“I am Delilah Bard, she thought, as the ropes cut into her skin. I am a thief and a pirate and a traveler. I have set foot in three different worlds, and lived. I have shed the blood of royals and held magic in my hands. A ship full of men cannot do what I can. I don’t need any of you. I am one of a damn kind.”
Probably nothing I’d say here would convince someone to read A Gathering of Shadows because A Darker Shade of Magic makes a strong enough case for that (at least in my opinion). So I’ll skip the summary and instead focus on my gripe! Spoilers ahead.
V.E. Schwab’s Goodreads profile says, “Victoria has stated that books published under V.E. Schwab are adult releases and those under Victoria Schwab are YA.” Hence, the Shades of London series is intended to be an adult release. (Schwab also answered a Goodreads user’s question confirming that the book is adult, not YA.) A Darker Shade of Magic seems to exist, for me, somewhere between adult and YA fantasy. The distinction between them doesn’t actually matter that much to me because a good book is a good book regardless of the targeted age group.
But A Gathering of Shadows takes the story much closer to YA territory for me, in several ways:
- The increased focus on the romance between Lila and Kell, which barely even existed in the first book. After what they experience together, Lila and Kell could’ve felt a deep platonic connection and I think I would’ve bought into it just as much—it didn’t need to be romantic.
- The introduction of a dashing young ship captain presented as a love interest for Lila. Granted, Schwab subverts the YA trope of the love triangle by making Alucard a love interest for Rhy instead, but Alucard being an attractive, wealthy young man in a profession usually filled by grizzled old guys not known for their high standards of hygiene—well, it just felt like we were in CW Universe, which is populated only by stunningly attractive possible love interests.
- The fancy ball and its attendant plotlines: the new dress that transforms the leading lady, the romantic tension during a dance, the strained, vaguely explained politics.
- A competition with unnecessarily high stakes. Seriously, I groaned when Rhy presented his idea of Kell joining the Element Games so that he can blow off some steam. What terrible logic is this! Hurting Kell is the only way that Rhy could possibly die, but wouldn’t it be fun to go risk both of their lives for no good reason other than that Kell’s feeling a bit stressed?! The needs of the plot trump sense.
All of this doesn’t actually detract from the book that much for me—it’s still a fun ride that I heartily recommend. I truly don’t care whether a book is YA or not. But it does make me question Victoria Schwab’s perception of her own books. And that questioning makes me feel a little bit less safe in her hands—as in, are we sure she knows what she’s doing? Fortunately, A Conjuring of Light has an impressive Goodreads rating of 4.40 as of this writing, higher than the first two books in the series, so maybe I’m overthinking it.