Author: Richard Titus
My rating: 3 of 5
An isolated tropical island. A whimsical, incompetent king who just wants to see the world. A mysterious girl. Sea monsters and pirates. Extra-dimensional lizards who may or may not exist. What kind of mad wonder is this?!
You can tell before you even open The Gift of the Quoxxel that it’s going to be a quirky trip. And you would be right in that assumption. This is quite the whimsical genre-mash, with a lot of fantasy but also elements of science fiction and mystery, plus a lot of humor. If you’re a fan so Seussical neologism or Alice in Wonderland-style whimsy, this is the book for you. It’s filled with quirky characters, long strings of alliteration, and plenty of surprises. For myself, I did personally find the surprises to be a bit too obtuse for my taste. It was like the author tried to keep things so mysterious at points that I just found myself getting lost. Not that I get the feeling that everything is supposed to fall into place and be perfectly understood. It’s not that kind of story. But . . . I kind of found myself getting lost in the whimsy at times. Still, The Gift of the Quoxxel was a fun trip, and even better, one that’s appropriate for all ages.
Author: 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.