by V.E. Schwab
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It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift – back into Black London.
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as 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.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.
And then in the silence, he heard a sound: not a sob, or a scream, but a laugh.
And it took him a moment to recognize the voice.
It was his.
2016 has by far been one of my most rewarding reading years yet, beginning with almost 90% win and so little loss. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve taken what I’ve learned and I have applied it to almost every book I might read, making it extremely easy to see what might work for me…and what won’t. It’s not a fool proof system, I’ll admit, but it certainly makes it easier when there is a bad book thrown in here or there. It’s not near as annoying as when I consistently am reading crap. But, with all this epicness so early in the year, there are also some fears arising, as well…and that’s if I can keep up all this win-It’s a long year, and there’s still a lot of disappointment to be had (Like a couple ends to a few of my favorite series that fell flat, unfortunately). But one thing is an absolute certainty: In a sea of losers, when it comes to second books in series and such, I never had any doubt about how amazing the Darker Shade second book would be….and I have no doubt that the end will take my breath away.
But he’d missed her, and with the city so overrun, how was he supposed to find her again?
Just follow the knives, said a voice in his head. And the bodies they’re lodged in.
I have this curse, you see, where I HATE second books-almost always. I will admit that that’s began to change as of late, but I still find that a few eek in here and there. More often than not, though, it seems the third and final books have been the largest problem: Lack of execution, not tying things up, changing the whole premise of the story, changing characters, etc. etc.-And it has been a large disappointment, more often than not. It’s starting to make the second book curse look tame!! But no, when I picked this book up, I immediately felt my weary muscles relax, my mood lighten, and my heart begin to beat faster and faster.
It doesn’t matter that this fell into one of my least favorite second book tropes (was it a trope, though?? It was kind of a choice?), because every sentence, every page, every little thing was written so beautifully and made it so you couldn’t help to read one more page, one more chapter…and then, before you knew it, you were ten more percent in and still couldn’t stop.
Lila stopped drawing her finger through the cider, and no one noticed that the spilled liquid kept moving, tracing patterns across the wood.
Someone set a fresh drink in front of her.
Alucard was calling for attention.
“To London,” he said, raising his glass.
Lila raised her own.
“To London,” she said, smiling like a knife.
These characters just have a way about them. It’s not so much that they are different from other characters we love, adore, cherish, admire, obsess about-No, it’s not that. It’s something in their chemistry, in their DNA, something that, immediately upon meeting them, crawled under your skin without you even realizing it. It’s something that made you think about them long after you had closed the book. It’s something that had you thinking about them in the dark, longing for more of their adventure deep into the night. You just have this deeper understanding of them….and yet you still want to know more.
He didn’t have anything on his person, and they wouldn’t be able to find anything in his coat, not unless he wanted it to be found. He sometimes worried that the coat had a mind of its own. The only other person who’d ever managed to find what they wanted in its pockets was Lila. He’d never found out how she’d done that. Traitorous coat.
I can’t even begin to explain how much I adore this story, for I can’t think of many books where something I hate becomes a giggle fest for me. A sleight of hand. A shadow in the corner. A lingering thought. A hopeless wish, or maybe even a longing so deep they saw each other everywhere-it’s the simplest thing, yet it gets under your skin and becomes a part of you. I adore these characters so intensely that it became a visceral thing when one of them would hurt, when one of them would cry, when one of them was in absolute pain. And I know you all probably think it’s all Kell and all Lila…but it’s not-Not even close.
As a thief in the night, Lila Bard knew that staying out of the light was the surest way to stay alive, but she couldn’t help it, she relished this kind of trick. Standing right in front of a mark while you pocketed their coins. Smiling while you stole. Looking them in the eye and daring them to see past the ruse. Because the best tricks were the ones pulled off not while the mark’s back was turned, but while they were watching.
There’s Rhy. There’s Alucard. There’s Calla. And, ya know, there’s Lila’s crew…but that’s beside the point-YOU GET THE PICTURE. Rhy and Alucard became two characters who I couldn’t live without, simply because they meant the world to my lovely Kell and my fierce Lila-they were central to the story and not only added to it, but enhanced every single scene. They brought forth extreme visceral, intense emotion that caused the most amazing feelings-Pain, heartache. Soul-crushing love. Unyielding friendship. Loyalty….Jealousy. Like I said, there really is no emotion I haven’t felt while reading this series, and I can’t help but to want to re-read it already. In fact, I could read these two books over and over and over again. But I’m at work (SHHHHH, my laptop has gone to SHIT) and I can’t keep going on and on and on and…..yeah, I love this story, this could go on for a while. So! I will get onto what I want to anyway: My two beautiful lovebirds, Kell and Lila.
I am Delilah Bard, she thought. Pirate, thief, magician.
