This is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, the second of a trilogy. The first is paramount to the second, to understand how Red London works and how magic works in this realm. There are English and American covers and I have to admit I’m a little jealous of the American covers. They look like puppets! I have the red cover version
A Darker Shade of Magic ends with antari magician Kell having saved the Londons, and his brother Rhy. Prince Rhy is recovering from his near death and the family are being extra careful. Lila, Grey London cutpurse, has decided to stay in Red London, and to fulfil her dream of becoming a pirate. Four months later, Lila is at sea and Kell is having nightmares in Red London (and wondering what sort of trouble Lila is getting into. The answer is a lot). The Element Games, a sort of magical tournee, is being held in London, and Lila’s captain Alucard Emery is competing. This takes Lila back to Kell’s London, and the games are just beginning. Over in White London, a world away, magic is returning, but the magic wants more than one world, it wants them all.
So, in the last book, I fell in love with Lila Bard. Smart-mouth cut-throat that she was, she’s only gotten worse living at sea with privateers (She’s annoyed she hasn’t ended up with pirates but what can a girl do?). Her morality is as grey as ever, her knives as sharp and her tongue even sharper. She ran from Kell, from friendship and from Red London to go on adventures and she has found them. And magic. She seems to have a little jiminy cricket in her head that sounds like Kell, which can be amusing when she’s arguing with his reasoning.
Kell, meanwhile, has loads of restrictions placed on him after the events of the first book. He and Rhy hate them, sneaking out even more and getting into way more trouble with Kell bearing all the punishments. He feels trapped, and he hates it. His nightmares leave him irritable, and he often thinks of Lila – like often. He’s just a little ball of worry and you want to find him a stress ball or something because Rhy certainly doesn’t help anyone’s stress levels! And of course, these two meet up again entirely true to form and it is amazing.
We have some new characters – Alucard is the captain of Lila’s ship – he speaks fluent Royal (English) and teaches Lila. He is also someone that Kell really doesn’t like so when Kell finds out Lila was about Alucard’s ship it is painful like second hand embarrassment painful. Calla the dress-merchant returns! She’s Lila’s only female acquaintance and, dare I say it, friend and she is a dear.
I loved finding out more about the world, about the politics, about the other empires in this world and the developing politics of the White. Lila being at sea opens the world even more, giving it borders and international politics and a new dimension to magic – each culture in Red has its own ways of using and abusing elemental magic. The Element Games was interesting, but the more interesting stuff happens in the tents and the balconies of the palace. It’s such an intricate world and I really love learning more about it. This series is rapidly earning a very high place in my favourite series list, I’m thinking third (after Harry Potter and Northern lights).
I have a favourite quote of the book – and it is Lila who says it:
“Everyone thinks I have a death wish, you know? But I don’t want to die – dying is easy. No, I want to live, but getting close to death is the only way to feel alive. And once you do it, it makes you realize that everything you were doing before wasn’t actually living. It was just making do. Call me crazy, but I think we do the best living, when the stakes are high.”
IT ENDED ON A CLIFFHANGER WHICH I AM NO OK WITH BECAUSE I CAN’T BUY ANY MORE BOOKS TILL I MOVE WHICH IS OVER A MONTH AWAY. I can’t wait for my dissertation draft to be over now because the second it is, I am taking a picnic to the park and reading A Conjuring of Light from dawn until dusk.