Thursday, October 11, 2018

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

A Conjuring of Light is the third and final entry in the Shades of Magic trilogy written by V.E. Schwab. 
The books are set in a universe with four parallel worlds that are connected via various flavors of London (Red, White, Grey and Black). These are listed in diminishing order of magical resonance, with Red London where almost all the action takes place and Black London is a ruined, barren place where magic ceased  to exist ages before. The main characters in the trilogy are Kell, Lila, Holland, Rhy and Alucard. Most of these characters have special magic abilities that allow them to travel between the Londons and all but Alucard appeared in all three books in the trilogy. You can read my reviews of A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows for my thoughts on the complex relationships between these main characters. Instead, since this is the final book in the trilogy I want to give my opinion on both A Conjuring of Light and the Shades of Magic trilogy as a whole.

The trilogy structure is a familiar one in the science fiction and fantasy genre. Typically, the first book is usually quite strong, introducing the compelling characters, the setting of the exciting story, which often has some plot elements resolved but leaves some to be dealt with in the subsequent books. Oftentimes the second book is not as good as the first because the characters are now familiar to the reader so the frisson that arises from novelty is lost and the author can’t conclude all the plot threads because there’s a third entry yet to come. Then the final entry often disappoints because it has to resolve all the plot points that have been introduced in the first two books and some of the characters that we have gotten to know over two books don’t make it to the end. I point this out to note how difficult it is to have a compelling trilogy.

However, the description of the generic trilogy I gave above  fits the Shades of Magic trilogy to a tee. I quite enjoyed  A Darker Shade of Magic  and was slightly less impressed with A Gathering of Shadows but still liked the second book overall. There are multiple problems with the third book, A Conjuring of Light, the main one being that it is simply too long. This is often a common problem of third books in a trilogy (c.f. The Return of the King in the Lord of the Rings books) although there are definite counterexamples (Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs trilogy and Michael J. Sullivan's Riyria Revelations are two trilogies in which each entry is uniformly excellent).

There are several good aspects of A Conjuring of Light. The centering of the most prominent female character, Lila Bard, is a plus. Additionally, the romantic scenes include those between same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples. There are many action scenes, which are written quite well. There’s also a lot of dead bodies, oftentimes of important characters who had made it through the first two books, which raises the emotional impact of the book. However, the story does drag in some parts and it took me longer to finish this book then the other two and I don't think this was due to its increased length. Overall, the third entry is not as compelling as the first two but I would recommend the trilogy and I'm glad I finally read it.

Title: A Conjuring of Light (Shade of Magic, #3).
AuthorV.E. Schwab.
Length: 624 pages.
Publisher: Tor.
Published: February 21, 2017.
Read: October 6, 2018.

GOODREADS RATING: ★☆  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).


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