(Reviewer’s note: While this review contains *no spoilers* for A Conjuring of Light, it is impossible to write about a sequel without giving away some of the things that occur in the previous novel in the series.)
V.E. Schwab returns to form in the third book of her Shades of Magic series. A Conjuring of Light picks up at the cliffhanger ending of A Gathering of Shadows (2016). I was a little let down by the slow pace, light tone and abrupt end to Gathering, but Conjuring recaptures the, ahem, magic from series debut, A Darker Shade of Magic (2015).
After the slow burn of Gathering, Conjuring is a bonfire from start to finish. The novel begins with thief-turned-pirate-turned-magician Lila Bard racing across worlds to rescue Kell the Antari from magical imprisonment. Lila has recently learned that she too is an Antari—one of three innate magicians capable of passing between worlds—but she has yet to learn how to control her powers.
The third Antari, Holland, is the most interesting character in the series. Once enslaved to the evil rulers of White London, Holland has been possessed by Osaron, “a piece of incarnated magic.” The cold-blooded and ruthless antagonist of Darker, Holland’s humanity emerges in the later books, revealing him to be a tragic figure.
Kell and Lila manage to capture Holland and hold him as Osaron takes over Red London. They work with Alucard, a magician and pirate who trained Lila in the ways of magic, to find a way to defeat the godlike force that threatens to devour their entire world.
Rather unusually for the third book in a series, Conjuring continues to fill in the backstory of its characters. We learn more about the complicated relationship between Kell and his adopted family, as well as the fraught romance between his brother Rhy and Alucard. Even Lila’s mysterious past comes into greater focus.
This is a solid conclusion to the Shades of Magic trilogy (although Schwab has left herself room for further adventures in her universe of Londons). The stakes are high, the pace is quick, and the excitement never lets up. Readers who have followed along on this journey will not be disappointed.