Literature and London Part 1: A Darker Shade of London Magic

I’ve been meaning to write this post since I’d gotten back from vacation in April, and somehow time got away with me. Or, shall I say, I ran away from time due to other time-sensitive (hah!)…stuff. In any case, I wanted to do a more geeky, in-depth post about my very short time in London (and its surrounding areas). And, of course, because I’m a book-nerd, I was going to do so with a bookish twist, much like what I did with my Prague post!

“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London.” – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Unlike Prague, it’s got a bit more of an assortment of literary fandoms, only because many books I’ve read encompass various parts of the United Kingdom, and not just that of the city itself. Since I knew the Shades of Magic and Harry Potter references would run a bit long, I decided to split my London and Literature series of blog posts into three parts.

And, of course, Schwab won out as the first post. Because why the hell not?!

Windsor’s distance from London was terribly inconvenient considering the fact that, when traveling between worlds, Kell could only move between a place in one and the same exact place in another. Which was a problem because there was no Windsor Castle a day’s journey from Red London. In fact, Kell had just come through the stone wall of a courtyard belonging to a wealthy gentleman in a town called Disan. Disan was, on the whole, a very pleasant place.

Windsor was not.

Impressive, to be sure. But not pleasant. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I knew there was quite a bit of description of certain places in Grey London in A Darker Shade of Magic, but rereading it definitely reopened my eyes to just how much of Grey London had been largely described. I find it a bit appropriate that when I visited Windsor, it was kind of a grayish day, much like when Kell walked into the castle to see George III. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Windsor wasn’t a pleasant place, the town itself had a sort of charm, even in lieu of us crazy tourists and our need to look at the inside of The Queen’s favorite residence.

He continued on until the park gave way to the streets of London, and then the looming form of Westminster. Kell had a fondness for the abbey, and he nodded to it, as if to an old friend. Despite the city’s soot and dirt, its clutter and its poor, it had something Red London lacked: a resistance to change. An appreciation for the enduring, and the effort it took to make something so…here, Westminster Abbey always stood, waiting to greet him. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I felt sort of like Kell, though unlike him, I traveled through the Underground to get to Westminster. When I walked up the stairs and out of the underground, Westminster pretty much greeted me in its staunch regalness and unchanging glory. It was a lovely sight to walk into, and I can’t help grow a fondness for such a structure amidst the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

Even at night, the river shone red.

As Kell stepped from the bank of one London onto the bank of another, the black slick of the Thames was replaced by the warm, steady glow of the Isle. It glittered like a jewel, lit from within, a ribbon of constant light unraveling through Red London. A source.

A vein of power. An artery. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I pretty much walked parallel to the Thames for an entire day, and I often glanced at it and wondered how the city would have looked if the water was really red. Alas, no magic in this artery. The view, however, is particularly pretty, and I’d like to think that in another time and another London, a tavern boat called the Sea King moored its ports. (Up until it burns down, of course…bad Lila!)

Also, on a similar note, Red London’s version of the Thames is the Isle, a glittering red river running across Red London with power. At the heart of it stands a palace, the House of Maresh, and honestly, if it had a Grey London equivalent, I’d imagine it to be exactly like Tower Bridge, which is certainly a magnificent structure that straddles the river. Wouldn’t it be cool if that was how the palace looked like? It probably doesn’t, but my imagination ran away with me, so…

Lila was soaked to the bone.

Halfway across the bridge, the sky had finally opened up–not a drizzle, as London often seemed to favor, but a downpour. Within moments, they had been soaked through. It certainly didn’t make dragging the half-conscious Kell any easier. – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

And somewhere in the distance–probably at London Bridge (which isn’t Millennium Bridge OR Tower Bridge, but the plain one in between)–in another time and another London, is a crossdressing girl thief dragging a half-conscious ginger-headed Antari across the river and into the Stone’s Throw.

On a related note, skim-reading ADSOM was a good and terribly bad idea. Good because holy hell, HOW did I totally forget about a fake-Kell striptease happening in the middle of the book?! And bad because OMG lots of other things happened and then I ended up spending hours just reading scenes upon scenes of my favorite characters and and…hours later this post still wasn’t written. Yeah.

