“The more we love, the more we have to lose. But the only way to avoid loss is to avoid love. And what a sad world that would be.”
Witness the fate of beloved heroes – and enemies.
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
TW: violence, death (including familial death), one sex scene
Okay, I should probably preface this review with the fact that my favorite series used to be The Gentleman Bastard sequence by Scott Lynch, and that since finishing ACoL, TGB has moved to second place, and the Shades of Magic trilogy has becoming the reigning champ.
Let me also say that I am terrified of needles and scared to get a tattoo, but if I get one, I’ll be getting one from this book. That’s how important this series is to be.
ALSO, Schwab’s prose, her ability to jump between POVs, and her sense of a solid story have made her my writing idol. Her style is everything I have ever dreamed of achieving with my own writing, and I look up to her like no one else. It’s a strange feeling, but really, really special to me.
And now that we’ve got all my personal gushing out of the way (which was surprisingly solemn but absolutely sincere, I swear it), let me tell you about the book.
I’m not kidding. I can think of six major stabbings through the heart just off the top of my head, not including my own heart being stabbed multiple times as the poor reader. SO MANY STABBINGS. Be warned, folks.
But on a more pleasant and less sharp note, the characters are INCREDIBLE. You end up sympathetic for a former antagonist. You come to love Rhy and Alucard a thousand times more both as individuals and as a couple. If you’re anything like me, you fall in love with Lila Bard a thousand times over again and decide if you ever have the funds to go to a bookcon of some sort, she’s your number one cosplay choice. You love Kell, who’s just trying his best to be a good magician, a good brother. You love Maxim, for all the lengths he goes to, and Emira, for all the heart and fear she carries at once, and Hastra for being one of the few unwavering and completely good characters, and Lenos for his loyalty and piety, and even Ned for his earnest wish to know something beyond Grey London.
And then you spend the whole book intrigued but terrified of the villain’s reach and power and hunger, because somehow, Schwab gave form to something shapeless and ominous and truly horrifying, something you can’t help but feel will never be truly defeated.
On top of that, Kell and Lila are one of my absolute favorite fictional couples of all time. They’re competitive (well, mostly Lila is competitive, and Kell knows a bad idea when he sees one, especially when he’s too late to stop her from trying it), but they work incredibly well together, and they always make up, always find themselves on equal footing, always move forward. Not to mention their banter is a delight, and any character who genuinely adores Lila Bard as much as I do is exactly what she deserves.
And THE FACT THAT THERE’S GOING TO BE A NEW TRILOGY? Holy shit, I am not ready but I’m so ready. It’s going to be the Threads of Power trilogy (which is an excellent name now that I’ve finished ACoL), and I believe Schwab has said it’s the same world as Shades of Magic, but with a new cast (and some familiar cameos). I’m not ready to let go of this world, not ready for the inevitable last anoshe, so knowing there’s more to come brings me all kinds of delight. I’m really hoping it piggybacks off some of the more open-ended parts of the final chapters, and I hope Lila Bard is the fearsome and legendary pirate captain she deserves to be. Plus, the Steel Prince comics are going to tell the story of Maxim Maresh, and I’ve got to get my hands on those!
Basically, anything Schwab releases in this world has my attention and the contents of my wallet for now and all time. I’m so enamored.
You’ve probably noticed I don’t have anything bad to say in this review. That’s because I don’t. I was so engrossed in reading this that I barely even took the time to jot down my thoughts, and reviewing what notes I did take and all I remember, I can’t spot a single thing I disliked. It’s a 600 page read in paperback, I read it all in one sitting, and I left more in love (and crying a little bit) than I had been when I started.
It’s my new number one favorite series for a reason now, and I don’t think that’s going to change for a very, very long time.
Have you read the Shades of Magic trilogy? What did you think? And if you have, which of the Antari phrases is your favorite? I know lots of folks love as travars a lot, or the Arnesian anoshe, but as asthera (to grow) has found its way into my heart.