Tag Archives: Trilogy

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2) by V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows Title: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2)
Author: V.E.Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
ISBN: 978-0765376480
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Pages: 512
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

After I finished reading, “A Darker Shade of Magic” I knew I wouldn’t be at peace till I finished the second and third parts of the trilogy and I did just that. I ate my way through the other two parts and was so not disappointed by them or by the end (which most people were by the way). A Gathering of Shadows is the second part of the trilogy and a lot has happened since the end of Book 1 (I will not give away any spoilers. Don’t worry). But how do I speak of this book without giving away something? I shall try not to.

The King and the Queen are not very pleased with Kell for something he did in Book One (You really must read the first book to find out what). But what I can say is that just like Hunger Games and the Games in Harry Potter, there is also something known as the Element Games introduced in this book, which is an important magical competition and everyone’s focus turns to it. While in another London, something dark and sinister is brewing.

The writing is as taut as ever but I was expecting more from this book. However, she did fulfill that wish in the third book (which I will review tomorrow). New characters were introduced in this one and the old ones stayed (some whom I loved and some not so much). Also, the relationship between Kell and Rhy was expanded in this one which I could not get enough of. The camaraderie between them is just superb.

“A Gathering of Shadows” is a fitting sequel to the series and I am glad I read it in a row after “A Darker Shade of Magic”, soon followed by the final part of the trilogy, “A Conjuring of Light”. A brilliant series in my opinion.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: TOR Books
ISBN: 978-0765376466
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I have always been wary of reading fantasy and high-fantasy at that. In my mind, there are so many plots and sub-plots to follow that I lose track of all of them and then the names in these books – almost difficult to remember and recall when needed. I would always have to go back and see where did I encounter a particular character and what happened to them. However, that doesn’t deter me to read fantasy novels, that I want to or the ones I have loved before of a certain author. It takes me time to finish it, or the series but I do get around anyhow. This time though, “A Darker Shade of Magic” by V.E. Schwab – the first book in the Shades of Magic trilogy surprised me. I started and finished it in almost a span of three days and that’s saying lot, giving I was reading multiple books at the same time.

“A Darker Shade of Magic” is about multiple Londons and magic. These are parallel Londons – The Grey, The Red, The White and once upon a time, there was The Black London as well. And at the center of all of this is Kell – one of the last Antari – magicians with a rare ability to travel between these Londons. Before I say anything further about the book, let me say something about the author and her writing style. Schwab doesn’t spoon-feed the plot to you. She doesn’t explain anything right at the beginning. You are not served, so to say. You need to figure things as a reader. Now back to the book: Kell is not only a messenger of Red London (belonging to the Royal Family) but he is also a collector of trinkets and often risks bending some rules to collect these. We don’t know much about Kell till of course the plot unfurls and then you cannot wait to know more about him.

By the time you have almost gotten into Kell’s part, you meet Lila Bard – the thief so to say in Grey London and is far more enthusiastic than the greyness and gloom of this London. The story then becomes very interesting when Kell’s and Lila’s path cross (of course that’s a given), given Lila wants an adventure and Kell perhaps needs something else which he isn’t aware of. And before you know it, it is up to them to save all of the worlds from the deadliest enemy of them all.

Schwab’s writing is quick. She doesn’t waste them. You get to know about the characters by their actions, not as much as the author telling you about them. So, there is more showing, which is how it should be. Kell and Lila of course are multi-faceted and layered, and at the same time, you know exactly how they will react at times – you are that comfortable with them as a reader. You come across some really bad-ass villains which you will come to hate and the idea is that they just want to reintroduce vitari magic (you will learn of this as well) in all of Londons, thereby keeping them open to immense destruction. The characters are excellent. The plot is without any loop-holes and brilliantly conceptualized. More than anything, the writing is super. I cannot wait to finish the trilogy.

Journey by Aaron Becker

Journey by Aaron Becker Title: Journey
Author: Aaron Becker
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0763660536
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Picture Books
Pages: 40
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Journey - Image 4

A picture says a thousand words and this proverb couldn’t be truer for “Journey” by Aaron Becker. “Journey” is an experience which you will not forget that easily or that soon. It is almost like a dedication to all picture books, according to me. It is creative. It is fantastical. It is also quite interesting with images appearing out of nowhere in the second and third reading of the book, which you thought were never there. I guess that is also one of the things that picture books to do you. They make you see clearly and just for that you should read more of them.

Journey - Image 1

“Journey” is all about a girl. A girl, who is bored, more bored and bored than ever. Her parents do not seem to have time for her. She decides to go on and find worlds which are just an arm’s length away. She draws a door and that is the beginning of the journey for her. The hidden door is the key to everything and from thereon she discovers worlds silently – because that’s what this is – a wordless picture book. She meets people. She sees new things. Her fantasy has just come alive and she is no longer bored, more bored and bored than ever. She comes across a hot-air balloon, a weird bird, a relentless villain and someone else who will be willing to share an adventure with her, which is the plot of the second book in the series called “Quest”.

Journey - Image 2

If I am not mistaken this is the first part of a trilogy and I am now even more excited to read the second and third parts. The illustrations are magnificent and truly belong to another realm. Mr. Becker is not afraid of coming up with the unbelievable and indulging himself a little bit more. It is a great reader for young readers who have not started reading yet but they can for sure imagine. I love books such as these that allow everyone to imagine and live a little more.

Journey - Image 3

The book is stunning. It is packed with so many details that you will be gob smacked by the end of it. There are new worlds and newer ones to come in the other two. Becker does not hesitate and for a debut “Journey” is quite remarkable. It is a book that you should not even think twice before buying. A real treasure of a picture book.

