Tag Archives: alternate reality

A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows FinalAuthor: V. E. Schwab

Shades of Magic, vol. 2

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Lila Bard has already done the impossible, slipping along with the Red London Antari Kell from her own world into his. Now she’s pushing the limits even further, finagling her way onto a privateer’s crew and studying magic–a skill she couldn’t possibly have any ability for, only she does. Meanwhile, back in London, the city is teeming with people all preparing for the great Essen Tasch, a huge magical tournament between powerful competitors from three neighboring countries. Prince Rhy is in charge of the preparations, and as usual, he is throwing himself into the spectacle with gusto. But he and Kell both feel a deep underlying tension as they continue to discover new, uncomfortable ways in which their life-connection links them. And if something isn’t done to let off some steam, they’ll both be likely to go off in some unseemly manner–probably sooner rather than later.

A Gathering of Shadows is the excellent sequel to V. E. Schwab’s hit story A Darker Shade of Magic. First off, I do have to note that you really need to read these in order; there’s a lot you won’t catch in this volume that is explained much more clearly in the first book. Secondly, I must say that A Gathering of Shadows well lives up to the standards of the first volume–possibly even exceeds them. It is really quite a remarkable book. The characters, who I loved from the first volume, are given a greater chance to bloom. Lila, in particular, shines in this book as her personality and thought processes are more fully revealed. We get to see a lot more of Rhy as well, which is fun. And the rakish captain Alucard Emery is introduced in this volume, adding another interesting dynamic to the cast. As for the plot, you’ve got two major threads, the first and the one that plays the largest role in this book being the games themselves, and the second more insidious being a plot seeping over from White London. Looking at it in retrospect from a birds-eye view, the plot is actually a bit gawky, but it doesn’t feel that way at all in the midst of reading it. It flows gorgeously. Where I did run into issues with the plot is at the end–the second plot doesn’t get a chance to resolve, and you’re left with this huge cliffhanger. So. I loved A Gathering of Shadows, but I’m don’t know how I’m going to wait for the next volume to be published. If you haven’t dived into this series yet, I would say go ahead and read the first volume; it ties up quite nicely at the end. But just save this volume until the third comes out, pick up both of them, and just plan to read straight through them both.

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A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade final for IreneAuthor: V. E. Schwab

Shades of Magic, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Kell lives in a London where magic is the norm, where children play games involving testing their magical abilities from the time they’re young. But unlike any other citizen of his world, Kell has been to other Londons where things are very different. You see, he is an Antari, one of the last, an individual who has the ability control the magic that allows one to cross between the worlds. As a loyal subject–and adopted prince of what he terms “Red London”–Kell works for the king and queen, delivering messages to the royalty of the other Londons, “Grey London” and “White London”. He’s been known to carry other items across the boundaries between worlds as well, which is technically illegal but also profitable and exciting. Kell’s smuggling habits become a bit too exciting, however, when a package turns out to be a trap. And the help of an unmagical, Grey London girl may be his only hope for surviving the ensuing mess.

Okay, so you’ve all been telling me for . . . what seems like ages that  A Darker Shade of Magic is amazing. So I’ve finally gotten around to reading it, and I agree. I probably should have read it before, but there you have it. V. E. Schwab crafts quite the exciting and enjoyable story. The writing style is very approachable, with a good balance of description and action. I really appreciated the third-person style that the author used; you see so much first-person writing now that a well-done third-person story is quite refreshing. One of my only complaints about the writing is the use of different languages for people from the different worlds–and I totally get why this was used, it was just annoying to me to try to read unpronounceable words that I ended up just skipping in the end. Minor issue on the whole, though. The characters were fantastic, and I really grew to care for Kell, Lila, and Rhy by the end of the story. I also really loved that the story developed in the way it did–worlds-impacting choices and meaningful camaraderie as opposed to unnecessary and forced romance (which I see way too much of). I would definitely recommend A Darker Shade of Magic for those readers out there who haven’t read it yet, and I’m certainly looking forward to reading the subsequent volumes of this series–as well as anything else I can find by the author.

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Neverwhere (TV series, 1996)

BBCNeverwhere TV

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Richard Mayhew had a nice, normal life with a steady job and a fiancée ready to order every aspect of his life perfectly. But one evening on the way to an important dinner that all changes as Richard stops to help Door, a young girl who is clearly injured and frightened. Following that moment of doing the right thing, he finds himself suddenly unnoticeable and unmemorable to everyone in normal London society. Thus, he is forced to seek Door and her strange companions in London Below, a strange world that he had never even been aware of previously. And somehow, Richard finds himself caught up in this huge adventure to find who murdered Door’s family and to get her safely to the Angel Islington. All poor Richard wants is his old life back, or so he thinks.

So, I’m pretty sure I came at the Neverwhere TV series completely backwards. I mean, the Neil Gaiman book Neverwhere is based on the TV series, but I read the book first, ages before I was even aware that there was a TV show. Having read the book first, I was expecting to be a bit disappointed in the screen version (I usually am), but I  was willing to give it a try since it was also written by Neil Gaiman. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the TV version is actually quite good. I think the actors picked for the characters are excellent. Richard and Door are absolutely perfect, as is Hunter. The Marquis was . . . well, I was expecting someone a bit more Johnny Depp, but Paterson Joseph’s portrayal of the role definitely grew on me over the course of the story. And seeing a younger Peter Capaldi as the Angel Islington was fabulous (although I hardly know what to make of him without a Scottish accent and a gruff attitude). The plot is concise (there are only 6 episodes of 30 minutes each), but it feels complete; I was actually quite impressed by how much story was fit into such a brief series. I would say that comparing the book and the TV show in terms of plot, they are remarkably consistent. One of the things I loved best about this show was the wonder and magic that was expressed in such simple ways. While a modern story would likely use sparkly lights and huge special effects to express these ideas, this show uses mystery, blurred graphics, and a lot of subtle suggestion to get the idea across. There’s a dark Alice in Wonderland feel to it all that’s absolutely perfect. Basically, Neverwhere is a great show that I highly recommend to anyone who likes a good urban fantasy.

Created by Neil Gaiman & Lenny Henry/Directed by Dewi Humphreys/Music by Brian Eno/Starring  Gary Bakewell, Laura Fraser, Hywel Bennett, Clive Russell, Paterson Joseph, Trevor Peacock, Elizabeth Marmur, Tanya Moodie, Peter Capaldi, & Earl Cameron

 

 

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Coraline

coralineAuthor: Neil Gaiman

Illustrator: Dave McKean

My rating: 5 of 5

When Coraline and her absent-minded parents move to a new flat in a big old house, nothing much changes. Her parents are still busy with work, her dad still cooks recipes which she detests, there’s still nothing to do. Until one day, a door which usually just has a bricked-off wall behind it opens, and Coraline finds that it leads, not to a blank wall, but to another world. A world quite like her own, but flashier, more exciting. A world with parents just like her real ones, but with black button eyes. And from there, it just gets creepier. . . .

Coraline is brilliantly chilling. It takes the concept of a horror story and looks at it from a child’s perspective. The result is a story that’s beautifully creepy, even for adults. Gaiman has a clear grasp of how to use our fear of the unknown to great advantage. On top of the excellent use of horror, Coraline has a vivid cast, particularly the spunky main character (and the cat!). The story also concludes well; there’s a sense of finality that I think is important in children’s books. However, on a deeper level, there is a lingering sensation of uneasiness which is also appealing. This is a highly recommended story.

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