“A Conjuring of Light” by V.E. Schwab

Don’t worry: like the majority of my reviews, this is spoiler-free. Obviously, if you don’t want to know anything about A Conjuring of Light whatsoever, then you may want to give it a miss, but since the book came out last week and I devoured it in an evening, I thought it was worth reviewing here!

That said, I can’t guarantee my review will be very coherent as I had a LOT of feelings when reading this book. When it finished, I let out this kind of screeching noise that prompted my flatmate to come and check that I was okay and hadn’t hurt myself (again – I fell and sprained my ankle about a week ago, so she’s being logical rather than overly protective). Nope, that was just my heart. I also spent the last 150 pages or so murmuring, “No no no no no no no no no no,” under my breath, so take from that what you will, and let’s get on with the review.

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Also it looked so pretty that I took photos with it in the Newnham gardens the day it arrived.

This was an incredibly satisfying end to a trilogy. I’ve read some disappointing finales, but this was absolutely not one of them. The things that needed to be climactic were climactic. There was a good balance of loss and happiness. Enough people died (creys) that it felt like there were actual stakes and risks, but not so many that it was overwhelmingly bleak.

There were hints of romance, but they didn’t overwhelm the story and they weren’t given priority over other kinds of relationships, which were still shown as deeply significant. The writing was occasionally a little too self-conscious for my liking (in that I like to be able to forget I’m reading, so when the narration is very ‘present’ in a scene it can be distracting), but most of it’s gorgeous.

Also, one of the things I was most impressed with was how VE Schwab managed to balance the viewpoints of a LOT of characters without distracting from the ones we really care about, and even the more minor characters offer something unique that contributes to the overall effect. Some books that bring in new viewpoints late in the series (like The Raven King) end up being a bit of a distraction because honestly, I just want to read the characters I care about. That said, some of the viewpoints were new but the characters weren’t, which helped, I think.

At 666 pages in the UK edition (lol), this is anything but a short book, but it didn’t feel long. It didn’t drag. I read it in around 4 hours, give or take and with some breaks, because it was compulsive and engaging and it didn’t get bogged down in details but it still had plenty of answers to all one’s worldbuilding questions and so on. I’d also read all of AGoS that day, so it was a LOT of Schwab to read all at once, about 1100 pages — I think I was fairly firmly immersed in the world and the writing style by that point.

Often, when I read a book that I enjoy, I find myself going off it in the days after I finish it, because hindsight makes me forget what I didn’t like and remember what I did. But this did the opposite: looking back, my view is only getting more positive, because the only negative thing I can come up with is that the book’s too fat to read comfortably as a paperback if you don’t want to break the spine (and I was trying to keep it looking pretty); making sure I was holding it carefully kept distracting me throughout the reading experience. Which is a pretty minor complaint, really, when you think about it.

I even found myself caring about minor characters, even if I’ve now forgotten their names — and I usually get annoyed when a book diverts momentarily to see what’s going on with somebody half a world away (or indeed, in a completely different world). Some of those little interludes were among my favourite bits of the book, to be honest.

This is one of those books that hits so many of the spots for me it would feel self-indulgent if it weren’t for the fact it seems to hit them for so many other people as well — normally, when I like something in this way, it means it’s weird and esoteric and obscure, but this is POPULAR. It manages to hit so many common denominators and yet still feel like something that was tailored to my interests. How is this possible?

I mean, there’s even a cute cat that looks disgruntled in multiple scenes and is possibly contemplating regicide. WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

As for the ending — and don’t worry, this is still spoiler-free — well, it wasn’t actually that sad? It was much happier than some of my favourite book endings of all time (see Ptolemy’s Gate by Jonathan Stroud), because I love a bit of tragedy, and there was definitely a part of me that was kind of hoping it would rip my heart out. In hindsight, though, I’m glad it didn’t: I liked how the book ended.

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In front of Clough Hall, Newnham College.

So yeah, I guess that’s my review. Honestly, this probably did everything I could’ve hoped the trilogy’s finale would do, and it was definitely a hell of a lot more satisfying than certain other series finales I’ve read in the past year… Highly, highly recommended (as is the whole trilogy!).

Rating: *****

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