I’ve run into a fair amount of people who love stories ending in a twist, perhaps the hero doesn’t survive or the quest isn’t fully completed. They’re seen as more realistic and are praised for breaking from the norm. For myself though, I love happy endings. I don’t read books because they accurately reflect real life. I read them for the stories, for the adventures, for the outcomes. Real life can already be difficult and not have happy endings and I don’t necessarily want that in every story I read. I do occasionally like those darker books with a twist but for whatever reason, I have been in the need lately for some happy resolutions. So, as I neared the end of A Conjuring of Light, I was filled with nervous anticipation. Would all my beloved characters make it through???
Before I get too much further, I want to give a quick background of the world V. E. Schwab creates. Or more accurately, worlds. Basically there are four different worlds but each have the same city, London, that generally have the same geographic markers (such as a large river running through it) as real life London.
That is the only similarity and each of the worlds are categorized by the magic that exists within each of them: Grey London has no magic, Red London is filled to the brim with magic, White London is slowly dying and losing its magic, and Black London has been overtaken by magic. The majority of the series focuses on the balance between the people and magic which, if given enough freedom, has a mind and force of its own. While travel between the worlds used to be more abundant, before the fall of Black London, now only a select few have the magic to do such. These people, called Antari, are who the story follows. For the most part, Red London is the center point for the series. It is the most vibrant of the worlds and thus also has the most to lose should the people, and the Antari, allow magic to run rampant. Now, with that background, back to how A Conjuring of Light, the final book in the series, went.
Schwab got me so thoroughly invested in each character, down to the point I even wanted the anti-hero, Holland, to succeed. Holland, the Antari from White London, was a mystery for much of the first two books. In fact, in the first he was one of the antagonists and ended up supposedly dead. Well, surprise! He survived. At first, I was a bit annoyed by this fact. Here my seemingly happy ending in the first book was shattered and the villain returned. However, Schwab completely erases the mystery behind Holland in the finale. We get snippets of his past and his memories, leading up to where we find him in A Darker Shade of Magic. My opinion of him did nearly a 180. I can’t completely absolve him of all of his deeds as some were quite
atrocious, but his motivations become much clearer. White London is a dark place where the need for magic rules and violence is rampant. All Holland wants is for his world to thrive and he struggles every step of the way. He is a perfect counter to Kell, the Antari of lively Red London, who rarely wants for anything. Their different lives are expertly played out throughout A Conjuring of Light and give a depth to each of the characters that was not there in the previous two books. So, despite my initial impressions, Holland grew on me and I found myself sympathizing with him. He was still could be insufferable, but I liked the contrast he brought to the story and wanted him to find his peace. Without giving too much away, I believe he did by the end. Of all the characters, his story was the least happy and yet I left satisfied with where it ended up.
So, for the rest of the book. It was great. The penultimate book ended in a huge cliffhanger and A Conjuring of Light picks up right where it left off. Adventure begins from the get go and Schwab doesn’t shy away from the realities of such adventures. A lot of fantastic, well-loved characters don’t make it to the end, but their deaths make sense. She doesn’t go around senselessly killing characters just for shock or a twist. We also get to see more of Red London’s world as new major players come from different countries within the world and the main characters’ quest takes them literally out to sea. In terms of life lessons and what not, the book does do a good job of demonstrating how a selfish desire for power can lead to ultimate destruction. In fact, I could argue that the entire series revolves around the consequences from a few, selfish acts by well intentioned people. In the end though, as cheesy as it sounds, it is the heroes and anti-heroes coming together in the end that saves the day. Schwab left me incredibly satisfied with a happy ending and promises of adventures to come for my favorite characters without making it cliche.
Once again, I can’t leave all this be without mentioning the fantastic female character, Lila Bard. She comes from Grey London in the first book but manages to trick the supposedly clever Kell into a ride to Red London. From there, she is integral part of each book and I love her. Rough and tough from the start, Lila is far from perfect and isn’t afraid of taking a life or three. Her flaws give her so much depth and she is not a typical, need to be saved, female character. Even her romantic interests are subtle and don’t over shadow the rest of her tale. While each of the main characters have great character building, Lila’s is still my favorite, and not just because she is the main female. She goes from a street thief barely surviving to an accomplished magician who helps save the day. In the beginning all Lila wants is a way out and an adventure. She gets just that while gaining both lifelong friends and a new home. Her adventurous spirit is not quelled though and in the end we get to see her once again sailing away towards more adventures, this time though, the captain of her own ship.
Just to wrap everything up and state the obvious, I love A Conjuring of Light and the entire Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab. It is a great fantasy series and I highly recommend it to all readers. The separate worlds meld marvelously together and the characters are well written with thorough character arcs. And the best part? Its finished! No agonizing wait for the next book (seriously George R.R. Martin, get on that please). It was one of those series I was sad to finish and one I will definitely return to.
4 books down and slightly behind but I’m going to tackle a smaller book next I think, just to give myself a quick, easy read. Happy Reading!