In the first part of A Conjuring of Light, THERE IS NO TIME TO WASTE.
(Spoilers below for Parts 1-3.)
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.
This story. THIS FUCKING STORY. How am I surviving it? How?!
You know, there’s an interesting fine line for me between books I feel engaged with, whether it’s because of the story, the setting, the characters, whatever – and books which go further than just being engaging; which cross that line into being the emotional equivalent of the tornado that made off with Dorothy. A Conjuring of Light, even in its opening chapters, is a freaking tornado – and it’s only just touching down. I’ve got another month of this ahead of me, and I am both delighted by the prospect and wondering if I’m going to need someone to wrestle my laptop away to make sure I keep to my own schedule.
I did not want to stop after Part 3. I really, really did not.
But here we are, and let’s talk about what happened, shall we?
So things pick up immediately where they left off at the end of A Gathering of Shadows, with everybody in trouble and our heroes’ unity badly fractured, at least for now. Holland/Osaron has disappeared, bound for Red London and all the chaos he/they can cause. Kell is still trapped in White London, and though Lila is coming for him, Ojka is lying in wait. And back at Casa Maresh, Rhy is dying (again), leaving Emery helpless – and both he and Queen Emira ripe for some juicy character insight.
I want to talk about that, because it’s a perfect example to me of what V.E. Schwab is doing exactly right with this book so far. A Conjuring of Light hits the ground sprinting, and I mean it when I say that the opening chapters provide what’s quite possibly the most adrenaline-fuelled, scream-inducing sequence of events I’ve witnessed in ages. Possibly ever. There’s being on the edge of your seat, and then there’s this. But the really marvellous feat here is how smoothly Schwab balances her action and high-stakes drama with the quieter, heart-wrenching character beats that follow it. In this section, nothing highlights this like getting Emira’s perspective on her son coming so close (too damn close) to irreversible death – and on her adopted son not being there.
It’s a given that, as Rhy’s mother, the adoptive mother of an Antari, and a reluctant queen, Emira’s experiences and her point of view were going to fascinate me. She is shown to be a woman of quiet, desperate, yet very firm faith; she needs her son to live, and she needs Kell to come home and save him. It’s an interesting, and heartbreaking, mix of that faith and her desperation that keeps her back straight, and in the aftermath of it, when Rhy is safe and Kell is home, Schwab’s refusal to let her simply return to the background is gratifying.
Which is not to say I find her likeable. Emira is … I don’t want to say she’s a bad mother, because that implies she’s been openly cruel. Thanks to the backstory we get for her, I do have some sympathy, but at the same time I can’t help siding with Rhy at least a little, when he later confronts her about her inability to love, or at least express love for, both her sons. She has some understandable reasons for being so protective of Rhy, but that’s not the same as saying those reasons are justifiable, especially in light of her general failure to be such a good mother to Kell, who arguably needed one more. The fact that Emira ultimately can’t bring herself to treat Kell as anything other than a useful tool for protecting the son she gave birth to is painful to see brought so fully to light, and the result is that it’s no surprise at all when Kell – and Rhy – can no longer stomach it.
It’ll be interesting to see what resolution there might be, there. But we’ll get to that. Hopefully when my heart is ready OH WHO AM I KIDDING I FULLY EXPECT ALL OF THIS TO WRECK ME SEVERAL TIMES OVER.
And speaking of family feuds – if one was good, two is clearly better. And who better to outdo the Maresh family spectacle than Luc “I’ve got hidden depths, would you like to see them?” Emery?
FYI, the correct answer to both of those questions is and will always be YES. And judging by what happens when Luc escapes the lockdown at the palace to go home and rescue his little sister, he’s no slouch in the Destroy All The Things department either.
Look, his brother was a dick. There is no denying that. I did not like Berras one little bit, and I can’t say I’m sorry about what Luc did to him in the interests of protecting Anisa. But even still, I confess I cringed at their fight. I mean, being hit in the face by AN ENTIRE MANSION had to hurt. (Very briefly, true, but still. Ow.)
Emery is possibly THE most fascinating character in this mixed bag of fascinating characters for me, and that’s saying a lot when Delilah Bard is also in the bag. So he can ‘see’ a person’s magic, as a sort of spectrum of colour that gives away the nature of their power – but for some reason he can’t/couldn’t tell when Antari wonderboy Kell was masquerading in the Essen Tasch? I HAVE A QUESTION.
And for some very intriguing reason, young Anisa can resist being magically brainwashed by Osaron without even the scant protection of Antari blood to ward her from it? WHO OR WHAT IS THIS GIRL I HAVE ANOTHER QUESTION.
Aaaaand last but not least, we can at least now safely assume that all my speculation about Lila Bard being a secret Antari was on the money, right? I mean, evidence says yes – she can travel between worlds on her own, and her blood provides the same magical protection that Kell’s does in the aftermath of Osaron’s attack on Red London. The eye she lost was totally her Antari-marked eye, right? Right? And speaking of eyes WHY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WILL NO ONE SUGGEST THAT SHE MIGHT WANT TO REMOVE THE DAMAGED GLASS ONE THAT’S STILL IN HER FACE. I mean, I suspect that there might be A Purpose To It but COME ON, THAT’S DANGEROUS.
Questions, questions, everywhere.