Pity there wasn’t a Stone’s Throw in sight, but I will say that I dined in a pub near the bridge, which comes a bit close!

Coming up in the next London and Literature post: Hogwarts and Harry Potter.

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Anoshe || A Conjuring of Light Review

Initial Thoughts:

Anoshe.

Oh god. Stop. STAHP. These are not tears. I am not crying, you are.


A CONJURING OF LIGHT

by V.E. Schwab
Tor Books, February 2017
Adult fantasy, adventure, romance
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
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.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
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?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once 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.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

Honestly, it’s still pretty difficult for me to be writing this review without tearing up from time to time. And it didn’t help when the last few chapters practically begged for me to let go of the story.

INTERESTING LANGUAGE FACT: The word anoshe really resonated with me because of many things, but none stronger than the thought that, funnily enough, I’d been recently thinking about foreign words and how people said goodbye to each other. According to Schwab, Arnesians didn’t have one word to say goodbye, and that anoshe isn’t truly saying goodbye, but rather it was a way of saying that those parting from each other would see each other again. Which is GREAT, because I’ve always liked the idea of a “next time we meet” kind of ending. Anoshe became a special word for me, much like when I had Japanese students last year, and when a few left the school for good, it wasn’t sayonara or sarabada or any other form of definitive farewell that the parents uttered to me and to the fellow children, but mata ne, which roughly translates to see you soon.

Anyway, enough of the obsession with the word and onto the story itself.

I have to hand it to Schwab. She pulled all the punches in A Conjuring of Light, because it was damn near perfect as a conclusion to an already brilliant trilogy. ACOL picked up the shredded cliffhanger pieces that A Gathering of Shadows left me in by continuing directly after. It then proceeded to take my emotions and drown it in a large body of water, only to bring it up again, dry it up, and continue the process. I quite literally bawled my eyes out several times throughout the book, and the last 100 pages sent me to tears every. effing. chapter. I was a mess, and Schwab is to blame.

But hell, by the end of it, I was crying not because my heart had broken. I was crying because the story ended and, as Schwab mentioned in the final bits, it’s just really hard to let go, and as a reader, I was fighting against my commitment issues and being asked to let the world and characters of Red London go by getting to the end of the book. And that was pretty much the main reason why I am still having a hard time writing up this review, because having reviewed it once pretty much confirms the fact that I’ve read the book, and the magic of reading A Conjuring of Light for the first time has trickled out of the pages.

That isn’t to say I won’t re-read this trilogy again. And it certainly isn’t to say that I am ready to face the emotional turmoil that I found in the books. I’m pretty sure if I read it multiple times, I’d still cry the same amount, and I’d still squee the same amount. The only difference is I know when to expect them.

Feelings out of the way, just some character developments I absolutely adored in ACOL (and this is where my SPOILER ALERT comes in):

Rhylucard, Kellila – The chemistry between the pairings and the chemistry between each other were always some of my favorite bits in A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows. The fact that there was more going into ACOL, and the fact that there is resolution in the ships (one way or another) made me so happy.

Maxim and Emira – Just, hold your fort, we get the entire Maresh line POV? Hell yes. I simply loved these brief breaks out of the four main characters, and the only thing I would have loved to see was more of the Steel Prince at work! I know a prologue may not be in the picture, but holy shit, can there be a novella plsthx? I’d have loved to know more about Maxim Maresh before he became the king! And Emira! Gosh, I’d give my left kidney for a story in the past, in any shape or form.

Holland – Seriously, ever since I started seeing the Avatar: The Last Airbender vibe in the trilogy (which started at the end of ADSOM for me), I saw Holland as the Zuko of the series. Which meant I had high hopes that he would also undertake his own suffered journey towards redemption. And, while Schwab hoped that she could change her readers’ mind about Holland (I suppose to a more positive light), she really didn’t have to do much on my part. I already loved Holland in my own way. I mean, he isn’t Kell, but who is? All the same, I was absolutely loving that Holland’s story comes full circle.

I mean…this is how I pictured all the fighting to have been happening with Holland…WHICH IS TOTALLY SPOT ON.

