A Conjuring of Light

29939230by V. E. Schwab
Fantasy
5 of 5 stars

The perfect ending to this series! I so rarely enjoy the last book in a series as much as the others, but this one hit all the beats I could have asked for. The end for each character felt right—probably because they all experience deep loss. Don’t worry, no spoilers!

This book picks up the instant after the cliff-hanger ending of book 2, which is perfect because I had to know what happened to Lila! She charges into White London to save Kell, and it is nonstop action from there. Essentially, Kell, Lila, Rhy, Alucard, and Holland must figure out if they can stop the warped magical incarnation Osaron before it destroys Red London in its quest for power. Of course, all the personal feuds and past history between them makes that task seem even more impossible.

Some of my favorite scenes in this series occur in this book! Lila in particular had me laughing out loud, and there are final revelations about magic in all the Londons that are clever and fun. It was probably important to include these moments to balance the relentless death and destruction. (Because it is absolutely relentless!)

Enjoy an excellent blend of dark magic, black humor, and awkward moments between these characters. It’s a bit faster-paced than the first two books and continues to build on everything I loved about the first two. Schwab stuck the landing and I can mark this trilogy as a new favorite series!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, A Conjuring of Light is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – A slow-burn story of dark magic in the wilderness of Rus’. One girl is destined by her mother to save her village from the growing power of the Bear. The atmosphere of this story is incredible and will keep a hold on you long after the last page! See my review here.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Because if you can’t get enough of magical doors in London you can read about Richard and how his encounter with the strange girl named Door sets off a chain of events that threaten everyone in the city.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – A wonderfully dark story of a sorcerer and a girl with unusual magical talents that must learn to work together to save their land from the evil in the heart of their forest. See my review here.
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – Even more adventures in magical futuristic London! Paige tries to gather voyants to her side as Scion’s threat grows. See my review here.
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A Gathering of Shadows

20764879by V.E. Schwab
Fantasy
5 of 5 stars

I loved the first book in this series from the first line (magic coats? Yes, there are never enough). In keeping with this fantastic year for sequels, this one completely lived up to my hopes! I put off reading it for a few months because of sequel fear, and now I’m glad I did that because the cliff-hanger ending is terrible and I have to wait months for the last book!

Set in Red London four months after the magic and mayhem in the previous book, we find Delilah Bard adrift at sea while Kell and Rhy deal with their newfound bond in the castle. A magical contest is scheduled to begin soon to unite the three empires in a traditional, peace-keeping event. Will this bring together our heroes in dangerous, unexpected, often hilarious and sexually charged ways? You know the answer to that!

Lila’s new temporary home aboard the Night Spire with Captain Alucard Emery highlights her acute confusion about her future as she achieves most everything she ever wanted yet still wants to run. Kell chafes at the new restrictions placed on him after the disaster months ago and tries to hide it from Rhy, which doesn’t work because Rhy now feels everything Kell feels.

Although the setup for the magical contest takes up most of the pages, if you love these characters you won’t mind the gradual buildup and relational drama as they reveal uncomfortable truths about themselves. Especially since relational drama was in very short supply in the first book. If you view the trilogy with each book taking Act 1, 2 or 3, it is flowing along perfectly in that respect. Welcome to Act 2 – dealing with the inciting incidents and how they want to handle future incidents. Enjoy some familiar tropes (magical contests) with addictive secrets and biting remarks.

My favorite thing about exploring any fantasy world is delving into the inner workings. Any book introduces the rudimentary aspects, but in a series you can go beyond the surface level and find surprising new things about how the magic works, or what the characters are responsible for, or new locations and favorite haunts. And in this case, tons of amazing coats as well. (Diana Wynne Jones ruined me, don’t judge me!)

