Book Review: A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 3 of Shades of Magic
Publisher: Tor (February 21, 2017)
Length: 624 pages
My impression after I finished A Conjuring of Light was that it was definitely better than the first book, but I think the second one was still my favorite. As this was a series that took its time growing on me though, I had a lot riding on this concluding volume—yet when all is said and done, I’m actually quite happy with the way this novel turned out. The ending was very satisfying and epic, despite having to take an inordinately long and windy road to get there.
This story begins right after the end of A Gathering of Shadows, so if you have not started the trilogy yet, beware of possible spoilers in this review for the first two books. If you’ve been following along up to this point though, you’ll know that Kell has become an Antari in exile, distrusted by his adopted parents the king and queen of Red London, even after everything he has done and given for his beloved brother, Prince Rhy. Lila Bard, hailing from Grey London, has come a long way since her days as a common thief after discovering her abilities as a magician, but now she must learn to master her powers before they consume her. Meanwhile, Captain Alucard Emery of the ship Night Spire is another skilled magician, and he has since returned to London to be at the palace with Rhy, with whom he used to have a relationship.
In the aftermath of all the turmoil though, a dark force has risen, threatening the fates of all. Something always rushes in to fill a vacuum, and not surprisingly, the broken balance has created an opportunity for a new king to emerge and seize power. At last, the battle of the Londons has come to a head, and now our characters must set aside their differences and work together in order to defeat a common foe. Even an Antari needs help once in a while, and if they can’t all unite to combine their strengths, everything will be lost.
A Conjuring of Light was great because of the answers. Finally, we get resolutions to a lot of mysteries left hanging from the previous books. We learn the consequences of the destruction of Black London, as well as what has become of the dark magic moldering in its wake. We also find out about the links to White London, and what happened there to cause such a threat to Red London. In addition, the characters are greatly developed in this installment, exploring their histories and relationships. Kell and Lila finally get to a point where they must examine what they are to each other—allies, friends, or perhaps something more? Lila herself became less belligerent and unbearable too, I was pleasantly surprised to find, so that was a nice bonus. The complex bond between Alucard and Rhy also gets some attention in this novel as the two of them reconnect and get the chance to clear the air. I was even happy to get to know more about Holland, whom I always felt was a bit underdeveloped—until now.
The not-so-great part about this book? I found the first half to be somewhat trying. If you’ve been following this series, then I’m sure you’ve noticed: each installment has been growing in page count since A Darker Shade of Magic, and I won’t deny that when my copy of A Conjuring of Light first arrived I found myself making side eyes at its thickness. I had serious doubts that all 600+ pages of this book would hold my attention equally, and unfortunately I was right; the first half of the book just didn’t interest me as much, filled with meandering plot threads and filler-type scenes that felt like they were simply there to stall for time.
It’s a shame that my overall experience was dragged down by the beginning or otherwise my rating would probably be higher, so thank goodness that the pacing stepped up in the second half to clinch the finale. In short, I loved the ending. In fact, I felt the entire second half was very strong, as that’s where most of the best parts can be found. I’m talking action and intrigue, pacts and betrayals, magical conflicts and battles at sea. All this ultimately builds to an unforgettable climax, one that will not disappoint. I also have no doubts that the conclusion will also leave fans of this trilogy happy, since it ties things up so well.
So was A Conjuring of Light worth it? Absolutely. It was a slight struggle to get to the end, but when I finally got there I had no regrets. Despite its ups and downs, Shades of Magic was an enjoyable trilogy overall and I would recommend it for its sheer imagination and sense of wonder and magic. Taken as a whole, it is an impressive achievement by V.E. Schwab and I continue to look forward to what she will do next!