A, A - E, Allgemein, Reviews

Review: A Gathering of Shadows (V.E. Schwab)

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Rating: 4 Pfoten

Book 9 on My Book List 2021

”People could only hurt you if you cared enough to let them.”

I think this quote describes the vibe of the book in a nutshell. “A Gathering of Shadows” is all about the characters and their strong feelings for each other. Sometimes those feelings get in the way and make it impossible to grow and to be who they truly are and sometimes those feelings help them to realize what is important. At times to read this book felt like you’re staunching a wound and no matter what you do, it always starts to bleed anew.

The repercussions of what happened in the finale of “A Darker Shade of Magic” are perceptible in every single word of the story and I was hurting with the characters so much it wasn’t normal anymore. While Rhy and Kell are trying their best to ignore what happened to them, while they try to come to terms with their changed reality and their place in the grand scheme of things, Lila and Alucard are just trying to have the time of their lives. And I was thankful for it, because the Lila/Alucard Duo was a really good counterweight to Rhy and Kell.

As for the third plot line… gosh I was so anxious about what would happen. The knowledge that there was a new force at work in White London had me all kinds of worried and it felt like a looming presence above my head. Do you know the expression: “It hangs like a sword of Damocles above/over sth”? Well, I think that about nails the overall feeling of dread I experienced while reading the book. >_< This said I think I’ll head to my characters section now because I need to get rid of a lot of thoughts and they’ll be spoilery so consider yourself warned! 😉

2
Welcome to Red London! If you have magic running through your veins I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Essen Tasch! The finest of our finest will duel each other and not everyone is going to survive the spoilery fun! Tread carefully and try to stay out of trouble. The spoilers? Well, if you continue to read they’ll find you anyway.

Lila:

”People survived by being cautious, but they got ahead by being bold.”

I guess I got the answer to my question: Lila became a pirate, indeed. *lol* I personally liked her more in this book because she finally opened up and we got a good glimpse at her true personality. In the first book I could never get a grasp of her but this time around we were finally allowed to dive a little bit deeper into her personality. She doesn’t like to let anyone in because she is scared of her own feelings, but despite all her cool exterior and bravado she cares a lot about the people she spends her time with. Alucard and his crew grew on her and Rhy and Kell seem to own a special place in her heart as well. Lila’s determination to do whatever she wants is something I totally admire about her. She sets her eyes on a goal and she doesn’t cave until she made it. Her participation in the Essen Tasch was very reckless but I guess she’s one of those people that need to test their own limits and strength. And truth be told, if I would discover magic in myself I’d want to test and try it out too. *lol*I mean, who wouldn’t? ;-P

”Lila was a quick study, and she knew how to keep up a front; but behind the mask of disinterest, she took in everything. She was a sponge, soaking up the words and customs, training herself to see something once and be able to pretend she’d seen it a dozen – a hundred – times before.”

”She wanted to push away from the table and walk out, walk away, break the cords that tied her to this ship and this crew and this life, and start over. Whenever she felt the weight of those bonds, she wished she could take her sharpest knife and cut them free, carve out the part of her that wanted, that cared, that warmed at the feeling of Alucard’s hand on her shoulder, Tav’s smile, Stross’s nod.”

”The thing about freedom, Kell? It doesn’t come naturally. Almost no one has it handed to them. I’m free because I fought for it. You’re supposed to be the most powerful magician in all the worlds. If you don’t want to be here, then go.”

Kell:

” The truth was, Kell’s blood pulsed with a restless beat, while the thing that coursed within it longed for activity. Something had been roused in him, and it didn’t seem intent on going back to sleep.”

Okay, my hope that things would get better for Kell in “A Gathering of Shadows” was crushed the moment I first read his POV. My poor red-head suffered even more than he did in the first book and most of it was due to his connection with Rhy and the behaviour of his “parents”. I hated that they treated him like a criminal and even though I understood that they wanted to keep Rhy save I still detested them for the way they treated Kell. The fact that he could feel each and every single one of Rhy’s emotions and his pain certainly didn’t help to make him feel better and his slow but gradual suffocation was noticeable throughout the entire book. I bled with Kell and I could understand his need to be free. His entire life turned bitter and he realized that he was never truly a part of the Maresh family and only a means to an end. And then this horrible ending!!! ARGH!!! As if he hadn’t suffered enough already! I really hope my boy will be safe in the next book and that Lila will be able to rescue him.

”But that was the thing. Kell would never be free. No matter how far he fled. He’d given up freedom with is life, when he handed it to Rhy.”

”Rhy had always been fickle, but now Kell felt his brother’s ever-shifting temperament, the constant oscillation, and it was maddening. Space meant nothing. They could be standing side by side or Londons apart. There was no escape.
More and more, the bond felt like a chain.”

