Book Discussion: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Week 12)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Welcome to the A Darker Shade of Magic book discussion! We are going to have a blast reading along together. Each week, following the schedule, my friend Jackie and I will recap that particular week’s chapters with hilarious commentary. At the end of each discussion post, there will be a few questions to get the party started. These questions serve as food for thought. All comments related to the book and this week’s chapters are always welcome! Remember: I am giving away a copy of the paperback edition of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (for extra entries, comment below)! Now, let’s get this party started!

This week, we'll be discussing Part 12, Chapter 5 to 6 and Part 13, Chapter 1 to 3. To depict our thoughts in the most coherent way possible (after all, this is a dialogue between friends), my font color will stay black and Jackie's color will be red.

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers ahead! This post discusses this week’s chapters of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. If you do not want to be spoiled on what happens in the book, don’t read any further.

Part 12: Chapter 5

Jeanna: Kell is pulled back from the door he made for himself and Lila. Holland catches him and Kell loses his opening to travel to White London. Holland is set on retrieving the Stone for the twin rulers. However, even though he was told to bring Kell in alive, he doesn’t have any qualms of “accidentally” killing him if that’s what it takes to get the Stone back into White London’s possession.

Kell and Holland fight. And for most of the fight, it looks hopeless for Kell. He doesn’t want to give into the Stone and fight using its magic but he doesn’t want to die either. The struggle is real. In the end, it’s Kell’s clever thinking that get him out of Holland’s grasp. Kell is able to tie Holland up with chains. Though, Holland is a fighter and if left to his own devices, those chains would be off in mere seconds. Kell, regretfully, realizes it’s him or Holland. He stabs Holland in the back with a metal piece.

Ouch 40 Days And 40 Nights GIF

Holland may have not had any problem killing Kell but Kell certainly regrets it immediately. He has just murdered the only other Antari in existence (that we know of). And Holland let him do it, which is even more curious. Holland knows the moment he is about to get stabbed in the back. I wonder what that fact may mean: why didn’t Holland duck or otherwise fight with Kell some more? Why does he go so willingly to death? Doesn’t it seem a little too easy?

Kell is about to steal a White London token on Holland’s person. After thinking on it, he decides to take Holland’s body with him. And, well, Holland’s not dead yet but quite close to it. And knowing Schwab up to this point, I don’t think Holland is going to live much longer.

Jackie: Yeah, I posed this certain piece as a question, but I was wondering, did Holland want Kell to be able to reach Black London, or at least did Holland want an end to his life being puppeteered by Astrid and Athos? This final blow that Kell makes, Kell remarks that Holland definitely saw it coming and could have easily countered or gotten out of the way of this. Instead, he takes the blow, and the fight is just about over for Holland. I wonder though what Holland’s intentions were. To be relieved of his soul bond with the White London rulers, or to give Kell the opportunity to make his way through White London, and then to Black London. 

From how Kell describes his reaction of relief, I’m going to assume that his reasoning was to be released from the soul bond. I don’t blame him. If I had to be bonded to Astrid and Athos until death, I would probably do something similar to get out of that horrific existence. 

I thought Kell’s fight with Holland was interesting as well, because the reader is led to believe that Holland is basically going to take Kell out. Kell just is not as strong and quick as Holland it seems, and if it wasn’t for Holland’s supposed want to be relieved of his soul bond, then Kell may not be alive at this point in the book. Kell has got to get a personal trainer and bulk up, seriously. If he’s going to have to protect himself and Lila from the citizens of White and Black London, he’s going to need a lot of natural power to rely on if he chooses to not use the Stone. 

angry power GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants

I agree, knowing Schwab, I think that Holland is going to die shortly after Kell leaves. I wish we could have seen an existence of Holland before he was soul bonded to Athos and Astrid. I wonder what he would have been like. Do you think Kell and him could have been friends? 

Jeanna: I think Holland doesn’t really care about Kell making it to Black London. He’s made it abundantly clear that even against orders, he’ll have no problem with killing Kell. I want to believe that Holland has some sort of sense in that if the Stone goes to the White London rulers, it’s all over. However, the soul bond controls him so even if he had lost the fight here, he would have to come back at Kell again until he succeeded.

