A Gathering of Shadows - V.E. Schwab, Michael Kramer, Kate Reading
After finishing the first book in the Shades of Magic, A Darker Shade of Magic, I jumped right into this one. As mentioned before, I loved the characters and this one not only introduced a few new ones, but let us see some more of my favorite second tier characters.

*Some spoilers for the first book, and maybe a small one for this book*

Kell and Lilah are still the main characters and we learn early on that Holland survived his time in Black London and has returned to White London. He continues to be our main protagonist, along with the being that was inside the black stone and who we definitely get to know much better. This time, though, Rhy is much more interesting as he attempts to come out of the shadow of the spell Kell had cast to save hime. Kell, on the other hand, is not for much of the story out of concern for what his own risks could cause to the crown. The king and queen mostly annoyed me but their responses to the whole crisis between this book and the last is well founded and I would have done the same as a parent fully knowing and not caring that I was annoying the crap out of everyone who was just trying to live their lives.

Lilah gets much more interesting here, though. She isn't so much paired with Kell in her adventures anymore, but with a new character Alucard Emery. I love him too. He's a bit of a scoundrel but in a very Rhett Butler kind of way that I've always loved. I don't want to give away too much of his involvement in the story, as I had gone in not knowing much more than that beautiful title and the events of the last book. I will say, though, that he is much more fun than Kell had been in even the first book and gives Kell a run for his money in ways not necessarily associated with Lilah.

I also loved that there continued to not so much be a love triangle or love story of any significant sort in these books. There's plenty of making out, but nothing that distracts from the actual plot. I can't possibly express how much I miss reading books with no romantic subplots. Aside from that, there are plenty of loyalties forming and testing in this one that does propel the story in a similar fashion that a romantic subplot does.

Again, the world building is spectacular. We do get to see a little more of it as Lilah has traveled some by the beginning and we get to meet newcomers from other places for the Elemental Games that the plot surrounds. It's not so much about the Games as what happens when the Games are in town, if that makes sense. The Games themselves are quite a bit like the Olympics here rather than the Triwizard Tournament of Harry Potter or the Hunger Games.