Shades of Magic Trilogy

V.E. Schwab

I kept a reading journal of my first experience with this series, available here. What is clear throughout that log is my adoration and connection with Schwab’s characters. I fangirled like the preteenager I was well over a decade ago. I failed to continue the series only because I knew the final instalment would be published in late February. I preordered a signed copy of the third book (because I wanted to spoil myself a bit for a successful end of another semester) and set the series aside to return when the last book was released.

I preordered a signed copy of the third book (because I wanted to spoil myself a bit for a successful end of another semester) and set the series aside to return when the last book was released. Two months passed and I got the email the final book had shipped. I ran into my library (a sitting room covered in books and shelves, nothing fancy) and grabbed A Gathering of Shadows. I wondered if, in the two months that had passed, my connection to the characters would still hold, I worried I would no longer find the world as enchanting, I feared the charm would be gone. Carefully and loaded with these concerns, I stepped into Schwab’s world on that afternoon. I emerged breathlessly and even more enamoured with the characters, the world, and the story than I was previously. The 24 hours between finishing the 2nd book and the arrival of the 3rd book were agonising.

I cannot imagine how it felt for those who read the second book immediately upon its publication.

The final book, A Conjuring of Light, was somehow just more. The entire series is devourable, magical, interesting. Somehow, Schwab gives you more in this novel than she had in the two books prior. (And, she was not holding back in the first two. This one is just that much more.) Everything you have hoped would happen in the series begins to happen, and yet she still surprises you. These novels really were amazing products of a wonderful storyteller.

HOWEVER. Yes, there are glaring and obviously problems with this entire series. (I still love and adore it!) The main female character is strong, independent woman who fails the Bechdel Test and is basically an archetype. It pains me to say that because I adore Lila. Yet, she is a female in a male-dominated world with one female relationship (in which they discuss the love interest), with powers and abilities that are above or equal with everyone around her, with a major flaw (stubbornness) which makes her more attractive (Kell adores and is frustrated with her fierce will). She is saved from her fear of intimacy by the intervention of the love interest. While here, the love interest does not have much depth either. He is a partially-developed character who embodies loyalty (to pair with Lila’s weakness) and who worries and thinks about either Lila or his loyalty. The lack of depth in this character forces the reader to fill in his depth or accept him as a love-interest and move forward. Again, I hate to say it because the Kell I created while reading was pretty amazing. So, character development is a bit of a weak spot throughout the entire series. The last book helps fill a bit of depth through flashbacks, but I think the characters remain a bit two-dimensional and idealistic, rather than realistic.

Otherwise, I adored the series. The worldbuilding, the adventures, the magic, and the ideas Schwab played with are incredible. I loved the characters despite their impossibility. (Perhaps because Schwab spoke to the optimistic, kind of shallow, preteen that never really leaves us.) I know I will reread this series and keep it close to my heart because even with these criticisms, I love it. I devoured it. I want to spend time in a Red London pub drinking with Kell, Lila, Rhy, and Alucard hearing their stories after the series ended.

-A Bookish Girl

The Wingfeather Saga

Andrew Peterson

My first impression of the series was a whimsical family tale. Peterson’s writing was lighthearted and pleasant. As the series and conflict progressed, the humour slipped away from the writing. However, this occurs after you have bonded with the characters so their story becomes something you, as a good friend, must witness. The last book is phenomenal. I am not typically a repeat reader – there are so many books out there and stories to be told that I enjoy a story and read a new one. Yet, as I read these books, I knew I would read them again and again.

I typically read dark fantasy like Abercrombie and Lynch, so it was a bit of a culture shock to read a novel where the main characters continuously escape and survive impossible situations consistently. I stopped worrying about the characters because I knew they would be fine. Instead, I began to picture it as a grandchild listening to tales of her grandparents’ youth in awe and with the assured knowledge they would be okay because here they were telling you the story. The last novel in the series felt more mature as if the children had become more aware of the conflict in the world. In this shift, moments of lightness shine all the brighter.

There are moments of beautiful, profound depth that stay with you, encouraging and filling you with hope when storms threaten to fill you with despair in your own life. The family dynamic is one of the most authentic I have read in a fantasy series. And at the end of the series, when the author leaves you, and the last word is written, the story is finished internally, and you will be surprised to find your conclusion is hopefully, optimistic, and as whimsical as the first novel.

-A Bookish Girl