Except I really can’t complain, because 1) I have the next book sitting on my nightstand and I can pick it up whenever I want (which will be after I finish the next two books on my TBR); and 2) It was a really well done cliffhanger! Just the right amount of “I need to find out what will happen next” and “I’m pretty sure I know what’s coming next and it’s going to be great.”
I’ve seen several people note in their reviews that nothing really happens in this book, and I really can’t argue with that. This is a table-setting book. “Gathering” is an apt title, because more than anything, it’s just gathering in the pieces for the next stage of the game. But honestly, I really appreciated it. My main complaint from the first book was that it was just such non-stop action that there wasn’t really any time for interiority and development. Long passages of time in narrative bear fruit, and A Darker Shade of Magic took place over the course of only a single week. If we’re to extend my tortured fruit metaphor, in that amount of time, the flowers have only just begun to fall off the trees, and you can’t even see the buds that will become the fruit yet. Thine tree is barren.
So yeah, did not mind at all that this book focused more on the interior development of the characters rather than having them all run pell-mell across various Londons blowing things up with magic. And for the most part, I think she did a great job with all three previous MCs, Kell, Lila and Rhy. Kell and Rhy in particular were the focus for me, as they both dealt with the ramifications of Kell having tied his life to Rhy’s last book. I also have decided that I really like Lila as a character, even if she would drive me bonkers if I actually had to interact with her. She is incredibly flawed, and Schwab isn’t afraid to have her do stupid and unlikable things. She walks a fine line there. I’m sure some readers found Lila unbearable, but for me, she was just the right side of fucked up but understandable.
I didn’t even mind that the magical tournament that centers this book had no real narrative stakes, besides what it allowed the characters to discover about themselves. Though, I do wonder how obvious SPOILERS Schwab intended it to be that Lila was secretly an Antari. I mean, she has a glass eye, right where a black one would be . . . I’m hoping she knew most readers would guess long before it was actually “revealed” (it technically still hasn’t been) END SPOILERS.
And then there’s Alucard, the dashing pirate Lila has barnacled herself to, and who turns out to have a past with Rhy and Kell. I liked him a lot, but I am generally suspicious of charmers both IRL and in fiction. Also, he’s on my shit list for SPOILERS breaking Rhy’s heart, how dare he. Even though that one scene between them was super hot and I will probably forgive him eventually if he promises not to hurt Rhy again END SPOILERS. It has probably become apparent to you that I have intense feelings about Rhy.
In terms of the other couple in this book, SPOILER I’m still not completely sold on the Kell/Lila pairing. I didn’t really get any romantical tension from them during the first book, and here for the most part they are entirely separated, even though they think about one another constantly, so it was a bit of a tough sell to buy into their connection at the end, just because we hadn’t been treated to any interactions between them for so long. And another thing, it was maybe stretching credibility just a bit that both of them had been thinking so constantly about one another when they only knew each other for such a short time. But what the hell, I’ll just go with it END SPOILERS.
So, mostly this worked for me very well, and I hope the next book combines the plot reveals and fast pace of ADSOM with the nice character work of this one. I guess I’ll find out next week!