In the first part of A Gathering of Shadows, Lila seems to be doing well for herself as a privateer – but the same cannot be said for the brothers Maresh. Oh, and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. And how…
This review covers Parts 1 and 2 of the book, and will contain spoilers.
To recap what happened at the end of A Darker Shade of Magic (I am painfully aware that I missed the boat with that book’s final review, DAMN YOU BRAIN): Kell and Lila defeated the Dane twins, for which I am eternally grateful because those dudes were CREEPY. Rhy’s life was saved (huzzah!) although Kell’s desperate dark-magicky efforts are undoubtedly going to complicate that later. Holland was last seen falling into otherworldly nothingness (MCU Loki style, and I’ll get to THAT later). Lila departed for her long dreamed-of pirate adventures, and left the boys to deal with their own problems…
… And now here we are.
Those problems, foremost of them being the consequences of the binding that Kell put in place to keep Rhy from dying (their lives are now seemingly inextricably linked; Rhy can’t die unless Kell does, if I understand things correctly). It seems Rhy is having a difficult time getting past this trauma, and I can’t say I blame him. I don’t really blame Kell either; he did what he felt he had to do. But it is definitely interesting to see how things have changed between them, and I certainly appreciate this approach to the consequences of interfering with the natural course of Rhy’s life this way. It’s almost been a violation, and seeing Rhy struggle with this kind of survivor’s trauma – we can’t forget that this was a near-death experience for him – as well as coming to terms with what Kell did to save him, leaves my heart aching for him. It also leaves me very worried about whatever’s coming next for these two.
As a side note, I also really appreciate the way that this part of the story brings Rhy more fully into play. Given my first impression of him as a pretty and amusing side character and nothing more, it almost feels like a plot twist, but for character arcs. I approve, despite some somewhat natural caution when it comes to angsty characters; I have limits on my tolerance for these things, so only time will tell if Rhy’s going to exceed them. But, we shall see!
Which brings us to Lila Bard, who seems to now be well on her way to becoming the Jack Sparrow of this story. There’s no ‘Captain’ to add to that title yet, which is understandable given that our girl knew next to nothing about actually being a pirate when she left London for the open seas. She’s got a lot to learn, but she has at least found herself an interesting teacher: enter Alucard Emery. Whom I am going to have to refer to as Emery because, regardless of what drove this naming choice, I just can’t call him Alucard with a straight face. I can’t. It’s ridiculous. And he’s not a vampire, so far as I can tell. So, Emery it is.
Emery is our dashing ‘privateer’ captain (much too good for mere piracy *disdainful sniff*) with an intriguing past (Royal connections), a fascination with magic, impeccable manners and not a single ruffled feather in the face of Lila’s more feather-ruffling qualities. Oh, and the only use he seems to have put her to so far is the “privateer” padawan sort, which earns him gentleman points and will no doubt provide all sorts of banter-y amusement. I am here for this.
But let’s go back to Lila, because while discussing her character in general with a friend, an interesting point was raised: Lila seems to be the only returning character who isn’t obviously weighed down by the emotional consequences of what happened in ADSOM. She got a bit flirty with Kell, and it’s noted here and there that these two do still think about each other, despite obvious efforts to put such thoughts out of their minds (I imagine that will go very well for them, really I do), but at the end of the day Lila basically swanned off on a ship and left Rhy and Kell to pick up the pieces, despite that she was (and insisted on being) just as deeply involved in the whole mess as either of them. She put herself in that narrative because she wanted adventures, but when one ended and she needed another to replace it with, she had no apparent qualms about dropping her potential friends like new toys she’d gotten bored with. Which is maybe a bit harsh, but it’s an impression I can’t quite shake off.
That said, if we dig a bit deeper into this, it does seem to me that it’s the emotional consequences (you know, those things Rhy and Kell are struggling with) that Lila really seems to be trying to avoid. She’s the girl with the harsh upbringing who learned not to trust anybody, and in that light it does make sense that her struggle would be with opening herself up to emotional connections, let alone emotional turmoil. Nothing can really harm her so long as she can walk away from it, right? Even if what she’s walking away from might have some sort of healing benefit for her. Or, to put it another way, the opportunity for emotional growth.
I adore Lila Bard. She’s everything I love about a strong character. But I suspect that I might not like her entirely. Which is fine! But it is something I hope that the general story arc will tackle somehow.
So there they are, and here we are, and it looks like an ADSOM reunion is on the cards thanks to the interesting plot device of a magical tournament that’s coming up on Red London’s social calendar. Emery apparently has plans to show up for it, which means Lila’s coming back whether she’s ready or not, and it’s probably going to intensify the brotherly strife between Kell and Rhy, who are understandably not looking entirely favourably upon the subject of using magic for show right now…
… And in a twist that literally had me screaming on Twitter when I got to it – Holland is not dead after all. However he survived, and wherever he ended up, he is back!
Oh, and he’s the new King of White London, because nature abhors an unnervingly villainous vacuum.
So. Our trio is reuniting. There’s an intriguing wild card character in the mix. Magical tournament coming up. Holland is not dead. Holland is, in fact, giving me some very, very delicious and interesting ‘MCU Loki meets Maleficent with a dash of Emperor Palpatine’ vibes. You just know he’s going to crash that party (with his creepily brainwashed new assassin servant WHAT IS HER DEAL) and turn Kell’s world upside down and I’m not sure how to fit the Tesseract into this metaphor but you know it won’t be complete without one. And yes, in that respect I AM LOOKING AT LILA BARD.
Let’s not forget that she apparently has some elusive magic buried in all that thrill-seeking blood. Or that she is missing an eye. Might that missing eye have possibly been entirely black? I WONDER.
So! I’m all kinds of excited and here for this and on the edge of my seat and AAAAAAH HOLLAND.
I’m glad he’s back. It’s going to be a disaster. I can’t wait.