Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift – back into Black London.
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.
The first book of this series, A Darker Shade of Magic, was difficult to rate for me, since there were parts were I just couldn’t understand the choices some of the characters make. This sequel, however, was perfection.
“She bent most of the rules. She broke the rest.”
Obviously, I enjoyed this sequel much more than the first book. Mostly, this had to do with Lila.
In the first book, she’s everything I’d want in a heroine: sassy, cutthroat, out for her own well-being and survival, and isn’t about to make choices based on a guy . . . or anyone for that matter.
But I never really connected with her. Not sure why, but there just was never that spark that made me actually care about her.
That changed here. I felt this book was more about Lila and her crazy adventures and how even though she may not always think things through, she’s smart and clever enough to get herself out of any situation than it was about Kell.
Don’t get me wrong – Kell is still a major player in all this. I’d be very disappointed if he wasn’t. However, this was more about Kell and Rhy’s relationship after what happened in the last book. It’s about their demons and their friendship, and how one is a blood-born prince and the other is not. It’s about how happiness is not all about having people at home waiting for you or having a hot meal always in front of you.
I was very glad to see how Kell grew up in this book. He understands the consequences for his choices in the last book, for smuggling items over into the different Londons and for putting the whole of Red London in danger.
But that wasn’t all on Kell. Some things were going to happen no matter the choices Kell made, and Rhy is also responsible for a lot that went on, the danger to Red London.
“Why are you defending her?” he snapped, rounding on his brother. “Why am I the only one in this fucking world to be held accountable for my actions?”
But while Kell is the most powerful magician left in any of the Londons, he is not a prince. Not by birth. He may have been raised in a castle and grown up the same way Rhy did, but it is made abundantly clear in this book where he stands.
For a while, Kell takes it. He did wrong; he understand’s the king and queen’s consequences. But Kell is not an ordinary boy who can be tied to a castle. There is no way to ensure his imprisonment – however lavish it may be – and it’s time the kind and queen understood that.
I loved Kell’s growth here. It takes a while, but ultimately he cannot be an beacon of power for the king to flaunt around while also keeping him on a tight leash.
Lila makes a lot of decisions here that had me amazed, both for their stupidity and for their ruthlessness. It’s not that she’s so smug in her power or strength, but just that she is physically incapable to not take the highest risks possible. She completely understands that she will likely be hurt and may actually die, but she can’t not be the way she is.
“Everyone thinks I have a death wish, you know? But I don’t want to die – dying is easy. No, I want to live, but getting close to death is the only way to feel alive. And once you do, it makes you realize that everything you were actually doing before wasn’t actually living. It was just making do. Call me crazy, but I think we do the best living when the stakes are high.”
There’s something amazing about that.
We get to see much more of Rhy here, which I was glad for. I thought he was interesting in the first book, and I did want more of him and his past in this book, which is what we got.
Alucard was a very interesting character. He’s both sly and theatrical, hurt and admiring. He surprised me more than once.
Plus, he’s a pirate.
(Well, a privateer. Really, who cares?)
I love Kell and Lila’s relationship. This book is scarce on any romance. I think there may be one or two scenes, tops. And I loved that. Even though Lila and Kell don’t meet up again until nearly the end of the book, both are still present in each other’s lives in other ways.
“Oh yes, your relationship with Miss Bard is positively ordinary.”
“Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.”
I especially love that Lila’s the one who rushes headfirst into danger and is the ruthless one, while Kell is the one telling everyone to wait, let’s all make a plan, Lila, no, stop, Lila . . .
Lila doesn’t ever give herself a limit. She’s traveled from Gray London to Red London to White London, taken on queens, faced down magic she’d never seen before, and lived to tell about it. So if she wants to become as powerful as Kell and as rich as a king, then by God, she’s gonna do just that.