Rhy and Lila – I throw these two in together because I thought their character development followed a similar route. For Rhy, we see him grow from a prince that did not like confrontation to one who stood for his people as a shining beacon of hope and comfort. It made me tear up whenever he walked his darkened city, often alone, and often with sadness. As for Lila, well…she, too, changed for the better. Like Rhy, when the going got rough, often her first instincts were to run. However, by the end of AGOS, she’s running towards danger, and the fact that she stayed to fight for a London that wasn’t her own made me ultimately love her. I was admittedly on the fence with Lila for a long time, but ACOL cemented my love for her, and it’s really no wonder Kell gravitates toward her. She’s effing badass.

Alucard – You know what, I would have loved to have seen Luc’s story fleshed out even more. Which is weird, considering we see enough of his past to fully develop him as a character. And boy, that shit was depressing. Still, I wanted more, and he was pretty much the only one of the characters in the main four that still had some secrets to unravel at the very end.

Kell – I don’t really need to point out I’m still in love with this guy. I’ve said it often enough in my previous reviews of ADSOM and AGOS that I’ll leave it at that.

A few other tidbits that made this book fabulous:

Three Antari and a pirate traipse into a boat… You’d see this as a running joke, too, but egads, the boat scenes made me oh so happy. Particularly the image of irritated and drenched Alucard. And Kell teaching another Antari a few blood spells (can Kell teach me, too?! *cough*).

Death comes to Red London. It was difficult to read about so many characters dying, and I had expected some casualties, but not in the scale that I’d care for almost all of the ones who did die. You’d think someone who’s read G.R.R. Martin and gotten desensitized to main character deaths would have expected this from someone writing a high fantasy. But egads. The deaths in Schwab’s books hit me much harder than any of the A Song of Ice and Fire deaths to date. And that’s saying something.

A darker shade of character study. Once again, Schwab shows mastery in her character-driven story. Everything was alive and personified. Even the big, bad villain–a magical entity that technically didn’t even have a corporeal form for the most part–had become personified as a creature with a particularly singular motive: to devour and recreate the world in his image. Yes, the four Londons still feature prominently as the backdrop, and description has always been vivid with Schwab, but she’s always shined where her characters are concerned, and this book is no different.

So yes. This is me gushing over this book. Because honestly, it was practically perfect in every way.

5 out of 5 cookies! Now excuse me while I find the tissues.

This counts as #7 for the Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Once again, I’ve had to push my TBR list aside in favor of reading a book I should NOT have read so soon after its publishing date. Especially when the confounded thing ends in a cliffhanger. Especially when I just got out of a massive book hangover, only to step into another one because OH. MY. GOD. This book is gold. It lives up to the hype. It…it’s just beautiful.

And frankly, it ruined my emotional circuit board.

Note: Possible spoilers as this is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic.


A GATHERING OF SHADOWS

by V.E. Schwab
Tor Books, February 2016
Fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating / 5 cookies

A Gathering of Shadows FinalFour months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

I spent a day or two wrapping my head around this review. I couldn’t format it properly mostly because all I wanted to write down was “OH MY GOD THIS BOOK IS AWESOME IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER AND FEELS. LOTS OF FEELS.”

To be honest, I still kind of want to leave it at that and just share all the gifs that perfectly conveyed my brain-exploding-into-a-million-feels emotions. I’m still doing the gifs. But I compromised. So I went along with:

The Many Ways V.E. Schwab Managed To Kill Me Thoroughly With Her Words

EXHIBIT 1

She’d never met a man who loved his job more than Alucard Emery. He relished it the way children relish a game, the way men and women relish acting, throwing themselves into their plays with glee and abandon. There was a measure of theatre to everything Alucard did.

Alucard Emery. Because multilingual pirate captain clearly isn’t enough to describe this beautiful man. The more I read about him, the more swoony he got. Granted, the name did make me giggle a little bit, considering I’m imagining a darker-skinned version of Alucard from Hellsing:

alucard

With the sexy, sexy voice of Fenris (Gideon Emery) from Dragon Age II:

Now imagine Gideon Emery say

“Spend the nights with me, and I’ll help improve your tongue.”

Yes. Yes please.

So yeah. On top of that, he’s actually pretty main. And on top of THAT, he is one hell of a charmer. ONE HELL OF A CHARMER.