If the most important thing for your enjoyment of a series is consistency, you will find that here! If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, A Gathering of Shadows is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – If you just love mythical forms of London, soak up this vision of a futuristic underworld ruled by clairvoyants fighting against a regime that seeks to destroy them. Paige returns to her old haunts hoping to win her old boss Jaxon Hall to her cause—and when he seems hesitant she decides to fight on without him. See my review here.
  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – If you can’t get enough of angsty wizards in magical coats, enjoy some time with Wizard Howl as he avoids all responsibilities to multiple kingdoms and deals with Sophie, an infuriating girl under a spell who insists on seeing the best in him. See my review here.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Another version of London with strange magic and stranger inhabitants. Richard stops to help a strange girl on the streets and is pulled in to a battle for the city and for himself.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – A village thinks their local sorcerer is the most dangerous thing they face, but the reality is much worse. Agnieszka becomes his unwilling apprentice and finds that she has unusual magic that might defeat the evil looming at the kingdom’s borders. See my review here.
  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – A magical competition between three sisters for the crown. A Poisoner, a Naturalist, and an Elemental must see who is strongest by killing their sisters before they kill her. See my review here.

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

A Darker Shade of Magic series by V. E. Schwab

I fell in love with this series from the first line–it’s exactly the type of fantasy story I love! Kell is one of the only Antari left (magicians who can travel between the four parallel Londons) and has a bad habit of smuggling between the worlds, which is forbidden. When he accidentally brings a piece of Black London (destroyed by magic) to Red London all hell breaks loose.

These characters are incredible, and if you want a heart-stopping twisting read look no further! (See my review here if you don’t believe me). If you need a spoiler-filled refresher, you can find what happened in the first two books here. I’m so excited for the conclusion to this trilogy in February!

29939230

A Darker Shade of Magic

22055262by V.E. Schwab
Fantasy
5 of 5 stars

I’ve had this on my list for almost a year and I am so glad I got around to it! I knew from page 1 that this is exactly my type of poison, and it only got better from there. (I am now pestering everyone I know to read it). Dark magic, characters in fabulous coats, and four Londons—my favorite city multiplied by four. For me, it was insta-love!

Kel is one of only two Antari left—powerful magicians that can move between the parallel worlds. He also has a bad habit of smuggling items between the worlds, which is expressly forbidden by laws in all four of them. When he accidentally transfers a piece of Black London (destroyed by dark magic and the reason the four worlds are sealed off and kept separate) he must return it before it destroys the remaining three worlds with its power.

Lila is an aspiring pirate, current thief, making her way in Grey London when she bumps into Kel and proceeds to steal the stone without knowing what it is. Fighting turns to tentative friendship and of course complete chaos follows them from one London to the next.

So much to love here: excellent character studies, fast-paced action, and a twisting plot. The magic system continually evolves and derails what at first glance seems to be a straightforward story, which I loved. You’re never comfortable for long because the minute the characters decide what to do, you can bet it won’t work. I didn’t realize how often you can anticipate the steps of a story until my expectations were thrown aside for an alternative (and satisfying, that’s key) option. The writing isn’t pretty or delicious because it isn’t purple, but it’s my favorite type of specificity that I tend to find with Maggie Stiefvater’s work. There were a few sections of info-dumping but by that point I was so curious I didn’t care. The narration is a bit like a fairy tale or Diana Wynne Jones, so if you like those you will love this!

