A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Good action scenes and some good character development can’t overcome the trope-like behavior of major characters, overdeveloped but never realized plot-device characters, and a long list of frustrating unresolved subplots.
I was really excited for A Conjuring a Light. I feel in love with the first two books. Schwab created a deep world, characters with complexity that felt real and interesting, a casual treatment of sexuality, and a magic system was refreshingly unique in the fantasy genre. I left the first two books satisfied but excited for the next installment–always wanting to find out more. What happened in Black London? Why was the difference between Gray London and White London? There were so many great questions I was left with.
But I felt like the third book didn’t provide any additional insight and in fact left me with more questions. But instead of being engaging, the questions were frustrating as the reader is only given brief hints at what’s going on without any deeper explanation.
In the previous books, characters had depth and multiple dimensions and motivations. In the third book, those same major characters suddenly went 1-dimensional and flat. Interactions felt more like tropes than true organic happenings that fit with the characters. One such instance is a lover’s quarrel in which one party refused to listen to the other to the point of being obstinate as if there were raw, angry feelings between them. Expect were perfectly fine discussing anything not about their past as if they were best friends. They had moments of weird intimacy that felt incongruent with the characters build up. The whole book felt off from lack of believable motivation characters.
There wasn’t much resolution of minor plot lines and it felt like they just .. withered on the vine. There were allusions to important events (like Kell’s past) that were tantalized then dropped never to be revisited. Some things were never really explained, such as the role of Grey London in all of this despite Schwab making it clear that Grey London was important somehow.
Character motivations really flat for me. Both leading players and supporting players boiled down a single-minded motivation to the exclusion of any common sense whatsoever, such as Ojka or Rhy. If Schwab was trying to communicate a dogmatic steadfastness to a certain ideal, I didn’t get that from reading. There often wasn’t enough context about why a character was single-minded about something to make it feel authentic.
The book also introduced some characters that felt like they were going to be really interesting, only to have them serve their plot purpose and fade away. Supporting characters like Hastra, the soldier who’s better as a priest, never feel realized. Their backstories felt like something that Schwab started and then got bored with and never finished.
Negatives aside, the book does have its good points. The beginning of the story started off with a bang and picked up the frantic feeling from the end of the second book. The explorations of the King and Queen as characters felt satisfying and deep. Most of the action scenes were fun and engaging. The book introduced a a coupe interesting minor characters that I wanted to know more about and tantalized me enough to hope they appear in future works.
Overall, A Counjuring of Light had a few high points but they were overshadowed by trope-like motivations and flat character progression. There tantalizing hints at deeper meanings that are frustratingly unrealized. It’s entirely possible that Schwab was laying the ground work for future entries into the series, but the execution of the ground work was more frustrating than engaging for me. If the first 2 books not been as good as they were, I would probably be less critical of A Conjuring of Light.
If you fell in love with the first two books, the first one is worth the read. If you were lukewarm or just thought it was OK, you’ll likely find A Conjuring of Light. hard to get through.
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