EXHIBIT 2

Black London. Okay, so there were a number of POVs in this book on top of Lila, Kell, and Rhy. I won’t disclose who because obviously spoilers, but as with many books I’ve read that have multiple POVs, I tend to glaze over characters I don’t care about. In this case, however, my glazing over only happened near the very end (because effing get to the dancing already!!!!). For the most part, when I got taken out of Red London, Schwab decided to send me to Black and White London for a little observation-fest of what’s been sizzling since Kell and Lila vanquished the Dane twins in White London. Pretty hot shit, apparently.

EXHIBIT 3

“He wasn’t coming to pay your debt. He was coming to see if you’d returned to pay it yourself. I do not know why you two are circling each other like stars. It is not my cosmic dance. But I do know that you come asking after one another, when only a few strides and a handful of stairs divide you.”

Those damn kisses. There wasn’t much of a romance in A Darker Shade of Magic, which, honestly, worked in that novel’s favor. I would probably have been somewhat okay if A Gathering of Shadows followed in that respect, but seriously, I’m so, so, SO GLAD Schwab added a smattering of it in the book. I mean, the way she describes KISSING, for chrissakes, it would have been a damn waste not to add romance in.

Me every single time someone got snogged.

Also, I totally ship both pairings. I totally hoped both pairings would happen to begin with. I am not desperately wishing for all my ships to work out in the end (because what are the chances all my favorite characters will survive?), but if one of these characters get laid, I won’t complain. I mean…Red London’s days are numbered, so might as well take advantage of what time one has, amiright?

EXHIBIT 4

Delilah Effing Bard. I admit she does have her moments, and I applaud her headstrong, adventure-grasping personality. But there were times where she goes off and does something that made me snort and shake my head a bit. Like committing identity fraud. I just…lol I couldn’t. I did squee when she came to her own, though. And her Essen Tasch fight with Kamerov? I absolutely died.

EXHIBIT 5

The Essen Tasch. So. The entire book pretty much revolved around the impending Elemental Games, and the last half pretty much encompassed the Games in its entirety. My image of the games were kind of similar to this:

Corrida Colosseum from One Piece

Mixed in with this:

AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

I was pretty much squeeing after every battle. SQUEEING.

squeeeee

EXHIBIT 6

“I’m an Antari!” Kell cut in, struggling to keep his voice down. “I’m the adopted son of the Maresh crown, the strongest magician in the Arnesian empire, possibly in the world–”

“Careful, Kell, your ego is showing.”

Rhy and Kell. I absolutely love how the two characters are bonded so closely, not just through the magical seal that Kell did in the previous book. They are brothers through and through, even when they don’t share blood (well…I suppose now they do with the bonding magic and all XD). I absolutely love their interactions with each other. Even when Kell is all frowny faces and Rhy is all crazy faces. Okay. I love Rhy. And um. Rhy.

Rhy leaned over. “Looks like I’m not the one who needs protecting after all. You know…” He sipped his wine. “It would be an interesting match…”

Kell kept his smile fixed. “I will stab you with this pin.”

“You would suffer.”

Come on. That type of banter is my kind of fuel.

EXHIBIT 7

My magnificently beautiful man that is Kell and his magnificent coat. Kell broods a lot. Kell frowns a lot. Kell yells a lot. Kell uses magic a lot. Kell is loyal a lot. Kell fights a lot. Kell suffers a lot.

Hell, Kell just has a lot of flaws, but he means well, that Kell.

I still maintain that he is my favorite character of this series, and this book only further increased my deep love for the black-eyed prince. I also still maintain that he needs a hug, a snog, and a really good lay. And oh, look! There’s one particular female I know may be able to deliver all that. (You think I mean me. I think I mean me. I don’t.)

And his coat? Gods. I love his coat. I am in a love triangle with Kell and his coat. I want his coat on me almost as much as I want his coat off him, if you get my meaning. Hint hint, wink wink, nudge nudge.

5 out of 5 cookies! It may have been the worst idea to read AGOS without knowing when the next book will come out. Because, I mean, fuck those cliffhanger endings! (Though I am relieved that it didn’t end too badly…I mean…it only looks like Red London’s gonna go up in smoke, but I gleaned a wee bit of hope there…kind of.)

