This novel had me seriously questioning my recollection of the first two novels. I remember thinking that they were so good, and then this one was just… somewhat mediocre.
Perhaps it was a terrible mistake to let so much time pass between reading the second and third books? By the time I started this one, I'd entirely forgotten that the previous book had ended on a cliffhanger, and I spent the first few chapters trying to remember what was going on. The characters didn't seem as compelling as I remembered them being. Other reviews have said that with the exceptions of Rhy and Holland, not a lot of character development goes on here, and that is true. Then between about 10%–60% of the way through the book, the plot progresses so slowly and it takes seemingly forever for the characters to decide what to do about the major problem facing them. Once they finally get an idea, they take detour after detour on their way to pursuing that idea. There are random chapters from the POV of minor characters who aren't even in the same London where the bulk of the action is happening, but a parallel one where nothing much is happening. It all just dragged so much, and it was hard to motivate myself to keep reading.
Then, from about that 60% mark, things started picking up. I wouldn't say I loved the book from that point on, but at least I felt engaged. I'd give this book 2.5 stars if Goodreads let me, but it doesn't really deserve a mere 2, so I'll round up.
I mean, there are good things about this book. The prose is high-quality. The system of magic is still interesting, although (and this might be because it's been two and a half years since I read the last instalment) I was never fully clear on what the actual limits were on what the main characters could do. You have a bit of ordinary, non-magical conflict between rival kingdoms in the world of Red London, which seemed a bit more interesting than the magical conflict, and exposed more interesting world-building. As I said before, Rhy goes through some interesting character development (considering he was never exactly my favourite character in this series), while Holland is just consistently this book's best character, from beginning to end. Lots of depth to him, darkness but also softness.
Overall, though, I feel relieved to have finally made it to the end of this book, and glad to have finished the series.
Books in the Shades of Magic trilogy
- A Darker Shade of Magic (no review available)
- A Gathering of Shadows
- A Conjuring of Light (you are here)