Her fingertips began to thrum.
I have crossed worlds and taken ships. Fought queens and saved cities.
Her bones shuddered and her blood raced.
I am one of a kind.
Lila is a stubborn little shit, I’ll admit, especially in this one, but she is so damn loyal, fierce, and she has a thirst for life I can’t help but to admire. She longs to see the world, and she is finally seeing it…but she can’t help but to think back to the boy with one beautiful eye and one black, his face set in a perpetual frown with a little crease between his brows (Hey, I didn’t say Lila was the only one who loved him….). And what better way to see him than to compete in the Essen Tasch…a deadly competition showcasing magic from some of the most skilled magicians in their world-Something so dangerous only Lila would find a way into it.
“What brings you to my room?” he asked, relief bleeding into annoyance.
“Adventure. Intrigue. Brotherly concern. Or,” continued the prince lazily, “perhaps I’m just giving your mirror something to look at besides your constant pout.”
Kell frowned, and Rhy smiled. “Ah, there it is! That famous scowl.”
“I don’t scowl,” grumbled Kell.
And then my Kell…my darling Kell. This book was hard for him, in more ways than one. He is lonely. He is tortured from the events in the previous installment (subtly so, but still there). He has a restlessness inside him that is unparalleled to anything he has ever felt before. And, now more than ever, he feels like he doesn’t belong with the family he was brought into…only Rhy makes him feel as he always has-Like a brother. They love each other so intensely, and it is beautiful to see-and then I just love their banter….it keeps Kell grounded and gives Rhy joy to make the forever frowning Kell smile or laugh.
“How subtle,” said Kell tonelessly.
“You could at least pretend to be grateful.”
“And you couldn’t have picked something a little more…I don’t know…imposing? A serpent? A great beast? A bird of prey?”
“A bloody handprint?” retorted Rhy. “Oh, what about a glowing black eye?”
But my point in saying all that is he and Rhy are closer than ever *insert eye brow raise here* but there is something darker inside them, something that makes it harder to be who they once were. They feel the gravity of it weighing them down each passing day-They are beginning to feel suffocated and have no way to release it.
But Kell would do literally anything for his brother, something we saw many times in the last book, but we now see that Rhy would do the same…and it warmed my soul.
He tipped his chin up so the men could see his eyes, and took a measure of grim satisfaction as the color bled from their faces. And then footsteps sounded, and Kell turned to find more men pouring into the alley. Drunk and angry and armed. Something stirred in him.
His heart raced, and magic surged through his veins. He felt something on his face, and it took him a moment to realize he was smiling.
It was so hard to see how deeply Kell’s loneliness went, how it effected him every moment of every day…and how he buried it deep within himself so he could continue to help his brother. But when his brother comes to him with a proposition so dangerous, so deadly, so…..exciting, Kell can’t help but to consider it. He’s an Antari…so he can’t compete…but will they find a way around that loophole?? And, most importantly, why can’t he stop thinking about his sharp-edged girl with two differently shaded brown eyes with a knack for knives, thievery, and trouble…and why does he see her in every little person, shadow, and alley?
“Hello,” said Lila.
“Hello,” said Kell. “Where have you been?”
Lila smirked. “Why, did you miss me?”
Kell opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again before finally managing to answer, “Yes.”
This story was naturally made for me, what with all the danger, the peril, the competition, the friendship, passion, and loyalty. I loved the pulse-pounding ending and this whole story, really, but the first admittedly holds my heart, if I’m being honest. I just wanted people to know-the first may not be everyone’s favorite-but it’s mine *shrugs* I can’t help it!!! I just adore first books SO MUCH!!! But, more than that, Kell makes this series for me. I love the writing, the atmosphere, everything about it….but Kell keeps me coming back because I adore every little thing about him. He would do anything for his brother Rhy….but he would for Lila, too. He’d risk his life a million times over for them, and my heart swells even now as I type this out. He has my heart, and so does this series. I know I will surely die of anticipation before February 2017….but it will be completely worth the wait. And I know a certain Snake will be more than happy to finish this adventure with me. KELL!! ♥
My feels for this series in GIF form…
OMGGGGG MY POOR BOOOY!!!!! I just love this series and Kell so so much! What a cruel thing to have to wait until 2017 for the finale to this absolutely breathtaking, soul-crushing, heartbreaking series.
I can’t believe this series has reached me on such a deep, emotional level, but it has…I am completely obsessed with it. From it’s characters to the setting to the intricate plot, there isn’t a moment in either book where I haven’t loved and adored it.
These characters have such loyalty, such deep, heart-felt connections to those surrounding them-you just can’t help but get sucked into the magic that is this world.
I cannot WAIT to write a review for book two of one of my favorite series EVER!!! 😛
RTC (I WILL DO THIS)