It’s been a while since I finished A Gathering of Shadows, and in a way I’m glad it took me so long to get around to reading the final instalment of V E Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy, because I’ve really enjoyed living in this world and I didn’t want the story to come to an end. But it has, and as with the previous two books, I was completely taken in.
The shadows that have been lingering since the first book are accumulating and threatening to eclipse the light completely in A Conjuring of Light. Magic is threatening to consume nature, and Lila and Kell have to face a challenging adversary. How do you fight an enemy who is every where and no where? While they attempt to find a way to defeat Osaron once and for all, Rhy battles dark forces outside the castle and within. Red London’s ruby river has turned black, but will the entire city follow the fate of the last world consumed by magic?
As always the world building was excellent. The quest to defeat Osaron leads our heroes to a mysterious black market on the sea, but most importantly for me, it fleshes out the back story of Holland. He’s a hard character to define because even though he’s done terrible things under the control of the Athos twins, he cares about his dying world and that makes him ruthless too. The flashbacks to his past life show us how he’s been broken down and re-shaped by betrayal. He doesn’t trust anyone because the people he has trusted have used it against him. Emotions have no place in his world, and he’s learnt the hard way what happens when you let your guard down. It’s almost heartbreaking that he still wants to protect a world that has caused him so much pain. His end felt like the only possible outcome for someone who has nothing else to fight for.
I wish Kell and Lila’s pasts had been developed in a similar way. Through the series, I feel it’s been building up to a big reveal about where they came from, who their parents are, why Kell’s family handed him over to the Maresh and why Lila lost her eye, but it’s not explained and I can’t help but feel that the characters are worse off for it. I understand why Kell might not want to know, now that he’s fully embraced his identity as a member of the Maresh family but it might have given us more insight into who he is, or even provided an interesting subplot. Kell and Lila have conflicting personalities and it’s nice to see them challenging each other and their easy back and forth. However, the more I read, the more invested I was in their friendship rather than a romantic relationship.
Aside from Holland, Rhy has the biggest character development of the series. We see him go from Lothario to conscientious ruler. He recognises that he’s living on borrowed time and that gives him a unique perspective on life, and we see him putting this into action time and again. He’s not the self-centred prince we met in A Darker Shade of Magic.
As with the other books in the series, power is shown to have a cost but despite this Lila comes out relatively untouched. Reading this book, I realised I had quite a complicated relationship with her as a character. I like that she’s fiercely independent, unapologetic and self-interested but she lost some of that here. To a lesser extent she’s quite similar to Osaron in that she wants more, and is prepared to hurt people to get it, but while everyone else seems to pay a heavy price to survive in A Conjuring of Light, Lila doesn’t. I think, what I’m trying to say in such a convoluted way is that I didn’t quite feel she earned her ending.
Anyway, despite having some misgivings I did enjoy reading the closing chapter of this series. V E Schwab has created an interesting and original world for readers to escape to.