Off the Shelf: A Review of A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

It had been a little over a week since I closed the final book of the Shades of Magic series and talk about a book hangover. I seriously don’t know what to do with myself right now. I’m just not ready to move on and leave this world (and its magic) behind.

And it looks like I won’t have to…

While marking A Conjuring of Light as finished on Goodreads, I happened to stumble upon a trio of untitled projects from V.E. Schwab. The description of the first untitled book currently reads, “The start of a brand-new trilogy called the Threads of Power, which will be set in the same world as the Shades of Magic series, featuring new leads, plus the entire cast from Conjuring of Light”.

Yes. YES. YES!!!

While it may be awhile before I get to visit again, I’m thrilled that the door to Red London will remain open. I can’t say enough what an incredible journey this series was. It has quickly found itself among my favorite reads of all time, and A Conjuring of Light is a fitting ending (at least for now). 

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Summary (via Goodreads)
“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.”

 

Things I Liked:

V.E. Schwab did something amazingly unexpected in this book — she made me care deeply about a character that I had pretty much ignored in the first two books. Knowing this was the last book in the trilogy, I went into it expecting death and devastation. I clung to my every moment with my favorite characters, wondering which of them Schwab would rip away from me in a bloody instant. I held my breath, page after page. And while we see more death in A Conjuring of Light than the rest of the series, there was only one death scene that brought actual tears to my eyes (though there were multiple deaths that really tugged at my heartstrings). I actually had to take a slight pause from reading to reflect on it. How did she do it??? In a matter of a few exceptionally well-written scenes, I went from not caring about (and maybe even disliking) a certain character, to weeping at that character’s death. Now THAT takes skill. And from what I can tell from comments Schwab has made about this character, we might actually be seeing more of this person’s backstory sometime in the near future (yay!).

And just so you don’t think everyone in the main cast gets to live – nope. A character I had grown to love throughout this series does ultimately leave us, but in a way that was bittersweet and gentle. Tragic and beautiful. It was emotional but exactly what it needed to be. Anoshe.

As for Alucard, in my review of A Gathering of Shadows, I couldn’t make up my mind about him. I wanted to like his character, but like Kell, I considered him to be trouble and worried what kind of pain he could cause Rhy. I expected him to really “show himself” in this book, and he did… but not in the way I expected AT ALL. I’ll just go ahead and let my Alucard and Rhy flag fly, because the way their story comes together in the end is SO. DAMN. HEARTWARMING.

I don’t typically get caught up in romances in stories, but I really did enjoy the chemistry between Lila and Kell. I think it played out at just the right pacing to make me really fall in love with this pairing. Things definitely heat up in A Conjuring of Light, so much so that I felt a little embarrassed that I’d recommended the series to my young niece before reaching this book. “Read this series!” I’d said. “It’s written for adults, but I haven’t found much that would be considered too adult for you.” And while I’m sure she can handle the content (it’s not that graphic), I did have the awkward moment of blushing through a particularly steamy scene and then remembering who all I’d recommended the series to. XD Oh, well! Kell and Lila forever!

Things I Didn’t Like:

There is nothing that I can fault this book for. NOTHING. Hell, there was hardly anything I could fault the series for overall, other than a slight dip in pacing during book two, but you better believe that this book is a nonstop, action packed, wild adventure from start to finish.

Overall Rating:

How could I give it anything other than 5/5 stars? 624 pages of pure delight. It’s the perfect end to a perfect series, and I’m still emotional about it actually coming to a close. In fact, I can already picture myself giving the whole series another read, especially with another trilogy coming out set in the same world. One thing is for sure though, Victoria Schwab has to be one of the most talented writers of our time. I want to immerse myself in everything she has written and find out how she does it, because this is genuinely good writing and is not to be missed. Go see for yourself!

 

My Reviews of Books 1 & 2 in the Shades of Magic series:
A Darker Shade of Magic
A Gathering of Shadows

 

Side Note:

While I was stuck in my book hangover still hanging on to just how good this series was, all I could think about was Kell, Lila, and all of the others that made this a magical experience. So when I saw this adorable pupper up for adoption, I thought he bore a striking resemblance to a certain black-eyed prince. Now, I don’t use Twitter as often as maybe I should, but I couldn’t resist the urge to show this adorable doggo to V. E. Schwab. I never expected that a retweet from her would lead to this tweet being viewed almost 22,000 times (as of my last check before writing this). Wowza! Now, if only we had room in our pack for one more doggo… Just look at those eyes!

