Book Reviews

Book Review: A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3), by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3)

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3)

By: V.E. Schwab

Published: February 21, 2017

The Rundown: “The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point.  Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.  Kell—once assumed to be the last surviving Antari—begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties.  And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?  Lila Bard, one a commonplace—but never common—thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials.  But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry.  Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.  And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.”

Don’t Get Strung Out by the Way I Look: The cover depicts a black figure sitting on a red throne, a crown floating above their head.  At first glance, it looks like Lila Bard, one of the protagonists from the first two books in Shades of Magic.  Has Lila ended up a pirate queen, the conqueror of Red London?  It’s a fun thought.  However, on closer inspection, one realizes that the figure on the throne is actually Osaron, possibly while he’s wearing Holland’s body like a suit.  It’s a chilling, and effective, bait-and-switch.

The Good Guys: A Conjuring of Light has a large cast, but the central characters are the three Antari.

Kell Maresh: Kell is the Antari from Red London.  As a child, he was sold to the Maresh dynasty, who wanted him for his blood magic.  In their defense, Maxim and Emira Maresh adopted him, and he regards their son Rhy as his brother.  Despite their kindness, Kell feels less like a member of the family and more like a possession.  Kell struggles with issues of identity, and is torn between loyalty towards Rhy and a desire for freedom.

Lila Bard: Lila is the Antari from Grey London.  She’s a street rat who conned her way into a different world, onto a pirate ship, and into a tournament of magic.  Having just discovered her powers, Lila lacks control, and tends to overextend herself.  For instance, she suggests that she, Kell, and Holland battle an entire fleet by themselves.  Because of her rough past, Lila has difficulty trusting others.  Will she be able to open up enough to work with the other Antari to stop Osaron?

Holland Vosijk: Poor tortured Holland.  He’s the Antari from White London.  Once upon a time he was a proud knight, determined to protect his kingdom.  Then his king was overthrown and a spell was cast on him, making him the slave of the evil Dane twins.  Then, in an effort to save White London, he sold his body to Osaron.  Holland is a man haunted by the memories of his past, of the people he has killed.  Holland, no longer hopeful that he can resurrect his home, now wishes to save Red London by taking down Osaron personally.

The Bad Guy: Osaron is a living manifestation of magic.  His inability to control his need to create led to the death of everyone in Black London and the destruction of that world.  Due to Holland’s actions in A Gathering of Shadows, Osaron has been loosed on Red London.  He is determined to rule Red London as a god, and promises himself that he will not destroy this world too.  For some reason, this involves turning everyone into magic zombies.  Osaron’s logic is a bit iffy.

The Guy in the Good Guy’s Bed: Throughout the first and second installments of Shades of Magic, Kell and Lila flirted with and kissed each other.  In A Conjuring of Light, they take their relationship to a more intimate level.  The attraction between the two Antari makes sense.  Lila envies Kell’s family and security, and Kell envies Lila’s freedom.  Their personalities are diametrically opposed, so they have the “opposites attract” trope going for them.  Ultimately, their relationship isn’t all that interesting, as there’s no real obstacle in their way.  Nevertheless, it’s nice to see them end up together.

What a Wonderful World: Once, all four Londons were linked, and people and magic could pass through each world freely.  Then Osaron took over Black London, ruining that world.  Red London decided to seal the doors between the worlds, lest Osaron’s corruption spread.  While Red London retained its magic and prospered, White London lost all of its magic and turned icy and bleak.  Grey London, which never really had magic to start with, forgot all about the other Londons and invested their resources into technology (basically, they’re real-world 19th century London).  Now, the only people capable of passing between worlds are Antari: those born with the ability to perform blood magic.  But Antari are a dying breed, and are coveted for their power.

One Ring to Bind Them: A Conjuring of Light is a nonstop gore fest, and its protagonists are bloodthirsty psychopaths.  Though they are ostensibly good guys, each of the Antari will dispassionately butcher anyone who threatens them or stands in their way.  Then there’s Osaron, turning people into magic zombies and burning those he can’t consume into ash.  It is awesome.

50 Shades of Magic: With the exception of the magic zombies gimmick, there isn’t much to Osaron.  He’s just some crazy guy who wants to take over the world.  Furthermore, his motivations are muddled.  He wants to create, but then never makes anything.  He wants human worshippers, but tries to mind control everyone.  He says in A Gathering of Shadows that he’s learned from his mistakes, but does the exact same thing he did in Red London as he did in Black London.  He wants a human body to wear, but also doesn’t.  His inconsistent characterization makes it difficult for the reader to care about him.  Also, he says the same lines over and over and over again.

Does it Represent…

Women: There are a lot of cool female characters.  We’ve got Lila Bard, the thief, pirate, and Antari.  Having a female character that is confident to the point of brashness is refreshing.  Other cool female characters include a pirate captain and a creepy dealer of rare magical items.  Unfortunately, the book has a tendency to fridge female characters to fuel the development of their male counterparts.  Yes, male characters die too, but they tend to go out in flashes of heroism, while the liked female characters just… don’t.

People of Color: So the Maresh family, and the people of Arnes in general, are described as having very dark skin and black hair.  This would make Rhy, his family, and the majority of the characters in the main locale people of color.  It’s unclear if Kell is also a person of color—he has red hair, but plenty of non-white ethnic groups do—as he is described as ethnically ambiguous.  There’s a kingdom adjoining Arnes called Faro, whose inhabitants have black skin and religious facial piercings.  Discrimination based on race apparently doesn’t exist in this world, so racial issues aren’t touched on.  Still, it’s nice that the book’s not populated by a bunch of pasty white people.

LGBT People: Rhy is bisexual, and is deeply in love with Alucard Emery (who, despite the name, is not a vampire).  While all the characters seem to be accepting of Rhy’s preferences, it is mentioned that homosexuality is a “perversion of royals.”  Alucard’s family does not react kindly when they find out that he enjoys the company of men.

The Disabled: Lila is missing one eye.  Her lack of depth perception does not seem to impede her ability to throw knives.  Magic, perhaps?

Does the Cat Survive?: Yes

Memorable Quote: “Caring was a thing with claws.  It sank them in, and didn’t let go.  Caring hurt more than a knife to the leg, more than a few broken ribs, more than anything that bled or broke and healed again.  Caring didn’t break you clean.  It was a bone that didn’t set, a cut that wouldn’t close.”

Recommended for:  People who want to read an adventure book with magic while they’re relaxing on the beach.  It won’t challenge you emotionally, and it won’t challenge you intellectually, but it’s a lot of fun.  The first book in the series is A Darker Shade of Magic.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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