A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab is the third and final book in the Shades of Magic series, a trilogy of magical fantasy set in London – and Red London, and White London, and so on. The first set the stage for our two main characters from different Londons while the second focused on character growth, political intrigues, and dark omens. A Conjuring of Light brings it all together for a final battle against the same dark force that overthrew and destroyed Black London. Tor Books | February 1, 2017 | Hardcover | 624 pp
There are several parallel realities that, at one time, were open and connected so that people and magic could freely flow. But when Black London fell to a dark force, the doors were closed. Grey London is the one we know and is devoid of magic hundreds of years after the closing. In Red London, magic flows freely. White London suffers as magic has tried to escape while its inhabitants try to bind it. And Black London is just gone.
In A Darker Shade of Magic, Kell, a Red London prince with one black eye – the mark of an Antari, meets Lila from Grey London. Kell had been tricked into smuggling an artificat imbued with dark magic from Black London – tricked by the royals from White London who wanted to take over through the use of a figurative Trojan Horse. But Lila from the non-magical world of Grey London is more than she seems and they make a great pair. They manage to defeat White London’s evil rulers. In A Gathering of Shadows, Lila discovers and reveals her true powers. and her love for Kell. But at the end, the powerful dark magic from Black London returns, and steals Kell away.
A Conjuring of Light sets an extremely fast pace from the get-go. Everyone knows that Kell is being tortured terribly. They know because his brother Rhy is suffering horribly and dying, both connected through a magical bond. They just don’t know where Kell is to save him. He had, in fact, been taken to White London where Holland, the only other Antari, has returned form the grave. He had made a deal with the devil, and now the dark magic – a so-called God King – wants a new deal with Kell. He needs permission to enter Kell’s body so that he (it) can take over. Kell refuses and is tortured. If Kell dies, his brother Rhy, the future king, will also die.
Lila knows where he is. We got the hint in the second book with the reveal of her one glass eye and her ability to control many elements that she could be Antari, one of the few who can walk between worlds. She knew it and she knew where Kell was. So she jumped by herself into White London and rescued Kell. But Holland, controlled by the horrible God King, was already in Red London and ready to begin a war.
“A year ago she’d been a thief in another London. A month ago she’d been a pirate, sailing on the open seas. A week ago she’d been a magician in the Essen Tasch. A now she was this. Antari.”
Poor Holland never meant for any of this to happen. He only wanted to restore magic to his dying world of White London. For a time, it had worked. But the beast inside him was hungry, it wanted more. The deal he had made was a farce. The God King consumes and destroys everything. He feeds on magic. And it needs the body of an Antari to keep going, slip through worlds, and conquer.
Now there are three Antari: Kell, Holland, and Lila. When the dark magic leaves Holland, confident it can take over the world without the body of an Antari, this leaves the three to figure out a way to contain it. Three Antari against the darkest, supernatural power ever witnessed. One that can’t be struck down with a sword or subdued with a spell, one that can’t even be touched. One that can take over every single body of an army and control them like puppets. At least, three Antari are better than one. If they can forgive and trust Holland, a merging of powers is the only chance they have.
Wonder Twin Powers, Activate! (I jest…)
Holland stands out as an anti-hero to love, to pity, to admire. His history is never revealed in the first books and we only knew that he had been bound by the former royals of White London. His will had never been his own. He had done terrible things, and never wanted to. In A Conjuring of Light, we discover the difficulties he faced growing up in White London where people killed for magic, and he was visibly marked as an Antari (one black eye), the most magical person of all. People were always trying to kill him, even those he loved. And then he was bound to the royals and forced to do things he never wanted to do. When he was overtaken by the dark magic, it happened again. He only wanted to be free.
Many characters introduced in the previous two books meet their end this time around. It’s a George R.R. Martin-style death spree. There are very few, in fact, who survive. And while too much filler and not enough plot was found in the second, one might still complain of some loose ends at the end. Lila’s glass eye? Kell’s missing memories?
But there is so much more to love and admire in A Conjuring of Light: A noble king who holds the line, a floating black market in the middle of an ocean where you can find anything you desire but the only payment accepted is time, double-crossing pirates, corpse armies, a fearless prince who approaches death to find life and save his people, a priest who can make an entire town fall asleep, and a sweet, young cherub of a princess with murderous ambition. This intoxicating finale is everything you hope for in a third book.
A Conjuring of Light
by V.E. Schwab