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Side Note x2:

If you consider yourself a writer, particularly a writer of fantasy, I can’t recommend Victoria Schwab’s Pembroke College Tolkien Lecture, “In Search of Doors”, enough. I watched it hungrily in search of guidance for my own work and found exactly the insight I was hoping for (–as well as finding out that she and I have a lot in common when it comes to authors we consider inspiring). Do yourself a favor — clear your schedule for the next hour, and give it a watch:


 

It’s hard to say goodbye to this series that I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed, so I won’t…

“Arnesians had a dozen ways to say hello, but no word for good-bye.
When it came to parting ways, they sometimes said ‘vas ir’, which meant in peace, but more often they chose to say ‘anoshe’ – until another day.

Anoshe was a word for strangers in the street, and lovers between meetings, for parents and children, friends and family. It softened the blow of leaving. Eased the strain of parting. A careful nod to the certainty of today, the mystery of tomorrow. When a friend left, with little chance of seeing home, they said anoshe. When a loved one was dying, they said anoshe. When corpses were burned, bodies given back to the earth and souls to the stream, those grieving said anoshe.

Anoshe brought solace. And hope. And the strength to let go.” –A Conjuring of Light

 

Anoshe.

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Off the Shelf: A Review of By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Although my reading list has stayed consistently full, Among the Authors has been on a bit of a hiatus while I finish up with grad school (the end is in sight! Come on, May!). However, an enticing email from Entangled Teen recently popped up in my inbox and promised a dark carnival story full of mystery and mayhem. Even with a growing to-do list (major life update since my last post: I’m engaged and getting married this year!), I couldn’t resist the call of the carnival. You all know how much I loved Caraval, and while I went into this thinking that By a Charm and a Curse would be similar, I found it to be nothing like Caraval, yet still a uniquely fun read.

I received an eARC from Entangled Teen in exchange for an honest review.

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Summary (via Goodreads)

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

 

Things I Liked:

By a Charm and a Curse is a very, VERY quick read. I picked it up and didn’t sit it back down until I was finished, only a couple of hours later. The 300 pages seemed more like half that. It’s a great book for an after-work-wind-down, when you really need something light and easy to escape the stress of the day. What better way to do that than by visiting a mysterious carnival?

The setting is a major strength to this book. It is well-written, and even though the closest thing I had to a carnival growing up was the county fair, I could clearly imagine this whimsical, enchanting circus. Speaking of circus, you might see this book compared to The Night Circus as well as Carnaval, but let me reiterate that all of these books have very different stories. They merely share a similar setting. The setting is vibrant and makes an interesting playing field for a diverse cast of performers.

Telling the story in dual points of view between the two main characters, Emma and Benjamin, was a wise choice on the part of the author. Emma was an interesting enough character, and I thought her struggles with the marionette-like transformation were uniquely creepy. Between the two of them though, I found myself looking forward to the chapters told from Benjamin’s perspective because I feel like he had a bit more depth. However, Sidney, the former Boy in the Box, easily stole the show for me. He was fun, engaging, and I wanted so much more from his character. Had the book been a little bit longer, that might have been possible.

 
Things I Didn’t Like:

There’s not much that’s surprising about By a Charm and a Curse. I think you’re meant to be shocked by the true nature of the curse, but most readers will see it coming from very early in the story. I actually was surprised by a dark and deadly moment towards the end, but unfortunately, I feel that it was unnecessary and didn’t really do anything to further the plot. While the story can get predictable, there are other parts that get rather confusing, like how certain characters don’t react to things the way people normally would or they don’t ask questions that should have been obvious.


To be completely honest, after the first few pages, I was a little concerned that this was not the book that I expected it to be and that I was going to completely dislike Emma. She complains a lot about having to stay with her dad and brothers while her mother is out of the country. She’s stuck in this place that is just soooo awful and the only thing her one friend in town wants to talk about is setting her up with boys. Then, she meets a complete stranger who, after only a few moments, Emma believes completely gets her, and all she wants to do is hold hands with him and maybe kiss him (her first kiss! *gag*). It’s all a little bit eyeroll-inducing. But stick with it! I promise the story does get better from here, although even the real romance portion of the book does feel pretty rushed and without any real conflict (other than an overprotective mother).

 
Overall Rating:

I’d give By a Charm and a Curse a solid three stars. This book is a fun escape, and one that can be easily read in one afternoon or evening. The premise is intriguing and the setting full of whimsy. The cast of characters, while sometimes lacking in depth, are memorable and add to the mystery of the carnival itself. Although it will leave you wishing it was a little longer, it’s a fairly impressive debut for Jaime Questell, and it makes me look forward to the possibilities of what she may write in the future.