You can know more about Aaron Becker by going to his site here: http://www.storybreathing.com/

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An Interview with Alma Katsu

Hello everyone! I loved The Taker. The book reaached out to me this year and will be one of the books that I will return to before the year ends. Here is my review of the book. At the same time, after reading the book, I was flooded with questions for Ms. Katsu. Here is a short interview with her. Thank you Alma.

How did the idea of, “The Taker” come to you?

The novel grew out of a short story I wrote a long time ago, which was a ghost story set on an abandoned farmhouse in rural Maine. I kept thinking about the characters in the story and what happened to them after the story ended—and those characters were Jonathan and Evangeline (who was the ghost). I’d taken a long break from writing fiction to concentrate on my day job, but when I began writing again, that story became the first chapter in what was to become The Taker. That short story is nowhere to be seen in the final version of the book, by the way, as the story ended up changing quite a bit over time.

Did you always set out to write a book? If not a writer, then what would you have been?

My story is probably the most common for anyone who aspires to work in the arts: I grew up wanting to be a writer, then reality set in.

I have always been a reader. Like many readers, I tried my hand at writing. I was very young at the time, and somehow got it into my head that I would be a novelist. It soon became apparent that this wasn’t something you could just pursue as a day job, so I worked at newspapers for a short time. Even newspaper work was hard to come by full-time, so I eventually went into another line of work: I became an analyst for the US government. It was a great career, but after twenty years I realized that if I didn’t return to writing I probably never would.

I didn’t return to writing fiction thinking I’d be published. I wanted to see if I could learn to write a novel. I’d become a senior analyst by that point and knew the level of effort it took to really master a skill. I knew I hadn’t worked as hard as I needed to in my early twenties. I went to grad school for writing and spend ten years working on the book. I’d run into a problem that I couldn’t figure out, put the book away and work on another one, figure out a way to fix the problem and pull The Taker manuscript out again, run into another problem, repeat the cycle. That would be a piece of advice I’d give aspiring novelists: don’t make it all about the one book. I learned a lot about writing from the books I worked on during the in-between times, and it’s pretty common to have to write several novels before you have one that’s publishable.

Your Literary influences…

So many, too many to list here. Horror classics, like Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson. Patricia Highsmith. Thomas Hardy. John Barth, John Irving, Thomas Pynchon, Neal Stephenson. Virginia Woolf. Sandor Marai—I consider Casanova in Bolzano a direct influence on The Taker.

Alma – the writer…

…wishes people read more. Wishes there was more of a conversation about books, the way there is about celebrities, and movies and television. For the life of me I can’t understand this worshipping of celebrities.

Did you ever wish that one of the characters of The Taker were to come to life? If yes which one and why?

I suppose the obvious answer is Jonathan, because he’s so beautiful. He’s also maddening, and not very giving, and ultimately it would be too frustrating to spend any length of time with him, I think. Adair is another obvious choice (if you’re of an adventurous frame of mind), as long as you can keep your emotional distance from him. Unfortunately, those two characters are so colorful and larger-than-life that they make the more normal ones, like Luke, seem uninteresting by comparison. At least Luke wouldn’t be potentially harmful to everyone he meets.

The book creeped me out in several places. Did you feel that while writing it?

Yes. There are a number of creepy scenes in The Taker that jolt the reader. But books are reflections of life (with perhaps a few distortions) and in every one’s life there’s going to be at least one jarring, unsettling experience that shakes you profoundly enough to make you see life differently. The Taker has “those moments” for a couple of the characters—hence, I think some readers have found it to be a bit much to take. I wanted the book to be outsized in every way, a real epic, and that meant going a little overboard in that respect (darkness), too. (I have to say, however, that it is hardly the darkest book ever written, and I suspect that part of some readers’ reactions might be because I’m a woman and they don’t expect a woman to write such a dark book.)

Alma – the reader…

…reads widely but tends toward literary fiction and (since you’re catching me on a bad day) is tired of the trend toward formulaic fiction. Novels are becoming like television programming: bland and interchangeable, with no real character.

How does it feel to know that The Taker has been so well-received almost all over the world?

The book has gotten some wonderful reviews, and I get great email from readers, and I know I am very lucky. It’s gotten it’s share of bad reviews—no book will be loved by every reader. One surprise has been that the setting—early America—hasn’t been offputting to readers outside the US. Post-Colonial America is hardly a beloved time or place for readers, like Regency England.

When did you realize that you had so much more to say that The Taker become a trilogy?
The Taker was originally written to be a standalone, but by the end of the book I saw the opportunity to stretch the boundaries even more—turn it up to 11 on the emotional scale for readers, if you get the Spinal Tap reference—and what writer could resist that?

Your thoughts on the modern literary scene and your favourites from it…

As I mentioned, I read pretty widely. So on one hand, I really enjoy mystery writers like Denise Mina and Tana French, and on the other hand, literary authors such as Adam Haslett. I particularly like writers who experiment with narrative form such as David Mitchell, although his last novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, didn’t do that.

What I don’t like about the modern literary scene is that the celebrity culture is establishing itself here, too, and the only books that get any major coverage—which is still important for a book to be able to “break out”—are the ones that have tons and tons of money behind them. Readers aren’t aware that the tsunami of publicity for the books that land on the bestsellers’ lists came from the publishers’ checkbook, not on the actual merit of the book.

This is the end of the interview, however not of the series. The second instalment will be out soon and I for one cannot wait for it.