Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Do you enjoy alternate realities, epic fantasy, ships on the sea and ships of the heart, magic, more magic, holy shit magic, and characterization strong enough to bend a steel bar?

Welcome to A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab.

The second in a trilogy, Schwab once again brings readers to her world(s) of magic, mayhem, intrigue, and more, as Kell, the rather dour world traveler from Red London, and Lila Bard, the cunning and charming thief from Grey London he brought back with him, reap what they’ve sown from the first book, and hard.

Following the events of A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows picks up several months later, as our intrepid and broken heroes do their best to adjust to their new lives: Kell, his life bound to his brother to keep him alive, and not trusted by the crown, skulks through Red London, burning with the need to escape and to live for himself. Rhy, the crown prince, drinks through the pain of a life hobbled by his connection to Kell, in a deeper fashion than either would want, and must come to terms with his new life, with perhaps an old flame coming back into his world. Lila sails the high seas, pursuing wealth in the only form that matters to her: power. She’s training in magic with her captain Alucard, even though a Grey London girl shouldn’t have any potential for magic. Meanwhile, across realities, worlds thought dying or dead find themselves suddenly coming back from the brink, but at what cost?

Victoria Schwab can write, man. Of this, there is no doubt. Zilch. Nada. Her work on Vicious proved that to me, and every book of hers I’ve read since has either ascertained this fact, OR, has in fact proven that she’s even better than I thought before. Every project is evidence of leveling-up, and AGoS is no exception. ADSoM was a very good book, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. As much as I loved it, ADSoM seemed to me a very Plot book: A to B to C, a lot of movement and a lot of set-up that was ultimately rewarding, but tended to slow the book down as a whole. There was a wealth of character, and I loved it very dearly, but the narrative focus seemed to be honed in on the plot.

Not so for AGoS; this book simply SINGS with characterization. While ADSoM introduced our characters and their flaws, AGoS really pushes down on them, and forces them to fight for what they want. It backs them into a corner, and offers no escape. It brings the readers right into their heads, and watches as they choose for themselves, or for those they love, or neither. In AGoS, our characters are able to further burst from their initial sketchings, and truly step into their own. Kell and Lila and Rhy always interested me in ADSoM, but watching them fight against the injustice of the worlds, craving escape, demanding happiness? Thats when things get really interesting. ADSoM did an amazing job of introducing these characters to me, and AGoS has helped me to know them on the deepest level possible, and it’s fan-freaking-tastic. Schwab knows exactly what she’s doing, and she moves her players across the board with a confidence and poise I honestly want to steal, (but I will not, for I know she only uses her powers for good).

Schwab’s worldbuilding is on full display in this book as well. While many would be happy to simply have four different worlds to showcase, Schwab doesn’t stop there. She dives deep and showcases individual conflicts and peoples inside those worlds, bringing an already vibrant world into brighter hues and tones, highlighting cultures, magic, and more that we didn’t even know were there. She really takes the opportunity to show the reader that these aren’t just alternate versions of London; it’s alternate versions of our whole damn world.

And dear god, the action! The central plot of this book involves the Element Games, a series of competitions with players from all over the world and country of Arnes, where Red London is, and once this particular ball gets rolling, Schwab doesn’t take her foot off the pedal. Ever. Like, she has a lead foot when it comes to hardcore action, y’all. Every face to face battle sequence is  thrumming with adrenaline and fancy footwork, as magic, characterization, and plot all roll together into scene after scene of heart-pounding fights that had me grinning from ear to ear.

I mean, look, what else is there to say aside from: kissing, magic, knives, fire, duplicity, tension of the sexual kind and the secular kind, shadows, bargains, ghosts, and a cliffhanger so goddamn muthatrucking audacious, it had me shouting at the book while on public transit. I’m not kidding. Ask the NJT.

If you enjoy deep characterization, alternate realities, people kissing each other on their faces, deals in the dark, turmoil, friendship, humor, and tragedy, then this book is for you. If you haven’t read A Darker Shade of Magic, well, get to stepping. If you have, then order A Gathering of Shadows now!

It’s most absolutely worth your time.

BONUS!

I was sent an extra copy of the book by the publisher, and would happily see it go to a good home. If you’d like to WIN a copy of A GATHERING OF SHADOWS, simply comment on this review to enter. I will draw a week from Tuesday, March 1st!

(US and Canada only).

 

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WONDERBOOK WINNER

Hey gang,

I’ve been away dealing with Book Expos and Beerfests and final days at Barnes and Noble, (which I will be writing all about soon).

But first, I need to announce the winner of the Wonderbook Reverse B-Day giveaway! 

Letting the d20 of Fate roll forth freely, two out of three times as is the rule with all games of chance, the die has spoken, and Nino, you are the winner!

Thanks again to everyone for entering, and expect a catch up blog soon!

Reverse B-Day Giveaway: Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer and Jeremy Zerfoss

It’s here at last! The final giveaway before my birthday arrives!

