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A Gathering of Shadows (A YA Book Review)

3.5/5 stars but not enough saving grace to bump to 4stars. Sorry (shrugs).

I had very high expectations for this series going on. I was pumped. I love magic, elements, alternate realities...and yet something keeps missing the mark. In ADSOM, the last 100 pages pretty much saved the book. And AGOS is very much the same. The first 100 pages blew my mind! Pirates! Kick ass, hot, mysterious captain! And then....nothing happens for like 300 pages. No action. Lots of thinking, speculating, and plotting. But nothing to drive the story forward. Then...again...the last 100 pages are great and action-filled, ending on a cliffhanger.

Two things that bothered me: 1. How long it took Lila and Kell to cross paths. I knew where it was going and when they would most likely meet, but it was irritating as this event didn't happen until 2/3 of the book passed. 2. The reason Kell hates Alucard. To wish someone death because they broke someone's heart...Unless this person completely went off the deep end which we are not told...yet. It just seems a bit petty/irrational so I'm hoping there is more to it.

Things I think could have been better:

-The book is heavy on the verbiage without much action.

-I still don't care much for Lila. She's grown on me a bit, but generally speaking you don't hold a knife to someone's side because they said something that irked you (and is probably true) when you love them. Everyone would be up in arms if this were a male character, but because it's a female it's seen as strong? That's not sending mixed messages (sarcasm). I also don't think morally ambiguous characters (she kills without remorse in her thieving past, but someone must have called foul because she shows a tiny bit of remorse in book book one she relished the thrill of taking someone's life she said so herself) is not strong, or someone to aspire to. As a 35 year old former literature teacher, I don't consider this a "strong" character, I actually think the behavior is evident of someone trying to compensate for a lack of self-confidence. I understand her circumstances created this, but Lila does acknowledge throughout that she has a choice. I love that she is there for Kell 99% of the time. This is just not a character I would put on a pedestal, but I guess it's just a result of the odd societal expectations sent to women as to what constitutes "strong." HOWEVER, maybe by the end of ACOL, Lila will have overcome her circumstances and learned that her past does not define her. Then I will consider that strong, but at this point. Sorry, no can do.

Things that I loved:

-The Element Games were a fun idea and I actually like that the battles/competitions weren't pages and pages long. The descriptions also left room for the reader's imagination without handing them all the details.

-The resurrection of a character who is bad, but trying to really do good in a weird way.

-The confrontation between Lila and a certain mercenary. (I kept flashing to Inej in SoC and that one crazy chick.)

-Alucard is AMAZING. He reminds me of Nikolai a bit, but older and more mature.

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