“Magic ran between them like a current, a cord, and he wondered who she would have been if she’d stayed in Grey London. If she’d never picked his pocket, never held the contents ransom for adventure.
Maybe she would never have discovered magic.
Or maybe she would have simply changed her world instead of his.”
A Conjuring of Light is the final instalment in V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy. The series takes place across parallel worlds, each with its own London, but each unique. Red London is a city which thrives on magic, bright, enchanting, and under the rule of the Maresh Empire. Grey London is the city most like our own London, devoid of magic, while the unstable White London hungers for power, its people fighting over any scrap of magic, under the rule of the cruel and ruthless Dane twins. Then there’s the fallen Black London, severed from the other worlds.
The series follows Kell, an Antari, a rare magician able to travel between worlds and tasked with delivering messages between Londons, and Lila Bard, a cunning but chaotic thief who longs for more excitement than her own Grey London can offer her. Though these are the main protagonists, more main characters are introduced during the series, with more focused placed on these as the series progresses. I will do my best to keep this review free of spoilers for A Conjuring of Light, and also for the previous two books in the series. However, if you are new to the series, you can find my review of the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic here.
“’Then why are you smiling?‘
‘Because,’ she said, ‘bad ideas are my favorite kind.’”
As the final instalment in the series, A Conjuring of Light picks up exactly where A Gathering of Shadows (book 2) left off, with the fate of the main characters and the worlds they inhabit balancing on a knife-edge. The plot of this book rarely slows, maintaining this high-stakes, fast-paced feel until the final pages, making this an engrossing read which was incredibly hard to put down. This book was the most plot-heavy of the three, with the threat to the balance of the parallel Londons reaching a climax.
This book has everything I could have hoped to see in the final book of the series. It has magic, danger, death, heartache, romance, betrayal, pirates, and most of all, stunning character development. V. E. Schwab’s characters have been a highlight of the series from the start, and somehow, this book takes the character development to another level, as not only the main characters, but secondary characters too, go through their own development arcs, and we learn more about their backstories. Surprisingly, there was not one character whose point of view I disliked. Often, when I read a fantasy told from multiple points of view, there’s one character whose story I can’t wait to hear, and others I can’t wait to race past. With A Conjuring of Light, I loved every page.
“We don’t choose what we are, but we choose what we do.”
Despite being a high-stakes series conclusion, V. E. Schwab also does a great job of injecting humour and fun into a book which is otherwise dark and filled with danger. The fiery relationships between the characters make for entertaining dialogue, with Kell and the privateer captain Alucard providing plenty of witty verbal sparring. Lila also adds to this, with her quick humour and impulsiveness making for some fun character moments.
“‘What are we drinking to?’
‘The living,’ said Rhy.
‘The dead,’ said Alucard and Lila at the same time.
‘We’re being thorough,’ added Rhy.”
But before you start to think this is a happy, light-hearted story, I’ll remind you that these fun moments don’t last long before tragedy follows in its wake. Though the first two books in the series came with their perilous moments, A Conjuring of Light is the most heartbreaking. Plenty of moments had me on the edge of my seat, as I desperately hoped I wasn’t reading the final moments of a beloved character. This novel certainly isn’t lacking in deaths, some of them bittersweet, and some of them crushing.
“Because caring was a thing with claws. It sank them in, and didn’t let go.”
In terms of worldbuilding, V. E. Schwab had already laid strong foundations for the Londons in the previous books, and A Conjuring of Light ties them together nicely. We find out more about White London, and about Holland’s past there, and explore the politics and broader world surrounding Kell’s Red London. Some mysteries are solved, others left open, feeling satisfying, but still captivating.
In short, thank you, V. E. Schwab, for creating a world this magical, characters this intricate, and a plot this exhilarating. This book is going to give me a book hangover for days, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasted weeks, or even months. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I am completely in love with every single part of it. And to think there’s a parallel world where this book doesn’t even exist…
“’Love and loss,’ he said, ‘are like a ship and the sea. They rise together. The more we love, the more we have to lose. But the only way to avoid loss is to avoid love. And what a sad world that would be.’”