Rhy:

”He could feel it, whatever it was, hovering in the air around him, waiting until the sun went down and the world got quiet. Quiet enough to think. Thoughts, those were the waiting things, and once they started up, he couldn’t seem to silence them.
Saints, how he tried.”

You know, I’m kinda sad I never got to see more of the carefree and funny Rhy because the ending of “A Darker Shade of Magic” obviously left its traces on his personality as well. The Rhy in this book was very serious and haunted by his past. Then again I suppose to die and to come back to life will do that to a person. His life force is bound to Kell and what one of them does is felt by the other so it’s no wonder the Rhy in this book was more mature and intense. He feels responsible for everything that happened to his people and Kell and he just can’t seem to be able to live with what he did. I really hope someone is going to tell him that it wasn’t his fault and that him wanting to be a better prince and worthy was the thing that caused him to use the necklace. His fault wasn’t to fall for Holland’s trick because he wanted to be stronger; his fault was to try to please his parents and to think that the power he already has wouldn’t be enough. All that self-hatred… it will destroy him from the inside out. I really hope someone (hopefully Alucard) will be able to get through to him.

”Kell. My greatest fear in life isn’t dying. It’s being the source of someone else’s suffering. I know you feel trapped. I know I’m your cage. And I can’t –“ His voice broke, and Kell could feel his brother’s pain, everything he tried to smother until dark and drown until morning. “You will do this,” said Rhy. “For me. For both of us.”

”Every day. I wake up wanting to be a stronger person. A better prince. A worthy king. That want, it’s like a fire in my chest. And then, there are these moments, these horrible, icy moments when I remember what I did …” His hand drifted to his heart. “To myself. To you. To my kingdom. And it hurts…” His voice trembled. “More than dying ever did. There are days when I don’t feel like I deserve this.”

”He’d always envied his brother’s strength.
And now, in a horrible way, it was his.
He was immortal.
And he hated it.
And he hated that he hated it. Hated that he’d become the thing he never wanted to be, a burden to his brother, a source of pain and suffering, a prison. Hated that if he’d had a choice, he would have said no. Hated that he was grateful he hadn’t had a choice, because he wanted to live, even if he didn’t deserve to.”

3
Lila & Kell:

”Oh yes, your relationship with Miss Bard is positively ordinary.”
“Be quiet.”
“Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.”
“We weren’t courting,” snapped Kell. “In case you forgot, she left.”

I really like those two and I definitely want more of them! I mean their kiss was … for lack of a better word hot and I think we deserve to see more of this ship. It’s a really slow burn but I actually like that about it. It probably comes with the nature of both of them. While Kell is all restraint and the brooding kind of type, Lila is all recklessness and bravado. Their personalities are quite a contrast but we all know opposites attract. ;-P I guess before we can find out if their ship is going to work out Lila will have to save her man first though! And I really hope she’ll do it fast because my boys are suffering and I need them to survive this!!! T_T

”They crashed into each other as if propelled by gravity, and he didn’t know which of them was the object and which the earth, only that they were colliding. This kiss as 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.”

Rhy & Kell:

To his surprise, Rhy shot him a scowl. “I’m invested in my kingdom, Brother,” he snapped. “You should be, too.”
“I’m not their prince,” observed Kell. He was in no mood for Rhy’s attitude. “I’m just the one who has to clean up his messes.”

I love their brotherly bond so much but it definitely suffered in this book. Both of them didn’t know how to cope with the situation they found themselves in and both of them tried to atone for what they did in their own way. I wish they would have done it together, that they would have addressed all those things that stood between them more directly. Their relationship was so strained and it hurt to see them together. They were both bleeding and I think the only ones who could stop it are Kell and Rhy themselves. I really hope they’ll talk it out in the last book and that their relationship will be more relaxed again. I mean yes, their fate is bound together but if they are on the same page they could do so many great things. I want them to find peace in the next book and I genuinely hope they will.

”These days, Rhy always seemed to be the source of Kell’s suffering, while Kell himself walked around as if the world were suddenly made of glass, all because of Rhy. It wasn’t even in the end, wasn’t balanced, wasn’t fair. Rhy held Kell’s pain in his hands, while Kell held Rhy’s life in his.”

”Kell.” Rhy sat forward, elbows on his knees. “I was dead.”
The words hung in the air between them.
“I was dead,” he said again, “and you brought me back. You have already given me something I shouldn’t have.” A shadow flashed across his face when he said it, there and then gone. “If it were lost again,” he went on, “I would still have lived twice. This is all borrowed.”

Alucard & Rhy:

Rhy turned to say something, but Alucard’s mouth was already there on his. Hands tangled in hair, clutched at coats. They were a collision, spurred by the force of three years apart.
“You missed me,” said Alucard. It was not a question, but there was a confession in it, because everything about Alucard – the tension in his back, the ways his hips pressed into Rhy’s, the race of his heart and the tremor of his voice – said that the missing had been mutal.

