#WyrdandWonder Book Review: A Sleight of Shadows by Kat Howard

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

A Sleight of Shadows by Kat Howard

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of The Unseen World

Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press (April 25, 2023)

Length: 320 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

It’s been close to six years since An Unkindness of Magicians came out, and after all this time, I worried I would not remember enough of the story before I picked up its sequel, A Sleight of Shadows. As it turned out though, getting back into the world was remarkably easy. There were both good and not-so-good reasons for this, which I will be going into in a bit.

But first, we catch up with our protagonist Sydney, who has lost all her magic ever since sacrificing her powers to destroy the House of Shadows during the last Turning. In the aftermath, the magical community that makes up the Unseen World is still reeling with the changes, one of them being the ascendance of House Prospero. Meanwhile, rising star magician Laurent Beauchamps is also looking for new recruits to join his newly established House by reaching out to outsiders like himself. One of the candidates is Mia Rodriguez, who has always known she was different. She was just a little girl when she discovered she could sometimes make things move with her mind, and she seizes upon Laurent’s invitation to join his school as an opportunity to learn as much as she can about magic.

But even with Sydney’s sacrifice, the House of Shadows cannot be so easily defeated. Now it is rebuilding itself, and with both relief and chagrin, Sydney also finds her magic coming back slowly but surely. With the other Houses weakened though, everyone is looking for someone to blame, and naturally, all eyes fall on Prospero, who seems the least affected. At a loss as to what to do, their leader Grace turns to Sydney for help, hoping her past experiences with Shadows can help unlock some answers.

As you can imagine, having a sequel come out so many years after the original presents a lot of challenges. I will confess that I had forgotten many details of the story and all the characters involved, and the fact that A Sleight of Shadows takes place immediately following the events at the end of An Unkindness of Magicians was also a brave decision by the author. It means this novel is squarely aimed at fans of the first book, as there is simply too much in here that builds upon already existing foundations for newcomers to jump on board.

To her credit though, Kat Howard did a fantastic job catching readers up. References to what happened were made subtly and organically without the use of awkward info dumps. Within a few chapters of being back in the Unseen World, it was like I’d never left.

However, given the amount of time we’ve been away from these characters, I will say I felt noticeably disconnected from them this time around. The distance can even be felt in the writing. In one striking example, a somewhat major character who was also in the first book dies, and the scene felt muted—the emotions just weren’t there, not even in the words.

And in truth, another reason why it was so easy to get back into this world is because the plot held little substance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying nothing of significance happened, because the plot was plenty packed and eventful. But it’s also true that the stakes just didn’t feel as high, and the overall conflict was relatively small-scale.

That said, if you enjoy urban fantasy, A Sleight of Shadows does a great job carrying on the tradition of the first book’s themes, featuring a secret world of wealth and luxurious magic hiding beneath the surface of the mundane. As a sequel, it also fulfills its purpose of expanding what we know of the Houses and added a whole lot more to the series lore. Kat Howard’s prose feels as rich and gorgeous as ever, bringing the setting and characters to life in magnificent detail, and I’m grateful for the gentle way she eased me back for a fun, comfortable, and lowkey return to the Unseen World.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of An Unkindness of Magicians (Book 1)

11 Comments on “#WyrdandWonder Book Review: A Sleight of Shadows by Kat Howard”

  1. I’ve had Unkindness on my ‘would be interested in getting’ list for ages now, so maybe it’ll work better for me if/when I do pick it and a sequel up directly. Very balanced review there, at any rate!


  2. I barely remember the first book so I sort of wrote this one off. Way too long between books for me, lol. But it sounds like it was decent!


  3. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 05/07/23: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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