All I know is I am looking forward to Lila saving the day, Kell rocking in his coat some more, Rhy getting some much-needed comfort (hem hem), and Alucard taking his triad magic to even higher levels of showmanship and badassery. No pressure, Schwab. Make it happen.


gatheringshadows-kisimyr

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

So this book. I don’t even know where to start that will keep you safe from my abject admiration of A Darker Shade of Magic. And the squeefesting that will follow. And um. Yeah.

Screw it, can I just say I love this book and be done with it already? I cannot.


A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC

by V. E. Schwab, audiobook narrated by Steven Crossley
Tor Books, February 2015
Fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating / 5 cookies
Audiobook courtesy of the Ford Audiobook Club on Goodreads.

darkershadeKell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

So there’s this book I’d read a while back called Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. (You wonder why I bring this up, but I promise there’s a point to this rumination!) It was a beautifully written novel, about magic and circuses and competitions and a love story that spanned an age. The descriptions were exquisite, the setting was vivid, and I could swear I was walking down the Ice Garden with the cast of characters.

The book, however, didn’t do it for me as far as the story went. It was missing strong characters, felt disjointed for the most part, and didn’t really have a plot I was interested in reading about (or listening to). So while I adored the setting and the description–and the audiobook narration–I wasn’t utterly wowed. Still, it was a good book.

A Darker Shade of Magic, however, has all the bits that I loved about Night Circus mixed in with a wondrous world where magic is alive.

A Bucketful of Squees

Firstly, those covers. They just look awesome, that’s what. I loved the UK cover the best, though the US version was also rather splendid. I’m trying to figure out how I can Food and Fandomize this book, but right now my brain is mostly going to the color schemes and I’d need to find a way to make gray food….OMG I CAN MAKE A PARFAIT. YES. Hem, hem, anyway, the covers were most excellent.

A London in different shades. How could anyone not love being able to travel to four (well, three since Black London is pretty much just closed off) different Londons? I loved the world building and the detail put into distinguishing the Londons from each other. Listening to Steven Crossley’s narration of the book helped me imagine the places rather well, though often I did wish I had a paperback copy so I could actually read along, ’cause the descriptions were fantastic.

“There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London.” – Lila

Delilah Bard. I admit, it took some time getting used to Lila. I think I’ve had my fill of pirates after overplaying Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag so her whole dreaming of being a pirate and having adventures just made me grimace and groan somewhat. That said, I gave her a chance because this sassy thief knows how to set bitches on fire. She also has no problem using a pistol. You just don’t frell with that.

I can totally picture an older Maisie Williams playing Lila. Can we see this happen please?!

Magic and Mayhem and Antari. I loved the Antari and the magic they wield. Magic has the potential to control is such a creepy concept and there are a cast of characters in the book that show us magical control in varying degrees. Kell and Holland, particularly, wield and view magic differently from each other, even though they are both Antari, and to be honest, I’m not particularly sure which one of their views I agreed with more. Which makes the notion of magic in the book even better, imo. (That said, I’d probably side with Kell because I’m kind of in love with him–though I do feel sorry for Holland).

Those motherfrelling twins. There’s nothing like a great villain to add conflict to the story. ADSoM has two: Athos and Astrid Dane. Well, three, if you count the darkness of Black London magic (though I feel this third is sidelined mostly and will re-emerge in the sequel). But the twins more than cut great figures across White London and its neighbors. Together, Athos and Astrid are two heads of the same coin in cruelty and power. Apart, they have their own sense of batshit crazy. I outwardly shivered when Crossley tried to convey their voice and description in his narration.

Can I just say how much I LOVE this fanart of the Danes and Holland? It’s so creepy and beautiful and I totally just yoinked this as my phone wallpaper for the moment.

That literal bromance though! It’s real! It’s really, really REAL! Rhy and Kell make an awesome duo, so I was slightly sad that there wasn’t much Rhy-ness in the pages. Kell is absolutely dedicated to Rhy in his own brotherly way, which made me admire him even more later on in the book. I mean, I don’t blame Kell. Rhy’s pretty damn hilarious, albeit unskilled in the arts of magic.

5 out of 5 cookies! It was seriously hard to stop listening to the audiobook. I spent many nights going “one more chapter and I’ll sleep” and finding myself awake a couple of hours later STILL listening to the story.


darkershade-astrid