A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab: b-b-but why??

Do you see that little red heart-shaped thing lying on the floor over there? Well. It’s heart-shaped because it is MY ACTUAL HEART, AND IT’S ON THE FLOOR BECAUSE IT WAS KINDLY RIPPED OUT BY VICTORIA SCHWAB.

Sorry for the not-so-lovely imagery.

That ending is not acceptable. And for those trying to console me saying: At least ACoL is already out, Nina, so you don’t have to wait in agony until it’s released, I tell you: NO. I actually cannot get ACoL now because I have a ton of exams, and I would prefer to read my most anticipated book of the year in peace without “KEEP IN MIND, YOUR 65434 ASSIGNMENTS ARE DUE TOMORROW!” being yelled in my ear.

Call me crazy, but I like to actually, you know, enjoy my books.

Anyways. Where was I? Ah. I’m just getting started.

For this one, know that I had a TON of high expectations for it, because ADSOM was pure perfection. So naturally, my expectations skyrocketed to Mars and got stranded there because they were out of fuel (they used it all up hyping themselves, get it? HAHAHAHAH- okay I’ll stop now).

But in all seriousness, I must say I’m impressed with AGOS. So very, very impressed, in fact, that I wanted to reread this 500+ page-monstrous-thing right after I finished it because a)many scenes were AWESOME. b)I may have read the last 15% too fast, and c)HOW COULD I NOT HAVE SEEN THAT ENDING COMING. TELL ME. (No, I actually knew it’s coming, but I so very hoped I’d be wrong).

As you can tell, I have a lot to discuss, but never fear. I have a comprehensible list for you. I’m very thoughtful that way. #You’reWelcome (and no, that was not a Moana reference. Calm down).

The plot is slower than ADSOM, and yet this wasn’t a problem at all. I actually liked that the second book is less action-y and more focused on world-building (which is superb, might I add) and character development (lots of it). Which leads me to bullet point number 2.

The character-driven plotline was, oddly, not a turn-off for me. Anyone who has yelled about books with me before knows that the easiest way to scare me is to lean over, tap my shoulder, and whisper, Hey, Nina, that book you’re reading? It’s CHARACTER DRIVEN. You say that, and I guarantee you, I’ll run to the nearest bus stop, never to be seen again. I just can. not. deal. with character-driven novels. I don’t know why; It’s just the way I am, apparently.
Buuut now I surprised myself (I mean, really. The last book I read that was 100% character driven and loved it was THE WINNER’S CRIME, because, ya know, that’s RUTKOSKI we’re talking about. And FYI, I read that in 2015. I hope you get the idea here) I surprisingly enjoyed this one because I really really liked that not much happened in AGOS except character development, for the most part. And why, you ask? Because I may or may not be completely obsessed with Kell and Lila and Rhy and Alucard and The Night Spire and Tree #3 and even Kell’s Coat (who is a character. Don’t you dare argue with me). But mainly Kell. Because, well HE’S KELL (and I realize that explains NOTHING but I’ll get to screaming about the characters. Just you wait. But I must address something before that, and I’m saving best for last.)

Kell and Lila’s separation drove me crazy. Schwab does this cruel little thing that plays with the reader’s feeling every time Kell or Lila are in a large crowd (if you’ve read AGoS, you know what I’m talking about; if not, I’m not explaining any more because I don’t want to ruin your reading experience (it’s not a spoiler, exactly, but still.)). Regardless, though, I did appreciate the chance to see their individual storylines, and it’s great to know that they’re not dependent on each other to shine.

Rhy is the best addition to the sequel I could ever have asked for. Um, he is ADORABLE. And hilarious. And sarcastic and funny and his continuous habit of annoying Kell made me smile on multiple occasions. Sibling dynamics, guys. Sibling dynamics melt my heart every time.

Kell and Lila’s romance is perfectly developed. It’s gradual. It’s natural. It’s Diet Romance, no sugar added, and that kind is my favorite. Why? There isn’t much, anyways, and what little there is only serves to broaden the character development, not slow down the plot-curve (as romances typically tend to do, unfortunately), or turn our MCs sappy and useless (as you can tell, I’m not much of a romantic. But Kell and Lila worked out perfectly for me, so that’s saying something BIG.) Bottom line: I love them both, together and apart.

Schwab’s writing style just.. clicks.. There’s something about it that feels as if it’s made specifically for me. And I know that’s a weird thing to say, but the words just.. fit me. They’re the right puzzle pieces, if you will. And I love the picture they make when they’re all connected.

I love Kell EVEN MORE in this one, as if such a thing were possible. His development in AGoS dealt with his emerging dark side, the consequences of his actions is ADSoM, and his altered family dynamics (which straight up broke my heart) and, of course, his distance from Lila.
I realize I’ve made it no obscure fact that KELL CAN DO NO WRONG IN MY EYES. I can’t explain why I love him so much. I really can’t. Could he be my favorite male lead of all time? Maybe. (He’s challenging Kaz Brekker for that spot and KELL MARESH MIGHT JUST WIN. I don’t know.)
Why? He’s flawed. He’s under so much pressure. But his experiences are perfectly conveyed, you can’t help but sympathy with him. Yet he’s, in his own way, perfect. If Kell doesn’t get his HEA, I’m setting ACoL on fire.

Contrary to most, I actually liked Lila MORE in this one than ADSOM. Yes, I know she’s reckless and impulsive, but at least she admits it?? She KNOWS her habit of charging face-first into danger has consequences, and yet she does this anyway because of her love of the thrill of it. I mean, really. How many times have we seen a female lead that fights because she WANTS to, not because of circumstance or to save someone? For me, personally? I’ve never seen this before. And this makes Lila so very interesting to read about.
And what finally endeared her to me 100% is her sudden inexplicable impulse to wear a ball gown. I mean, sure, she can kick people’s butts, but who says she cannot have simple girly impulses and go along with them? I loved loved loved this side of her. Yes, she’s a feminist, and yes, she can wear a fluffy sparkly dress if she wants to, too. Go Lila.

Aaaand I think I’ll stop here. I’m aware that this review is quite lengthy compared to my usual word count, but wow. AGoS is terrific, and I could honestly talk about how satisfied I am with it all day.

Except I can’t think about it a lot, because that ending PAINS ME.

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