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.


Anoshe || A Conjuring of Light Review

Initial Thoughts:


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


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

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, 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.

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?

Of Book Hauls and Signings

I shall keep this post sweet and short, because honestly all I want to do this morning is play Final Fantasy XV and read A Conjuring of Light (but let’s face it, I’m probably doing neither because I have lesson plans to write and papers to grade *sobs*).

Last week and the week before I was lucky enough to attend two book signings at my favorite book shop! Of course, this meant a breakage in the bank, but OMG my haul is pretty lovely. And the authors were fantabulous.

From the Tor side of things…

So um. A Conjuring of Light came out late February, and obviously the first thing I was thinking was: “WHEN IS SCHWAB COMING TO TOWN AND I CANNOT WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON THIS BOOK.” The lines for Schwab were absolutely ridiculous that I was getting paranoid about making it on time. Thankfully, I managed to dash out of work without having to inflict any physical injury on other persons on my way there, hah.

Seriously, you guys, I’m 300 pages into ACOL and LOVING IT. I mean…I totally cried at least once already. Maybe twice. And I totally squeed several times already. And yelled at characters to get a room (an advice they seemed to have heeded occasionally *COUGHSQUEECOUGH*) because my god that tension. And and and…oh god, okay, I’ll review this at some point.

Also! I had been oggling Truthwitch for ages, and borrowed a library copy to read prior to Dennard showing up at Books of Wonder. Unfortunately, the reading didn’t happen on time, but I decided I wanted a copy of at least the first book anyway, because hell, I’ve bought books in the past that I don’t plan on reading at all, and honestly, I feel like I’d actually like Truthwitch. Susan Dennard should totally be my friend. Not only is she a Dragon Age fan, but like Schwab, she’s also an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan. She’s ALSO a Zutara fan. (YES SOMEONE I KNOW IN PERSON IS A ZUTARA FAN, I MEAN, WHAT.)

Not pictured, but I also got a signed copy of Goldenhand by Garth Nix, because I mean, let’s complete that signed Abhorsen hardcover collection I have sitting prettily on my shelf. No, really, though, I do want to read this next book. Eventually.

God, I just love authors.

From the Penguin side of things…

Let’s be honest here, I was totally hoping Flame in the Mist galleys would be thrown at the audience during this tour, but hell, there was a stellar set of ladies kicking off their tours, and I’ve been meaning to get Rebel of the Sands for the longest time. Alwyn Hamilton’s sequel also came out, but I opted to get just the first book for now. Lesley Livingston’s The Valiant also caught my eye because um, hello, princess-turned-gladiator? Yaaaaaas. Livingston herself was such a dork, I loved her.

AND I AM A LITTLE JEALOUS of the girl who actually DID get an ARC of Flame in the Mist from Renee Ahdieh. But omgah, Ahdieh was awesome enough to let me take some swag and a signed poster! I cannot wait to Food and Fandomize Ahdieh’s next book…though I am still trying to figure out the best opportunity to make myself a full-blown Persian meal…

Romeo and Juliet With Monsters? YESPLS || This Savage Song Review


Initial Thoughts: 

I blame my friend MEGHAN for making me read this, especially when I want the next book NOW. Which, unsurprisingly, is always the case with the Schwab books I’ve picked up. I think Schwab has it described accurately enough: Sin City and Romeo and Juliet minus the romance and plus the monsters. And it was effing fabulous.


by Victoria Schwab
Greenwillow Books, July 2016
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies
YA urban fantasy, paranormal

savagesongKate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

Okay, at this point, I’ve become a die-hard Schwab fan in the span of four books. Frankly, had This Savage Song been described to me as a Romeo and Juliet plus other things, I wouldn’t have been as gung-ho in reading and even buying it to add to my collection. But SCHWAB WROTE IT so it must be gold.

Bias, people. That’s what it is. But it’s a bias I am willing to admit I have, and I do not regret it.

The book is not the most magnificent Shwab I’ve read, and some of the themes are reminiscent of her adult novels (I mean, she practically quotes Victor Vale from Vicious at the beginning of TSS), which I loved. To a critical reader, this similar study of characters could have been repetitive and dull. But honestly, this is Schwab’s forte. She’s excelled in making villains look like heroes, and vice versa. She’s a study in character, and she studies character archetypes extensively.

So yeah, I love her books.

TSS is no different.

Here Is Why

Kate Harker practically burns down a chapel on the first effing page. I was done by that point. DONE. But I do think I need to keep going with this, don’t I?

Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.

Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.

Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.

Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.

The entire rhyme is haunting and rhythmic and absolutely lovely. It helps you remember what the types of monsters are, and in the simplest–and IMO the most effective–mnemonic ever! That said, every time I read this poem in the book, I just hear it being creepily recited the way Hespith does the Broodmother poem in Dragon Age: Origins.

Kate had no pretentions–she knew her father was a bad man–but this city didn’t need a good one.

Good and bad were weak words. Monsters didn’t care about intentions or details. The facts were simple. The South was chaos. The North was order. It was an order bought and paid for with blood and fear, but order all the same.

