The third part of the Shades of Magic series is out, and I’ve got to say I was pleasantly surprised. This third entry is the strongest of the three. The characters are more complex, the action is better paced, and it prose just seem to be smoother, more refined. It seems like third times the charm.
All the characters hitherto introduced play a role, some big some annoyingly minor, and it’s their interactions and growth which really sold me on this book. Previously the Royals of Red London were irritating in the extreme. Each being an unrepentant stereotype who’s every action was easily predicted, including Kell and Rhys. Here however they each get a chance to shine. You see Rhys trying to deal with his resurrections long term effects, and what it means to be Prince of his city. You go with the Queen as she battles her need to protect her child, and accepting that Kell is hers too. With Old King Maresh you follow an old King, helpless in the face of his Empires ruin. Each of these tales is done so well that you can’t help but empathize with these formally bland caricatures. Well, except for Kell.
“I told you to keep him safe, not cuddle.”
Alucard spread his hands behind him on the sheets. “I’m more than capable of multitasking”
Kell manages to stay bland. Not that he doesn’t develop of course, it’s just he spends that latter half of the book surrounded by much more vibrant characters like Alucard, Holland, and Lila. Each has tragedies in their past which we explore, and sometimes see first-hand. Comparatively, Kell’s issues seem to be just so much whining.
Beyond the characters though, we have the plot. This again, is much better than previous entries. While A Darker Shade of Magic was a multidimensional chase fueled by coincidence as much as character action, and A Gathering of Shadows used an incredibly boring tournament to bring the main players back together, hiding a much more interesting narrative about Holland trying to rebuild White London, this entry has a purpose. You start off knowing all the main character’s goals and motivations. Save the city from Osaron, otherwise everything they love and care for will die. Given this we can predict their actions in a fun way, as it’s what we would do in their situation, as opposed to the previous entries where we knew what was going to happen, because that’s what always happens in these kinds of stories.
“Then why are you smiling?”
“Because,” she said, “bad ideas are my favorite kind.”
Nothing really comes out of left field here. Everything is foreshadowed well, it all fits with the world so far built up, and while the McGuffin used to forward the plot near the end is a tad annoying and out of place, it works within the world just fine. It just seems a tad too convenient.
This one is definitely worth a read. I’m willing to say trudging through the previous two instalments is even worth it for this book alone. Rhy and Lila have become, well not two of my favourite characters, but two of the more memorable ones at least. Give it a shot, for some good old fashioned adventure and intrigue if nothing else.
“Magic made everything feel so impermanent, it was easy to forget that some things, once changed, could never be undone. That not everything was either changeable or infinite. Some roads kept going, and others had an end.”
Amazon Link:A Conjuring of Light (A Darker Shade of Magic 3)