This is a fun adventure and though you can see its roots clearly (they’re even alluded to on the back jacket flap) this had me hooked! I’m excited to see where the series goes.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, A Darker Shade of Magic is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I recommend this partly because it’s another book where I knew it was for me from page 1! Agnieszka knows her perfect best friend is going to be the local wizard’s captive apprentice—except when he comes to choose a girl it isn’t Kasia. Incredible world-building, dark magic, excellent twists. See my review here.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Another dark London portal fantasy (unsurprising since Gaiman is one of Schwab’s influences) where ordinary office worker Richard Mayhew meets a young girl wounded on the street. Her name is Door, and the doors she creates and opens will change Richard’s life forever.
  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – One of my favorite YA fantasy novels of all time, also featuring a reluctant wizard with a penchant for magical coats who needs a strong-willed female sidekick to keep him honorable. See my review here.
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley – Her foray into adult fantasy features vampires, delicious baked goods, and a girl known as Sunshine that finds herself befriending the very enemy her town is fighting against. This is a vivid, memorable book that I love!
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – A gang of criminals with an impossible heist unite to beat the odds—even though they all plan to betray each other in the process. This book is amazing, just read it. If you need convincing, see my review here.
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – Book 2 in a seven-part series, the author describes this as her love letter to London. Paige returns to her underground criminal home with the intent of turning the voyants against the Rephaim. It’s full of intrigue, action, and theatrics! See my review here.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Mia Corvere is determined to survive initiation into the Red Church to become one of the best assassins in the land. Only then can she avenge her fallen family. See my review here.

What’s new this month

I’m a bit overwhelmed by the February releases this year! Here are the books I’m adding to my list this month:

KR2/2 – Kings Rising – C. S. Pacat

The much-anticipated conclusion in this trilogy centered around political intrigue and the relationship between banished prince Damen, now a slave in enemy territory, and his new master, Laurent, prince of that country. So much drama and (all kinds) of tension! It’s so character-driven, which is unusual in the fantasy genre, so I can’t wait to read more. I devoured the first book and I need to find out how this ends immediately!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

 


 

assassin's heart

2/2 – Assassin’s Heart – by Sarah Ahiers

Pitched as The Godfather meets Romeo and Juliet, this story about assassin families and intrigue caught my eye immediately. If anyone has gotten obsessed with the Throne of Glass series, here’s another assassin to keep you on the edge of your seat until September! Lea must avenge her family’s death which probably happened thanks to her secret relationship with Val, an assassin from a rival family. I expect plenty of murder and intrigue!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

stars above2/2 – Stars Above – by Marissa Meyer

For everyone who just can’t handle the end of The Lunar Chronicles, enjoy this collection of novellas set in the same world with more to love from your favorite characters. As someone who still hasn’t gotten around to the brick that is Winter, I probably won’t read this for a while, but I think it’s timed perfectly for everyone who finished the last book in November. I love that publishers are getting more comfortable with short fiction! (5 new stories are included with 4 previously published tales).

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

abyss surrounds us2/8 – The Abyss Surrounds Us – by Emily Skrutskie

Pirates! Sea monster/dragon creatures! Lesbians! Story, you have my interest – please please please don’t disappoint! The takes the adventure and kick-ass heroines I love and promises some new twists and exciting world-building. This is part one of a duology, so more points for not stringing me along for years. I’ve found this structure tends to cut down on the “middle book” syndrome of stretching out character arcs and events just to fill space. This is the first of several pirate debuts for 2016 –I’ll resist making a pirate joke of some kind.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

morning star2/9 – Morning Star – by Pierce Brown

I’ll admit, I think I’ve read enough dystopian books to get the gist and I’m kind of over the commoners uprising against the rich ruler types. I admit the Communist leaning of the cover intrigues me. Anyway, I know this has a strong following so to all the existing fans, rejoice, the conclusion is here! Darrow’s long-standing battle to bring justice to his world (no doubt at steep cost) will wrap up in this volume. His plan is to bring down the Golds from the inside, but we all know plans tend to go wrong…