Now that came as a surprise! I knew there was something between them by the way they acted around each other but woah their romance totally caught me off guard. I guess this is mostly due to the fact that Alucard is a newly introduced character and that we didn’t know much about his past before his ship docked at London. I’m all aboard the Rhylucard/Alurhy?! ship though so please let more of those scenes come way! *lol* It’s so obvious Alucard is totally besotted with Rhy and I’m ready to see more of Rhy’s true feelings for the rakish captain as well. More, please?! XD

Alucard & Lila:

”There was a measure of theatre to everything Alucard did. She wondered how many other parts he could play. Wondered which, if any, were not a part, but the actor beneath.”

”Lila really should have killed him, back when they first met. Back before she could know him. Back before she could like him so much.”

I’m a huge fan of their friendship and I think they should continue to be just friends. Not gonna lie, the chemistry between them was amazing but they are both too reckless and probably would get each other killed. Their flame would burn bright and then blow out. *lol* I can’t blame Lila for giving into Alucard’s advances though. I mean that man is a really nice package! ;-P A deceitful and cunning package but a nice package nevertheless. XD

”Tell me,” he whispered, “was that better than winning a bet?”
She was breathless. “You make a valid argument.”
“I’d love to press the point,” he said, “but first …” He cleared his throat, and looked down at the knife she had resting against the inside of his leg.
“Reflex,” she said with a smirk, returning the weapon to its sheath.”

Lila & Rhy:

Lila’s expression hardened. “Whatever he feels for me, it isn’t love.”
“Because it isn’t soft and sweet and doting?” Rhy rocked back, stretching against the pillar. “Do you know how many times he’s nearly beat me senseless out of love? How many times I’ve done the same? I’ve seen the way he looks at those he hates…” He shook his head. “There are very few things my brother cares about, and even fewer people.”

The bond between those two surprised me as well. Lila and Rhy really seem to care about each other and I loved their tiny interactions. I’m glad Rhy kind of seems to function as a translator between Kell and Lila because I think otherwise those two would always talk past each other. XD Also can we appreciate how Lila’s first reaction, when she saw an upset Rhy, was to ask him who she needed to kill? I loved this so much because ARGH! Coming from Lila this means the world! <33 Lila and Rhy give me a Blue and Ronan vibe and I’m so here for it! I can’t wait to see more of their interactions in the next book and I hope there will be many.

He ducked his head and let out a shuddering sigh. Lila hesitated. She knew she should probably bow, kiss his hand, or swoon – at the very least explain what she was doing there, in the private palace halls, as close to the prison as anyone would let her – but instead she flicked her fingers, producing a small blade. “Who do I need to kill?”
Rhy let out a stifled sound, half sob, half laugh, and sank onto his haunches, still gripping the wooden edge of the table.”

The King & Queen and Kell:

Kell swallowed. “Will they never forgive me?”
“Which would you rather have? Their forgiveness, or Rhy’s life?”
“I shouldn’t have to choose,” he snapped.

I absolutely hated Rhy’s parents in this. His mum didn’t do anything and King Maxim was so unfair to Kell that I wanted to take him by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. I think Kell suffered enough and he did it all to save their son because Rhy got himself into a sticky situation that almost killed him. How is that Kell’s fault? They can blame him for dark magic finding its way into their kingdom and for being a smuggler but they can’t blame him for saving their son’s life. The Dane Twins plot would have fruited no matter what Kell did. It wasn’t his fault that Rhy felt a need to be stronger for his people. Plus Holland could have easily caused trouble without involving Kell. After all he’s an Antari too and can travel between the worlds. If King Maxim would have been fair to Kell and would have trusted him the ending of this book would have never happened. So everything that happens now is on him. I hope he’ll realize this before everything goes to hell. >_<

He stilled. “No. But we both know this isn’t about what’s good for me.”
“You’re right. It’s about what’s good for our kingdom. And if you are loyal to this crown, and to this family, you will confine yourself to this palace until the tournament is over. Am I understood?”

”I can’t keep atoning,” Kell whispered into the king’s shoulder. “I gave him my life, but you cannot ask me to stop living.”

4
I really enjoyed “A Gathering of Shadows” and I can’t wait to read the last book of the series. Since the Essen Tasch was a huge part of this story I couldn’t help but draw parallels to Jay Kristoff’s “Godsgrave” though. Both books were the second book of a series and focused on a deadly tournament while the main plot was still running in the background. My weird brain is probably the only one that saw those similarities… Anyway! I absolutely loved the world and the characters Schwab created and I’m very curious where this series will end. I’m definitely more than just willing to find out. 😉