A Gathering of Shadows (A Darker Shade of Magic) - V E Schwab

I think it's always a good sign when the first thing that you think after reading a book that's part of a series is this: when is the next one out? And that was basically my response to the ending of A Gathering of Shadows, which finishes with a massive cliffhanger and one of the main characters in big, life-threatening trouble. The answer, apparently, is some (as yet unspecified) time in 2017!


Anyway, this is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, which I read and reviewed at the end of last year, so when I was in my local library recently and saw they had a copy of A Gathering of Shadows, I grabbed it immediately. The storyline pretty much carries on from where the previous book left off - Lila has now found herself a place on a ship, which is what she wanted, and meanwhile back in Red London, Kell and Rhy are trying to deal with the aftermath of the magic Kell used to save his brother's life but which also bound their life forces together. 


A Gathering of Shadows also introduces another major character, Alucard Emery, who is the captain of the ship where Lila ends up and who also turns out to be a talented magician in his own right. Both Alucard and Lila have secrets and Lila discovers she also has a talent for magic, to the point where she impulsively decides that she wants to enter the impending tournament for magic users back in Red London. Kell has also hatched a plan to enter, under an assumed identity, a plan which Rhy encourages since he's concerned that Kell is now too worried about his own welfare because of the direct impact any harm he suffers has on his brother. Meanwhile, things are also happening in the other cities linked to Red London, some of which are directly related to decisions made and actions taken by Kell in the previous book - yes, the chickens really are coming home to roost! 


One of the things I think is most interesting about this book is the way that Lila is very much written as an anti-hero, which is quite unusual for a female character. Lila does some pretty bad things in this book, particularly in terms of violent acts towards people who have wronged her in some way, but no excuses are made for this by reference to her childhood, for example. Likewise, the author is still steering clear of YA-style insta-love, which always annoys me immensely - there's clearly a growing relationship between Lila and Kell, but it's not developed in a way which is out of character for either of them.