Book: “Where Dreams Descend” by Janella Angeles
Publishing Info: Wednesday Books, August 2020
Where Did I Get this Book: NetGalley!
Book Description: In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.
As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.
The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost
The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told
The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide
Review: The book description immediately drew me in on this one, sounding very similar to “The Night Circus,” one of my favorite stand-alone books. But then it continued and started sounding too much like yet another “Six of Crows” knock-off. I swear, the minute any summary starts listing characters as “The ‘thief/assassin/master/etc.'” I now immediately become suspicious. It could have went either way, so in I dove!
Kallia has always been ambitious, dreaming of more than just her small act in a local club. So when a competition is announced to find the next headliner for the Conquering Circus, she jumps at the opportunity. Fleeing alone through the woods, she briefly escapes Jack, the owner of the club. But safety is not to be found in this new city as her fellow competitors begin to fall prey to disappearances and mysterious accidents. But Kallia knows of no way but forward, and with the judge of the competition brooding in the shadows, Kallia begins to find she has more than one reason for sticking it out.
To get it out of the way, this wasn’t all I had hoped it would be. However, the problems I had with it weren’t due to any comparisons to “Six of Crows.” Instead, it was one of those odd reads where just enough things didn’t come together in a smooth way and left me with a disjointed and disconnected reading exerpience.
The first problem I had was with the writing itself. There was a lot of telling in this book and a lack of showing. Kallia’s abilities are highlighted on and off, but we’re essentially told she’s that much better than everyone else….just because she is. For a story that is comprised of many dark fantasy elements, scenes that just burst, sparkle, and pop from the page (she’s trying out for something called the “Conquering Circus” for Pete’s sake!), the actual prose often fell flat, and I found myself having to work hard to keep myself grounded in the story.
The pacing was also incredibly slow feeling. Again, this was a strange experience as, on paper, things were definitely happening. We have Kallia’s initial flight through the woods to get to this new city. Then her experiences in the competition itself. As well as the strange happenings when she’s home alone. Even typing it out, it sounds like it should read like an action-packed thrill ride. But instead, it felt slow and plodding. Again, I think there was just something lacking in the writing to really give the plot the “oomf” it needed to get started.
The characters were probably the best part of the book, but they didn’t stand out as especially unique. I found myself getting annoyed by Kallia’s innate “specialness” and the generous helping of arrogance that came along with this. I was marginally more interested in the two male character, the mysterious judge who is the primary romantic interest as well as Aaros, a young man who quickly becomes her best friend in this new city.
Sadly, this book wasn’t for me. There was the bones of a good story here, but I just couldn’t get into it. This is definitely one of those where one should take my rating with a grain of salt as there’s a decent chance that many of these things didn’t work for me just because I wasn’t in the right mood for this type of book. If you like fantasy and dark circuses, this still might be worth checking out. But if you were on the fence already, maybe give it a pass.
Rating 6: Just not for me with writing that couldn’t manage to draw me into the story.
“Where Dreams Descend” is on these Goodreads lists: 2020 YA/MG Books With POC Leads and Glittering Glamorous Fantasies.
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