic back in July, and I am so glad that devastating, mind-blowing, utterly breathtaking book was followed by just as much exquisite storytelling and captivating twists and turns that kept me up until the early hours of morning because I just could not put it down. The gang is back, albeit not exactly together, learning to cope and attempting to survive in the aftermath of the brutal showdown in White London months earlier. Lila is the only one even somewhat thriving in the freedom away from Red London as a privateer on the Night Spire, under the shrewd (and a little smarmy in a delicious way) Captain Alucard Emery; meanwhile, Rhy and Kell are attempting to adjust to their connection after the events of the first book, and it’s painful to watch them struggle to find a silver lining. The character interaction between all of our main players is by far the most powerful thing in the subtlest of ways. Although it does suffer slightly from middle book syndrome, it is still without a doubt a fantastic sequel that I highly recommend.
What I loved: As always, Schwab’s writing skills are nothing short of impeccable. I was absolutely hooked from start to finish, swearing and gasping and laughing out loud as every moment stood out with unparalleled detail. Her books always feel like a movie in my head from how clearly I can visualize what’s going on, and this sequel to one of my favorite books this year is no different. The pacing is spectacular, the worlds created still so fresh and vibrant in my mind. Each new character brings something unexpected to the table, and I adored the unpredictability of it all. Just the act of reading this book was so much fun.
If Kell and Lila are the hearts of this book, Rhy and Alucard are the blood that helps them keep going. Where one is weak, the other becomes their strength, and together they have some of the most gut-wrenching scenes (including the one where they all first come together – talk about a stitch in my side from that sheer delight) and enhance every one with unmistakable skill. I swear, I’m blown away just by how perfect they all fit together, despite being so clearly mismatched. It’s like reading a favorite worn-down patchwork quilt. If that were possible, of course.
The Curse of the ‘Meh’: Like I said, there are some middle book problems that are unfortunately inescapable, even in a book I loved as much as this. While the majority of the book flips between Kell’s happenings in Red London and Lila’s adventure aboard the Night Spire, there are a few scenes mixed in that detail what [SPOILER] Holland is up to in White London. At first the situation is suspenseful and masterfully well done, but as it drags on to the last 10% of the book, it became obvious that all of this was just set up for the finale…which isn’t bad, per se, except that the really insane story-related action ended up being crammed into that last little bit of the book and culminated as a forceful cliffhanger that feels overdone.
What was less than good: Sadly, as much as I wanted to love the addition of the Element Games, it really ended up as pointless background noise compared to the rest of the book. We get very little new information about the other countries and cultures outside of Red London, and even though several new characters with a BOATLOAD of potential are introduced, none of them are given more than half a second’s glance. I was really disappointed by how laser-focused the entire story was on the main 4 characters, and even though I love all of them more than life itself, I wanted to know more about Jasta (A BADASS) and Kisimyr (ALSO A BADASS) and Jinnar (s w o o n), too. If any of them end up coming back for the finale, I’ll be genuinely surprised. Pleased, for sure, but shocked.
Overall: 4.5 stars, rounded up because I screamed at the end. Go read it, y’all.