This feature is for short reviews, reviews of books in a series where it might feel repetitive, or (as Michelle suggested) books I was too lazy to write a “real” review for. Today’s books are all part of the Shades of Magic TrilogyA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Narrator: Steven Crossley
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Published by Tantor Audio on April 21, 2015
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Length: 11 hours 34 minutes
Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.
Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.
Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.
This was SO GOOD. It started slow, for sure – in fact, there was one point where I considered putting it down. I was interested by the world, but I didn’t really get what the point was. What was the plot? Meeting Lilah really kept me going, she steals this book IMO. I liked Kell, too. But without Lilah, I’m not sure I would have gotten far enough to appreciate him. She’s so spunky and tough and she makes me laugh and she has that soft hidden underbelly. I love her.
Anyway, it took a bit for me to see the plot. There was a decent bit of time spent building the world (worlds?) and setting the stage. But once the plot got going, it took off. Before I knew it, I was in the final few chapters. Slow start and then bam! It’s non-stop. I’m thinking future books are likely to be much faster starts because there isn’t a world to build anymore? I hope so, because I definitely plan to continue.
The audio was also really good for this book. The narrator, Steven Crossley, was new-to-me but did a great job. I sometimes struggle with male narrators doing female voices, but he did a good job with Lila, particularly when she’s pretending to be a man. He manages to make her sound like a woman imitating a man… which, when you consider he’s already a man doing a female voice, is considerably talented. So yeah, I will continue in audio and hope there’s no narration changes in my future. Another #COYER Book Club win!
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Narrator: Kate Reading
Series: Shades of Magic #2
Published by Macmillan Audio on February 23, 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Length: 16 hours 9 minutes
It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift--back into Black London.
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games--an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries--a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.
I enjoyed this so much. I took a while to get to the meat of the story, with the real danger only fully presenting well after the halfway point. That was totally okay though, because there were other, smaller conflicts happening from the get-go, with established characters that I already loved and was invested in. I love Lilah Bard, she’s one of my favorite characters I read all year (2020).
We meet some new characters too and I quickly fell for them. I was suspicious of Alacard, but mainly because I didn’t like the potential romance brewing between him and Lilah (I want her for Kell). We also get to know some of the crew on Alacard’s ship and the new guards on Kell. All very interesting characters.
Finally there’s the deeper exploration of magic in this book – how it works, its dangers, its beauty, its evil. And magic is a character all it’s own in this book… one that leaves you hanging on the edge of a pretty good cliff at the end. Just be ready to pick up book 3 as soon as possible. You’ve been warned 🙂
Oh, and as if I set myself up, the narration DID change. But in all honesty… I didn’t realize it! It wasn’t until writing this post and pulling the book metadata that I realized there were two narrators this time. I guess they were that good – they let me just get lost in the book without feeling their presence!
I buddy read this with Anne and I know she enjoyed it as well. I can’t find my note, but I believe she said 4-4.5 stars as well.
A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
Narrator: Kate Reading
Series: Shades of Magic #3
Published by Macmillan Audio on February 21, 2017
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Length: 19 hours 3 minutes
Londons fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire, and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes struggle. The direct sequel to A Gathering of Shadows, and the final audiobook in the Shades of Magic epic fantasy series, A Conjuring of Light sees the newly minted New York Times best-selling author V. E. Schwab reach a thrilling conclusion concerning the fate of beloved protagonists - and old foes.
Whew – this trilogy was better with each book (and the first book was pretty great!). This one started off directly after the cliff book 2 left us on, thankfully. With no more world building to be done, we were immediately cast into the action and I feel like it never stopped.
Oseron was positively, delightfully creeptastic as he invaded the city. Watching enemies find grudging alliances to defeat his evil was exciting. And there was the constant nervousness as you knew you were reading an Urban Fantasy – not a Romance where you are pretty much guaranteed your HEA. There were so many twists, turns, and unexpected moments.
You’ll have to read it yourself to see how it ended. I can only say, my first reaction at the end was “Wow.” I’ll definitely be reading more V.E. Schwab I think. And the narration was fantastic too – overall a complete treat.
I buddy read this with Anne as well – we both enjoyed it and I believe she was giving it 4.5 stars.