In that moment when Holland knows he is about to die, Kell takes notice of it. In the coming chapters, we get to see Beloc, a character from earlier in the book. We had mentioned a while ago that the bond that controls Holland sounds similar to the bond that controls Beloc. If we are continuing with the parallelism between the two characters, both of their deaths are extremely familiar. Having had time to think about Holland’s lack of fighting in the end, it reminded me a lot of how Beloc asks to be killed. The soul bond is absolutely terrifying and the young boy has only had a week or so under their control - just imagine how long Holland himself has been under the White London rulers’ control. Holland is probably too proud to tell Kell to murder him and maybe he even knows that White London has eyes everywhere. However, I think Holland is almost happy for the end because it means the end of his suffering.

And he’s not dead yet. There’s still a chance that he somehow heals or something. Don’t Antari heal rather quickly? (There’s also still a chance Barron is alive but I think that’s a slim chance.)

Yeah, shouldn’t Kell know how to fight? You’d think working for the royal family, passing along messages, that the King and Queen would give him some training. In every fight Kell has had with Holland thus far, it’s always a surprise that Kell wins. Because Holland seems to be a much better fighter. Even Lila is a better fighter. Kell may know his usual Antari spells but he’s no match when it comes to fists.

What did you think of Kell’s decision to bring Holland along to White London? There are two ways that I’m looking at this: Kell has always been the nicer of the two and, of course, bringing Holland back to his homeland (though wasn’t Holland not from White London?) to have a proper burial is most kind. Also, it seems a rash decision. Kell was going to just raid Holland’s pockets for a White London trinket, but instead he’s now carrying around an almost-dead weight that will no doubt slow Kell down if another fight should arise.

Jackie: I agree with you about Holland’s intentions that he didn’t really care about Kell being able to continue his journey to Black London. 

That’s true about Holland and Beloc too. I have a feeling though that Holland wants it to be over. As you drew the examples between Beloc and Holland, Beloc was terrified just for that short length of time under the soul bond, so while Holland has had time to grow accustomed to it, the bond must be awful to have to be under each waking moment of every day. 

I would find it interesting if Holland and Barron were to come back all of the sudden, I mean it would make for a plot twist ending, seriously. 

As far as Kell’s decision to being Holland to White London, I think he felt guilty over having to almost-kill Holland, so I feel like he was trying to make Holland’s death a little more pleasant by at least trying to have a nice send off for him. However, as you pointed out, having to carry a body around would be a massive pain especially if some citizens, or the rulers themselves met up with Kell before he could find a place to bring the body to. Imagine Kell’s lack of fighting skills while having this massive body to haul around during the middle of a magic fight to protect himself, and maybe Lila as well? I mean, Kell already has his fighting issues, so that would be such a bad situation to run into. 

I personally think that while I appreciate Kell’s ties to sentiment and having purpose and meaning behind his kills, that he is too sappy. This behavior is definitely going to contribute to his downfall one day. Like, it’s fine to want to send off Holland in a decent manner, but not while you’ve got the Stone on you that the White London rulers and other greedy citizens can smell from three London’s away.

Jeanna: You know what would make a most crazy plot twist: if Powell came back from the dead. Powell and Parrish are the only ones we saw die, without question. Holland is only mostly-dead. Barron’s death was a fade to black scene. If Schwab just had everyone come back (and not as zombies), that would be something.

Bringing Holland back is not the best plan, I think. If Athos and Astrid cared about Holland at all, I would think they’d be mighty angry that Kell had killed him. Of course, we know that it doesn’t happen that way. However, bringing White London’s Antari back into the lion’s den while there’s a fight brewing is not the best plan. The rulers are already angry about the Stone and now, they know about Holland too so they’re going to be even more angry, I would think.

Part 12: Chapter 6

Kell, with Holland, walk in on this image of Lila still fighting her own in White London. She has two bloodied knives, clearly having already used them. There’s a pile of bodies and yet, more townspeople advance on her. Go, Lila!

Go Get A Donut I Got This GIF by Survivor’s Remorse

Kell swoops in and helps her fend them off. I wouldn’t call it rescuing since Lila was doing a grand job on her own. Once they get across the bridge, the townspeople give them a wide berth as they’re closer to the castle now.

Lila hopes Kell gave Holland what he deserved. However, Kell doesn’t seem to fault Holland at all. He seems to regret putting him in this state - mostly-dead. He also seems to solely blame his evil behavior on the fact that he is soul bound to the White London rulers. I don’t buy that. As much as I would love to believe there may be some good in Holland, it’s hard to believe when he goes around trying to kill Kell every chance he gets.

Kell and Lila, with Holland in tow, enter the castle grounds. No one is ready for what’s to come. I’m certainly not ready.

Jackie: Lila is seriously an amazing fighter, and she doesn’t even have magical powers to help her (well she might, as we hinted at last week’s discussion). 

I wouldn’t call Kell a hero either since Lila probably could have finished those townspeople off on her own, and plus, as shown in the fight between Kell and Holland, I’m doubting Kell’s abilities to fight more and more as the story continues. 

Yeah, I mean I would like to believe that there was good in Holland as well, but since he made up his time by trying to kill Kell, I agree that there was not a lot of good left in him, if any. How can there be good in you with a soul bond to the most horrid rulers of White London though? I wonder how much of that soul bond morphed Holland’s mind though, like after not having complete control over yourself and being forced to do God knows what awful things instructed by the White London rulers, when does that start to affect you and the way that you think? It has got to have some kind of emotional and behavioral effect overtime. 

No one is ready for what may happen. Like I’m rooting for Kell and Lila, but Kell better bring his a-game magic fighting skills this time around, otherwise it could be the end. 

Jeanna: Lila could have probably single-handedly taken on everyone in White London and still win. She’s a fighter, a pirate, and, of course, a winner!

The only thing Kell can really rely on (because he certainly can’t rely on his fighting skills) is his magic work. Let’s hope he’s on his game with knowing all his spells and stuff. In this chapter, Kell and Lila went up against the townspeople of White London and as soon as Kell enters the picture, he decides to have them run. They’re about to go up against the rulers of White London. They’re 100 times more ruthless than their townspeople so it’s not looking good for them.

Part 13: Chapter 1

This chapter is just one page but we learn some important things for such a short chapter. Athos has the other half of the Stone which I believe is news to us. At least, I didn’t recall him having the other half. Again, Schwab keeps us in the dark until the last possible moment. Holland had mentioned that Athos has a knack for finding things and he had found the half of the Stone that Kell now possesses. Athos must have gotten a hold of the other half in a similar way. Though, it is strange that both halves were in White London all this time. I was thinking that there was going to be some sort of adventure where we’d first have to find the other half and then go to Black London to destroy them both. Well, thanks, Athos for making it so easy.

Also, Athos has been watching the whole thing, just as we were reading the book, he’s been watching the story unfold like a movie. He knows everything that has gone down. Something I thought odd here was that he refers to the two Antari as “playthings.” In his eyes, Holland was his plaything and Kell is Astrid’s. That’s interesting, considering Kell works for Red London and has nothing to do with White London except play delivery boy.

I Don'T Think So No GIF by Rodney Dangerfield

And can you believe that Astrid is still in Red London wreaking havoc? Her body is sitting limply in her throne. Yet, her soul is still taking control of that necklace in Red London. I wonder what’s going on there. Is Rhy doing okay? How did Rhy feel when Kell was getting suffocated by Holland two chapters ago? Everything that happens to Kell now, even the Stone’s power, is also happening to Rhy. Gulp.

Jackie: Yeah, I didn’t expect both halves to be in the same London in the end. Just as you said, I thought we’d have to go on an adventure to find the other half, but hey, that was easy. 

Easy GIF

Yeah, I think that Astrid and Athos think that they are the rulers of all Londons for whatever reasons, so they consider anything or anyone “less powerful” than them to be somewhat of a plaything. All these rulers do is take advantage of others as if they were playthings, just like Astrid is with the necklace, and is taking over the person who wears the necklace. I think that Holland and Kell have a certain amount of discomfort, and perhaps fear and hesitation when it comes to the White London rulers. I believe that this is due to the complete lack of sanity that these rulers have. I mean, their main goal I think is to be rulers of all the Londons, that’s what it seems like anyway. I think this is why Astrid and Athos take that fear and use it to their advantage to have a certain amount of control over both Antari. I mean Holland has a soul bond to the rulers and Kell, earlier in the book, was called to White London and had wanted to leave right after taking care of his business there, but then ends up staying for drinks at the fear of upsetting the White London rulers. Athos and Astrid are just ruthless rulers. 

Oh yes, and we still have Astrid running all over Red London making it a haven of destruction at the moment. I hope that Rhy is alright though. Getting choked by Holland definitely had to be a surprise since Rhy probably had no idea why he felt like he was choking out of nowhere. I just hope that Kell and Lila can get rid of these rulers so that Rhy can be safe, at least for the time being. 

Jeanna: Astrid and Athos seriously need to get off their high horse. I think it would be interesting to see what they actually did to become the rulers. Like, we get snippets of how they accomplished that with their garden of statues but I want more back story. Did they both wake up one day and say to each other that they wanted to rule the world? Then, in doing so, the power got to them and now they’re completely crazy. Sure, their plans have worked, for the most part, but NO ONE SEEMS TO NOTICE THE ZOMBIES IN THEIR BACKYARD. Still.

And the playthings comment, which I entirely agree with you is how the rulers perceive everyone else. I’m still imagining the King and Queen’s creepy calm faces while everyone else is screaming in terror back in Red London. The rulers don’t care about anyone except themselves and their needs alone. So, it makes total sense that each ruler took claim to one of the Antari.

Since Astrid is running around still, you’d think Gen would have caught up to her by now. So I wonder if she might have noticed the epidemic that the Stone has caused or if she’s still clueless. And what’s her plan in Red London if it wasn’t to kill the prince - since the prince is gone now and she failed at that anyway? Why is she still hovering there?

Jackie: Oh my gosh, I can only imagine the things they did to become rulers of White London. And, yes, I think they literally woke up one day, had their morning tea, then had a discussion about world domination. I could picture that clearly in my mind…

And yes, I have no idea how these zombies are still not being noticed, like is everyone that unaware of their surroundings? I mean at this point it’s a race between Astrid’s necklace and the Stone’s abilities to take over people to see who wins out on this week's edition of our new television show, hosted by Schwab, WORLD DOMINATION, LONDON STYLE! WHO WILL WIN, THE BOLD, THE BEAUTIFUL, THE METICULOUS, OR A ROCK? TUNE IN TO FIND OUT!

Simon Cowell We Can Take Over The World GIF by America's Got Talent

Yeah, I wonder why Astrid is still in Red London as well since the prince is still alive, like what is she doing there? Manipulating bodies and killing people for fun? 

Jeanna: I would most definitely tune in to that show! You could also turn it into a video game. Players would lose points every time they passed a character that was actually a zombie and they didn’t realize it.

Part 13: Chapter 2

Kell is worried because there’s absolutely no guards in the halls, guiding his way. As bad as those robot guards are, the absence of them is even worse. White London is terrifying but abandoned hallways in White London is horror movie material. Kell, I really hope you know what you are doing.

His big plan is to meet Athos head on. Athos has one half of the Stone. And Kell has the other half. However, Kell has already planned not to use the Stone. When it’s not looking good for Kell right in the beginning. They begin fighting. Athos spends most of the fight laughing because, apparently, Kell’s skills are hilarious. I don’t like that Athos is enjoying this one bit.

Meanwhile, Lila continues with her part of the plan. She’s off to kill Astrid, who is sleeping soundly in the throne room. It’s genius since Athos is so distracted with the fight. She is able to find her way through the castle by way of the south doors. She makes it to the door to the throne room and surprisingly, a character we know guards the door. Beloc, that boy who refused to bow to the rulers, is now under the rulers’ spell. There is no way he’s moving from the spot, he can’t. The scene seems devoid of emotion but still powerful in how he wishes to be cut down quickly. Lila does as Beloc requests and gains access to the throne room.

A quick side note here: where did they stow Holland? They just drop him in the stone garden?

Business Cleaner GIF

Jackie: Yeah, I’d be terrified if I was going in to face Astrid and Athos and there wasn’t even guards out to help protect them. I mean, that’s terrifying. 

I don’t like that Athos finds Kell’s fighting abilities laughable either. I mean, geeze Kell, you almost get killed by Holland and now you are even weak against Athos you are going to die if you don’t figure out something and fast!

Yeah, I felt bad when Lila had to take down Beloc in order to get into the throne room, but he probably just didn’t want to be controlled anymore either. Just being bound to these two awful rulers would have anyone desperate to be killed and end their eternal suffering it seems. 

Yeah, I was wondering where Holland’s body was put as well. Maybe they put him in the stone garden to blend in. Or they just dropped him off in a random spot maybe. I’m not sure if Kell had worked out where he planned to put Holland to be honest. Kell makes lots of hasty decisions. 

Jeanna: Did they just give the guards the night off? Or do you think when they’re off duty they stand perfectly still in rows in the basement or something? That would be so scary.

Kell’s skills may be hilarious but you never want to hear that coming from your opponent. Overall, though their plan is the best they could have done with what they had to work with. Kell takes on Athos. And Lila takes on Astrid. And Astrid is asleep so the plan sounds fool-proof. Though I don’t think they took into account Kell’s skill as a fighter or his unwillingness to use the Stone.

If Lila was in charge of leaving Holland, she’d probably just drop him right in the river. Though, I wonder if he’s still alive. They haven’t mentioned it for a while.

Jackie: I totally agree though about Lila throwing him into a river, she might doubletap him with her knife just to ensure he died a painful death.

Jeanna: Doubletap him! Got to make sure he’s fully dead, after all!

Part 13: Chapter 3

Kell and Athos are fighting. And Kell is fighting the Stone. He doesn’t want to let the Stone win but after he took a few hits, Kell decides to finally use it. As much as it is saving him from death for the moment, he doesn’t want to let the Stone control him.

In the meantime, (this jumping back and forth in chapters was so stressful!) Lila enters the throne room. It all seems too easy. Astrid is sleeping on her throne and no one comes out to stop Lila. She aims her gun and shoots Astrid. Only to have the bullet ricochet off this bubble protection spell around Astrid. Of course, it ricochets right into Lila’s shoulder. However, she’s not about to give up.

Lila may not know a thing about magic but she’s clever enough to know that a broken spell cannot make a whole spell. When she finds foreign symbols on the throne, she begins to scratch out the last symbol. Sure enough, the protection spell dims, leaving Astrid wide open for attack. Only in breaking the protection spell, she woke up Astrid. If you thought killing a sleeping Astrid was hard, a fully awake Astrid is probably impossible to kill.

Though, that is not so with Athos. Athos uses the Stone to create a large serpent to land the final blow on Kell. Yet, Kell convinces Athos that the ruler wanted to be the one to kill him and in making the Stone’s power do it, he’s copping out on using his own hands. Athos agrees and tries to make the snake disappear. Similar to that undressing Kell that Lila conjured up (good times), the Stone’s magic turns on its creator and kills Athos, leaving behind the half of the Stone. One ruler down, the other ruler to go.

Jackie: I was just hoping that when Kell had to use the Stone to fight that he would be able to have control over himself to finish Athos, if he could. 

Lila is one tough chick. Like she just got a ricochet shot to the shoulder, and she keeps on, just like her pirate self. I mean, if I got a shot to the shoulder like that, or at all, it would be game over for me. Lila is good with her street and magic smarts. Like you said, for someone who doesn’t know almost anything about magic, she is able to handle these situations with ease. I feel like she handles the people with magical powers better than Kell can at times. I wonder, like we were discussing last week if Lila’s magical powers, if she does have any, will they come into play with her fight with Astrid as Astrid wakes from her sleep. That would be an awesome time for powers to come into play since I’m sure Astrid will just be aiming to kill Lila at this point. 

Which by the way, when Astrid was waking up, this image popped into my mind, of her being like you woke me from my slumber!

Image result for you woke me from my slumber meme

Thank god Kell is smarter than Athos. Like seriously, if Kell didn’t have his intelligent wit to him, he would have died way earlier in the book. After all of this is over, if Kell survives all of this, he seriously needs to strengthen up his fighting skills, maybe Lila can teach him the one-two punch or something. 

Jeanna: When I counted out 30-pages each for this discussion, I swear I did not do this on purpose. It seems that every time we end anymore, we always end on a cliffhanger. We may know what happened to Athos but Astrid is still a very big threat. And Lila is shot! And Astrid is in her element and Lila doesn’t know magic. And I’m just so worried for how the next few chapters are going to go down.

Nervous Pyeongchang 2018 GIF by NBC Olympics

How much control Kell is able to keep the Stone at bay this long is astounding. However, just as Holland mentioned, the Stone will eventually take over. I wonder if the Antari would turn into a zombie. Or, also, now that Rhy is bonded with Kell if that was maybe the reason, he was able to keep the Stone away for so long is because two souls are at work here.

You think Astrid will awaken the powers within Lila! Oh, my, I didn’t even think of that. I hope that happens. It would be absolutely horrible to have to go through that kind of torture that basically opens a whole new part of the self to survive but I kind of hope that’s what happens. Astrid would have no clue what hit her. And Kell has to come in to give her backup at some point, right? The look on his face if Lila turns out to be an Antari will be so priceless.

Yes, Kell may have smarts but those fighting skills are seriously lacking. In their downtime, which I wouldn’t think these two have much of, Lila should totally teach them how to fight. Can all of your theories come true? But especially the last one because that would help my ship sail. :)

Jackie: Jeanna, we LITERALLY ALWAYS END ON A CLIFFHANGER. ALWAYS! I mean thank goodness we are closer to the end of the book, but I’m going to be so upset if Schwab leaves us on a complete cliffhanger in the end since I’d like to have some sense of closure with some of the stuff that has gone on throughout the book. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in these last chapters of the book, but I can’t wait to find out. I hope Kell and Lila make it. 

That’s an interesting idea about Rhy being bonded to Kell so the Stone’s power is a bit easier for Kell to keep at bay. That could be a big reason why, I mean Kell has a lot of willpower, but by now I thought he would have completely let it take over him, by accident really, not on purpose. 

I really hope both my theories come true, or some of them are confirmed before the end of the book at least. I like this book a lot but I feel like I’ve been stuck in 23 mysteries at once in this book with little to no answers given, or just sprinkled into dialogue. Schwab just enjoys torturing us. 

I would love to see the look on Kell’s face if Lila did turn out to be Antari and was using her powers to try and defeat Astrid. Like, that would be amazing. 

I’m all about ships staying afloat and sailing as well. I can see Lila and Kell having their cute and witty banter as Lila makes fun of him for his lame fighting skills. He can’t wit his way out of that one, so the ship will be forced to sail, strong and proud. 

Jeanna: I hope you have a copy of the sequel because since there’s only around 30 pages until the end of the book, it’s looking like Schwab isn’t going to wrap this up in a nice little bow for us. And for me, this book -- I know it’s such a cliché to say -- has felt like I’m on a rollercoaster. Only the ride has gotten stuck on the loop, so we’ve been hanging upside down for a good 200 pages.

And Kell and Lila better make it! There’s no hoping about it. They’re making it, end of story.

This concludes this week's chapters of the discussion. What did you think?

  • Why were both halves of the Stone in White London?
  • If Athos had watched all that has happened, how does he not know about Kell and Lila’s plan?
  • Did Holland want Kell to be able to get to White London in his quest to return the Stone to Black London? Kell describes how he felt Holland knew that he’d seen what would be Kell’s final blow coming, but he reacted to it in a way of relief more than anger or pain. What do you think?

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