And for the last giveaway, it’s a doozy, a real whopper, a quarter-pounder-with-fries-hold-the-rat-tail-and-cockroach-shells kind of giveaway!

Wonderbook

Meet Wonderbook, by Jeff Vandermeer and Jeremy Zerfoss, the Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction! A dense, beautiful book packed to the very tippity-toppity brim with writing advice, essays, anecdotes, cartoons, maps, illustrations, thoughts, concerns, odd political statements, (ahem maybe not), and more. It’s a gorgeous book, a ton of fun, and holds wisdom from every corner of speculative and genre fiction and more!

And a signed copy, desecrated by Mr. Vandermeer’s own blessed, chaotic scrawl could be yours! All you need to do is comment below, and answer this question for a chance to win: If you could have someone read one book, what would it be and why?

That’s it! Though my birthday is on Saturday, the contest will run until next Wednesday to give folks plenty of time.

Reverse B-Day Giveaway: The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

Welcome to week three, friends!

This week’s giveaway is a book near and dear to my cold, miserly writing heart. And it comes with a story, lucky you!

Last year on my birthday I was at the Book Expo of America or BEA, a huge gathering of bookish types showing off their new products for the summer and fall and beyond. Books as far as the eye could see! And one of my favorite writers, Chuck Wendig, was having a signing off at a little place in Brooklyn.

Beard Buddies 4 Eva
Beard Buddies 4 Eva

He and I had corresponded a little, so it was great to go and meet him at his signing, (along with other awesome authors and folks: John Hornor Jacobs, Joelle Charbonneau, their agent Stacia Decker, Mike Underwood and more!).

And upon meeting, Chuck actually took the time to listen to me prattle and ramble about my life and my writing, and was very supportive. And upon learning it was my birthday, he gave me a chocolate bar from his bag. Whaddaguy! Sure, it turned out to be a block of Bolivian tar, and I still catch glimpses of Things from the corner of my eye, but still, very generous of him.

kickass writer

So this week, in testament to his awesomeness, I am giving away a copy of his writing book, The Kick-Ass Writer to one lucky soul. Filled with over a thousand tips and tricks, Chuck will help steer you in the right direction and become the Kick-Ass writer you always knew you could be!

To enter, simply comment below, and answer me this:

Chuck’s online persona is one of immense adventure, cursing, vitriol, glee and caffeinated wisdom. If you could replace any character in fiction with Chuck Wendig, what character would it be? Would he be Luke Skywalker’s whiskey-drinking Jedi mentor? Or perhaps, a super caffeinated Indiana Jones hoping to find lost Penmonkey Treasure?

Tell me what story you would want to see Chuck in, and what would happen to enter!

Bone Season Winner!

Thank you to everyone who commented and entered for The Bone Season giveaway here at the ol’ blog! I enjoyed all your answers, and wish you a future with the power you wanted, (though I do hope you get to avoid any and all, radioactive spiders, destruction of planets, chemical spills and other mishaps that grant abilities).

So, using my own form of clairvoyance, known to some as Chanceomancy or Randomancy, I rolled the d20 of Fate and lo, our winner is Kaja!

Thanks again for entering everyone, and keep an eye on this space for the next giveaway!

Reverse Birthday Giveaway: The Bone Season

Hello gang, and welcome to the second week of the Reverse Birthday Giveaway, a giveaway a week as we count down to my birthday at the end of the month!

Thank you to those who entered for the previous contest, and whose winner you can find in the previous post.

Bone Season

For this week, I am giving away a signed ARC of Samantha Shannon’s, The Bone Season from Bloomsbury! The first in an intriguing epic fantasy series, The Bone Season follows young, powerful Clairvoyant, Paige Mahoney as she navigates an alternate London, ruled by a shadowy organization, Scion. But when she is arrested by them and sent to a Voyant prison, she soon learns of a worse enemy hiding in Scion-London . . .

Samantha is very kind, a brilliant writer, and an absolute blast to hear talk, (just saw her speak the other night at the 92nd Y in NYC). She was gracious enough to sign this extra copy, and I would love to give it to someone who has yet to encounter The Bone Season!

To enter, comment below and answer this: If you could have any magical ability, what would it be and why?

And that’s it! Contest will run until midnight on Saturday, the 17th!

Reverse Birthday Giveaway: The Geek’s Guide To Dating

First giveaway!

(The basis of which can be found here)

THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO DATING BY Eric Smith.

Geeks Guide

I came into an extra copy of this from Quirk Books and I would love to give it away to someone! A fun, cute and quirky (pun definitely intended) guide to dating in the world of geekdom, this awesome book by my buddy Mix Master Eric Smith is not one to pass up. Now that Spring has sprung, there is no book better to help you find your geeky love!

And to sweeten the pot, this book has been signed by the author himself! How’s that for honey?

 

 

RULES: Post your ideal geeky date below in the comments! (Tastefully friends, anything unseemly does not make it past the Admin Bots).

You have until midnight, Saturday the 10th!

I will choose a winner then, and post the next giveaway a week from today!