The final Shades of Magic book arrived on my doorstep two days early, courtesy of Amazon. If you have Prime shipping, the book has release-day delivery, and you live in the right area--namely, near a distribution center--that happens sometimes. Unfortunately, I didn't get to it right away. But upon reading A Conjuring of Light, I didn't find myself wishing I'd read it sooner.
As an offering, ACoL falls somewhere between A Darker Shade of Magic (book one) and A Gathering of Shadows (book two). The plot deals with the descent of the "shadow king" Osaron upon Red London and the plight of that London's inhabitants, plus White London Antari Holland and Grey London Antari Lila, as they try to oust Osaron from his new position of power. The central plot is solid, and involves several "tried and failed" schemes to defeat Osaron, from trapping him in a body and then killing the body to hacking him apart with weapons spelled to dispel magic. It even involves a sea journey to what was a very cool floating marketplace full of magical artifacts. Holland plays a larger role in this book, as do Prince Rhy and Alucard Emery. We even get some of Holland's back story, which has largely been missing until this point. But despite all that, I found myself wanting more.
A Darker Shade of Magic had magic (duh) and wonder and the wide-eyed amazement of these three or four Londons stacked atop each other, and the movements between them. That went away in the second book, and it was largely lacking here, too. Ninety-five percent of this book takes place in Red London, and Osaron turns out to be a uniquely Red London problem. Ultimately, the interplay of the various Londons isn't really brought onto the stage, nor is it acknowledged that, despite Osaron's defeat, Black London appears to still be infringing on White, and when White falls, isn't Red next? And what of Grey after that? I would have loved to see the worlds tied more closely together once again, especially since we officially had an Antari from each world on the stage. And while Osaraon is eventually defeated (obviously) it doesn't seem like a permanent solution to me, and rather more seems like something Schwab might potentially be setting up for future books. Something like "Osaron is released once again and Lila must make good on her promise of favor to Maris," which is another plot line that was never truly wrapped up.
The relationships here were satisfying, building up without taking away too much central plot time. And while I was initially frustrated by so many chapters from so many different characters who had, until this point, been on the fringes at best--like the king and queen--I think their involvement ultimately paid off. I would have liked to see more from Mr. Edward Tuttle, the wannabe magician of Grey London, but again, it seems like that might be something that Schwab is setting up for the future. Possibly. It's hard to say distinctively, but this book lacks a solid ending. It feels like she's done with it, but also like she might want to come back later, and so she didn't wrap things up. Which is fine if she does come back to it, but with no announced plans to do so, it comes across as sloppy.
Overall, I liked this book, but it didn't totally engross me. A Darker Shade of Magic was breathtaking, A Gathering of Shadows was just okay and suffered from Second Book Syndrome, and this one was good, but nothing that absolutely blew me away or left me reeling and eager to read it again. Consequently, I'll score it right between the first two.
4 stars out of 5.