Let’s be clear from the start. A Conjuring of Light, the much anticipated third and final novel in V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic adult fantasy series, delivers the biggest, boldest, darkest and most emotional instalment of the lot.
With Osaron – the personification of the dark magic of Black London – on the loose, Red, White and Grey London are now in grave danger. Can Kell, the powerful prince who can move between the worlds, and Lila Bard, the master thief who has just discovered her own magic, defeat their greatest ever threat?
First of all, A Conjuring of Light is a terrific exercise in raising the stakes in both a narrative and, perhaps more importantly, personal sense. After the two previous books, we have grown to care for these vibrant, flawed, loveable characters and Schwab really puts her creations through the ringer here. That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom, as there is a lot of snarky humour too, but the added darkness and constant drama ensures you are gripped from the beginning to the end of this brilliant brick of a book.
Yes, at 660 pages, this is a fairly hefty novel. Sometimes when successful series get longer as they go along, it’s because the author is getting indulgent and hasn’t cut out the fat. The increased page count feels entirely justified in this case, however. Schwab uses the extra room to not only deepen the plot but to flesh out the characters – we spend more time with both our heroes Kell and Lila and just about every one of the ever-growing supporting cast gets a chance at the spotlight or at least some shade added to their personality.
One of the series’ great strengths has always been its blend of different genres and styles. There is obviously magical fantasy, parallel worlds theory and even a hint of historical fiction with the alternate 18th century setting. This final book builds on the swashbuckling adventure found in previous novels and adds in a full-blown quest across the ocean on a pirate ship. As the backbone of the second half of the book, it expands the world of the story and acts as the perfect final adventure for our two protagonists, as it neatly rounds out their character arcs. To elaborate anymore would be to spoil the journey, but suffice it to say that Schwab knows how to deliver a satisfying denouement.
A Conjuring of Light makes for a very worthy finale to the Shades of Magic series. Marrying complex character-driven drama with a thrilling fantastic yarn, it is surely the best of the bunch. Now that the series is complete, we can wholeheartedly say that the books are some of the best fantasy fiction of the decade.
A CONJURING OF LIGHT / AUTHOR: V.E. SCHWAB / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW