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A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic 3) – V.E. Schwab

ACoL

If there was any confusion that this series could be filed under YA, A Conjuring of Light obliterates that idea swiftly. The first book introduced the world and characters, the second made us care about them, and now the third and final book puts them through absolute hell. A Conjuring of Light finishes the Shades of Magic trilogy, earning its place as one of the greatest fantasy works of all time. Yep, it’s that damn good.

When we last left Kell Maresh, Lila Bard, Prince of Arnes Rhy Maresh, and all the rest of our friends and foes, Osaron, a piece of magic that thinks itself a god, had finally captured Kell and possess him as Osaron’s new vessel. Lila gave chase to White London and Rhy was struck down when Kell was cut off from the magic keeping Rhy alive. A Conjuring of Light begins immediately with multiple cliffhangers resolved in satisfying and thrilling ways all to set up the endgame of the series. Osaron infiltrates Red London, taking control of the city and its inhabitants, and bringing terror, destruction, and horror with him.

Yes, horror. Victoria Schwab (writing as V.E. Schwab) is not messing around here. A Conjuring of Light is one of the most disturbing, violent, heartbreaking books I’ve read in some time outside of a Game of Thrones novel. Much more time is spent on Holland’s backstory, including how he became a slave to Athos, and it is devious stuff indeed. And that is just the beginning. This book doesn’t hold back on the gore and terror and the deaths of series characters hits the reader hard and at regular intervals so you can never really catch your breath. This is a dark book that moves quickly so that the reader is just as exhausted and off balance as the characters. A Conjuring of Light comes in at over 600 pages which is a 100 pages shy of the first 2 books combined. Schwab uses the length to really get in to what makes the characters tick and examine their relationships with each other.

To wit, we learn exactly why Kell hates Alucard so much, and vice versa. We see more of the terrible weight that Rhy carries knowing his life is completely tied to his brother, Kell, and questions his very existence and what it means to be “alive”. Kell and Lila continue to dance around their growing affection for each other while neither ever compromises their character in the process. The bulk of the book throws several characters together on a mission that tests them to the limit, not only in trying to accomplish a near impossible task but to survive each other along the way. If they are going to succeed against Osaron they will have to put their enmity aside and work together.

All of this strong character work is set against a backdrop where the stakes are as high as they can go. The fate of Red London and all of its inhabitants hang in the balance and the odds are long for the heroes to survive the day. We learn just what it means to be Antari, and even more, what feats Antari can do when they are working together at their full strength.

But make no mistake, you are not ready for this ending. A little over three quarters of the way through, at a cliffhanger moment, I stopped reading the book for about a month. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, I knew what was about to happen was going to lead to some heartbreaking deaths. Second, I didn’t want the book to end and I knew it was hitting a point where stopping was going to be next to impossible as the rush toward the finale gained momentum.  And I was right on both counts. After restarting over the weekend I finished it in two long marathon sessions culminating at 12:30am which has caused me to be tired as hell at work the next day. But it was worth it.

If you are already a fan of the series you will find this final volume to be tremendously satisfying but emotionally raw and, at times, utterly devastating. It is an outstanding work and solidifies Shades of Magic as one of the best fantasy series in years.

V.E. Schwab has said she may revisit this universe again and it is so rich I hope that she does. The trilogy is in development now to be a television series and Schwab is writing the script. I heartily approve. Television is the way to go here. There is no way a movie can capture the characters well and, quite frankly, there is no way in hell a major studio would allow the same sex relationship that is so integral to the plot to play out as written and show it in a big budget movie. I can’t wait to see what the show looks like and HBO should be falling over themselves to produce it and fill the gap they are about to have when Game of Thrones ends in 2018.

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