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

blackhearts2/9 – Blackhearts – by Nicole Castroman

The story of Blackbeard before his legendary status as a pirate captain! Edward Drummond is chafing against the restraints of high society. Anne Barrett loses her family fortune and must become a maid—in the Drummond household—when her true dream is to return to her mother’s island. I can’t wait to see how these characters chase their “unconventional” dreams together! I’m also intrigued by pirates used in a slightly historical sense as well.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

these vicious masks2/9 – These Vicious Masks – by Tarun Shanker

Jane Austen meets X-Men? I’m down for that. A girl searching for her missing sister, Victorian romance, family secrets, London (my favorite city!)…I think this will be a fun little adventure! I’m a bit worried about some of the tropes but if the characters are well-drawn it will be quite fun enough for me. I’m hoping this will be similar to Silver in the Blood but with smoother pacing.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

girl from everywhere2/16 – The Girl from Everywhere – by Heidi Heilig

Similar to January’s Passenger, we have time-travel and high stakes relationships! Nix has followed her father through time for years and even has an out-of-time love interest on board their ship. But now her father wants to return to Honolulu, Nix’s birthplace—before her mother dies in childbirth. He wants to save her mother. Nix isn’t sure what will happen if her father tries to change time, but his dream could kill her. The relationships and conflicts in this story sound amazing, I can’t wait!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

A Gathering of Shadows Final2/23 – A Gathering of Shadows – by V.E. Schwab

OK, I haven’t gotten the chance to read the first book yet (A Darker Shade of Magic) but I fell in love with her writing last year and I want to read more of her stuff! Again, set in London and promising tons of addictive mayhem, I want to explore these characters as soon as I can. Time-travel, magic, intrigue—I’m sure it’s amazing! I just need to make room on my shelf. This month has too much awesome stuff coming out!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


 

Raven King2/23 – The Raven King – by Maggie Stiefvater

Remember that this gorgeous, epic book was delayed until April 26th! I know it’s the second delay, but it stings less. I have to re-read the books – and all of these amazing February releases – so April will be here before I know it! And at least we have cover art now. 🙂

Vicious

13638125by V.E. Schwab (Victoria Schwab)
Fantasy / Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars

This book blew up in my social media feeds a few months ago as if it just came out, but in actuality this is from 2013. The author recently sold a sequel to it, and I’m very excited about that! I wasn’t sure if this would be my cup of tea, but as it turns out I couldn’t put it down. Aside from a slight lull in tension about halfway through, I couldn’t wait to unravel the characters’ connections and see what happened next. This was like a superhero blockbuster movie with better dialogue and more planning. The writing is visual and sharp, and although I think some more time could have been spent on character development, I really don’t have anything to nitpick.

Victor Vale and Eli Cardale were college roommates with a penchant for scientific discovery and aspirations for greatness. When they decide to see if near death experiences could result in giving someone superhuman abilities, they immediately test their theory themselves–and find out they are right. But while Victor rejoices in learning that humans can be capable of so much more, Eli is convinced their abilities mark them as unnatural and against God. Obviously, when they can’t reconcile their opinions, mayhem ensues.

I went into this thinking that it was a villain’s origin story, but Victor and Eli are both painted in shades of gray, and this made it so much more enjoyable. Their interactions with everyone around them, whether normal or ExtraOrdinary, are riveting, as are the plans for their showdown. If anyone remembers the TV show “Heroes” (or this year’s reboot, “Heroes: Reborn”), this is what that show tries and fails to do–showcase people with unique abilities as they encounter obstacles to their existence. It’s just that unlike that show, this book is easy to follow. I highly recommend this and can’t wait for the sequel!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Vicious is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website, here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – When the blood fever sweeps through the continent, it leaves hundreds of marked children in its wake, and some of these children possess startling new powers. Adelina discovers her own when she runs away from her abusive father, and she is not going to let anyone else hurt her. See my review here.
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – In a world where clairvoyance is both rampant and illegal, Paige Mahoney navigates London’s underworld as she tries to assemble the voyants to fight back against the totalitarian regime. See my review here.
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – This does take the leap into space but it has a similar narrative style and it’s a suspenseful story about one boy finding out if he is destined to save the world–or hasten its destruction. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel becomes trapped in the empire’s plots as she tries to both keep her father alive through the war and aid her lover’s country behind the emperor’s back. See my review here.

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