Blog tour time! All of my thanks go to Raincoast Books for the ARC and the chance to take part in the blog tour and to Victoria for answering my question about everyone's favourite reckless and inquisitive pirate, Delilah Bard. ;)
Victoria! I was tempted to just ask how you book, but that would be cheating (but seriously, how do you book? Kell! Lila! Rhy! MAGIC! SAD THINGS! DANGEROUS THINGS! *shaking my fists at the sky with book angst*). But my question is about Lila. Delilah Bard is a thief, a pirate, a traveler. She's headstrong and stubborn, quick with a blade and quicker with her tongue. She wants, and wants, and wants. There's her line to Kell in A Darker Shade of Magic, that she wasn't going to die until she'd seen everything. There's her line to Alucard near the beginning of A Gathering of Shadows, that she wants to know everything (which I took to mean both magic-everything and everything-everything). Where did this desperation of hers come from, this craving? Was it always there when she first appeared? Is it infuriating to have someone like Lila in your head?
Ah, Lila. My mad child. Her desperation comes from the fact that she sees surviving and living as very different, and up until the moment she meets Kell, she's been trapped doing the former. For her, it's as vicious a cycle as stealing, in that few people steal enough to be able to stop stealing. They just steal enough to keep themselves stealing. Poverty cast her into a position where no matter what she does, she can't get out. When Kell and Lila's paths collide, she is desperate to escape this cycle, and to take control of her own life. That often manifests as recklessness, but for Lila, recklessness is one of the only ways for her to truly exert that control, to say, it is my life. And she's been like that since the moment I started writing her. I often call Lila an aspirational character for me, which perplexes some people, but as an overthinker (a Kell), I envy her willingness to take great risks for the chance at freedom. I have all of her stubbornness, and only half her brawn.
Oh, Lila. How wonderfully dangerous you are. But you're going to give Kell an ulcer one day. It'll join the one Rhy's given him. ;)
Title: A Gathering of Shadows
Author: V.E. Schwab
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift, and into Black London. In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like 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. But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.
A Gathering of Shadows is rich with magic, with mystery and danger, with compelling characters and impossible plots. The shadows haven't yet disappeared, not all of them. Something is coming, and it's coming to Red London.
Kell. Lila. Rhy. As before, each character is different, intriguing, hugely flawed, and looking to find something that's missing in their lives. Kell is filled with guilt, with self-hatred. Everything feels different, ever since he brought Rhy back from the dead, ever since he met Lila. Ever since Black London. In some ways he's desperate to run, desperate to leave the shackles of the court. To escape the nightmares that haunt him. He drifts through life, not sure what to do, where to go. How to go back to the Kell he was before. But he can't. Lila returns after months away at sea, months as a thief to a captain, as a student to a teacher. As a reckless, possibly amoral young woman who sees what she wants and will kill to get it. She's been poor, been nobody. Now she's somebody. She's one of a kind. And she can run as much as she can. But the past always returns, either running towards you or you running towards it. Rhy puts on the act of exciting, fun-loving prince even more so now, even while somehow spending less time out gallivanting. Things are different. He died. Now he and Kell share a life, feel what the other feels. But that's not living.
As always, the story spins and turns, races through streets and across the ocean. I'm in awe of how this alternate London feels so realistic, feels full of real people with their own plots, tricks, and motives. How their emotions, their excitement and their fear, feels so real. Everyone is seen in snippits and pieces. Back and forth, back and forth. It adds immediacy to the story, adds a desperation to my reading. Just enough is given to entertain, to intrigue, to entice, and then the scene moves away, returns to another, and I was left grasping at threads, wondering both what would happen next and what I might be missing.
This feels like a book of consequence, of guilt and fear and sorrow, as opposed to the first book when it was about discovery, revelations, and in the end, survival and escape. Here, the end results of past events are circling, coming back around, returning to show how inescapable they are. My eyes were glued to the page as I read this, unable to put it down for long because I just had to know what would happen. For me, as the story progressed, the tension built and built until the end when it burst and I was left reeling, wondering how it could end like that. Wondering how long I would have to wait to find out what happens next. A definite must-read for fantasy and magic fans, for those looking for extremely complicated and flawed characters.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)