The writing, man. THE WRITING. The quote pretty much summarizes the problem in Verity, and how it defines the world around Kate as she sees it.

“Leo makes it look so simple, I thought we all burned the same way, but our brother burns like a torch, and…”

And Ilsa burned like a wildfire.

That said, August has just as much perspective in this book, and I LOVE THE FLYNNS OMGAH. Yes, even super-righteous, crazy-ass Leo.

There was no August in its face, only shadow.

No August in its eyes, only ember and ash.

I mean…COME ON. That description alone is just…sigh. Not in a romantic sense, but omgah sigh.

The lack of romance is not entirely surprising. I went into this YA book thinking there may be a romance, but Schwab took the non-YA route of not adding a romance into the mix. I mean, this could change in the next book, and it could very well be written in as part of the overall story. I would have no complaints, mind, but like A Darker Shade of Magic, I was super glad about the lack of romantic love in the story. There was already so much happening!

And can I talk about the fact that violence breeding monsters is an AMAZING CONCEPT? Yes? Because it is. It so is, I cannot even explain to you why I think this without ranting about the current state of our world as far as violence goes, but I mean…the bit where August explains how his Sunai brethren came to be? I may have teared. It was SO SAD. I love and hate Schwab for this. I really do.

4.5 out of 5 cookies! Is the book everything I expected from Schwab? Yes. Yes, it is. Did I love it as much as her adult novels? Mmm…maybe nearer a Vicious rating.


Did you read this book? What did you think?

Food and Fandom: Shades of Magic

It’s also been a while since I’ve actually done a Food and Fandom post, hasn’t it? Yeah, I’ve been real bad at keeping that going. (To be fair, the Mediterranean feast I had planned kind of went out the window when someone else broiled my lamb steaks, lol! Not that I minded too much…it was cooked really well that I had no complaints.)

However, time to get back to getting my feet wet, as it were.

So one of my birthday presents was this structure of loveliness:


This, my friends, is a wafflemaker. Isn’t it glorious?

Anyway, fast forward a month and a half later, and I still hadn’t made my own waffles. I mean, my sister’s utilized it at least four or five times since, but me? Nope. Hadn’t been compelled to experiment just yet.

Until the other day, when I decided, welp, might as well try something! (It might also have helped that we had fresh strawberries in the fridge…)

Shades of Magic

“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”

I cannot gush about this series enough. I am terribly excited over the third book coming out next year. (“Terribly excited” is putting it lightly, considering I practically garbled my squeeing whenever I hear news about A Conjuring of Light on Schwab’s Instagram.) I have done an interpretation of A Darker Shade of Magic a ways back after I’d read the book, but honestly, I could have gone about it more elegantly.

For those who’ve not heard of the series yet…

So there’s this author named Victoria Schwab. She goes by V.E. Schwab for her adult novels, and she’s written the Shades of Magic series under this name. So far, A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows are out. They are absolutely fantastic books, and there are not enough words for me to tell you how many feels I had for both books (mostly for AGoS, because HOLY HELL THE KISSING ALONE). Come 2017, A Conjuring of Light will be released.

The series takes place in a world with four Londons. It’s about magic and of magicians long-thought to be extinct. It’s about a darkness seeping out of Black London and corrupting its parallel counterparts. It’s about a boy and his coat, a girl and her hat, and a prince and his crown. It’s about freedom at the expense of sacrifice, and shackles at the expense of love. It’s a lot of things to a lot of people, and honestly, I could go on and gush about this series, but all I’m really trying to say is READ IT READ IT READ IT.

So. This waffle. I’m eventually getting there, I swear!


I feel like it was the culmination of the first two books. And doesn’t the shape look like the cover for ADSoM? No? Not even when you squint?

Oh well.

In any case, as I sat there, eating away at the strawberry waffle, I thought: gee, this does sum up the loveliness of Shades of Magic in all its parts. There’s the strawberry waffle itself, which I’ve now decided is Red London. There’s the sprinkle of Black London in its attempt to take over in the form of melty chocolate chips. There’s White London with its magical syrupy goodness, also on the cusp, reaching into the depths of Red London in its attempts to make way for a lone powerful force. And then there’s Grey London, just chilling on the side.

Okay, maybe I am reaching for it. But this is totally what I saw when I was taking pictures of my waffles!

Strawberry Waffles

Making the batter itself wasn’t too hard. I got the recipe from Sprinkle Some Sugar, with only two changes, really.

1. I never really use actual buttermilk, because I hate storing that in the fridge. My grocery store always sells buttermilk in half-gallons, and I never use that much in a span of a month. So I substituted.

(In hindsight, I should have used whole milk to enable more fat to curdle, but my buttermilk substitute was the following: for every cup of 2 percent milk, stir in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.)

2. I added the strawberries. We had plenty in the fridge, and I do love myself some strawberry waffles, so I cut a bunch up and threw them in the batter.

And then I let the wafflemaker do its thing!

Verdict: Add a bit of maple syrup, scramble some eggs, and cook bacon, and holy hell, that is one breakfast you can food coma over!