With moving and a new baby I haven't had a whole lot of time to read like I used to, so I was really excited to get back to it recently. And despite having a huge TBR list already I had to start with this beautiful new book I got for my birthday. Because, y'know, that's what we book nerds do. Ignore our TBR pile in favor of new books.
Ever since getting sucked in Caraval I've been dying for more of the magical competition/game trope--I've even played with a little contribution to it myself, though I'll save that for another time--so I was super excited to read Where Dreams Descend by debut author Janella Angeles. A mysterious city hidden in the woods, a cutthroat competition with danger lurking behind the scenes, and a badass female magician breaking all society's rules for women? Hell yeah, sign me up.
Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
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
Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.
Review: First off, this book pulled me in from the first page. I was hooked right away and have spent the last several days sacrificing some my limited sleep to squeeze in a couple chapters before my son wakes up to eat. Can't give a book much better than that, right? Angeles' writing is lush and beautiful, and I found myself so deep into the incredible world of Hellfire House and Glorian that I had to adjust to the real world when I stopped reading. It was the perfect mix of indulgent, magical, and sinister, and I was dying to learn more about it as the story unfolded. The characters were just as compelling and I'm honestly obsessed with all of them. Kallia is a fantastic protagonist to follow, striking a balance between ambitious and uncertain that makes her relatable, admirable, and tons of fun to read. If you're looking for a badass female character who breaks down all the walls in her way without falling into the cold and too-strong-for-friends cliché she's your girl. The romance is swoon-worthy without detracting from the thrill of the building mystery and threat, and I just have to say, I live for every single appearance of sarcastic thief-turned-assistant Aaros. Seriously. I want an Aaros in my life.
If I have to knock anything, it's the plot twists. While I enjoyed the plot itself, I saw most of the twists coming far ahead of time. The dramatic reveal moments were unsurprising at best, and some even caught me off guard only because I hadn't realized they'd needed a reveal at all. I will say the end got me--and if you're going to surprise the reader only once, that is a good time to do it--so I'll give it some points back for that. I am genuinely interested to see where it leads and I'll be grabbing book two when I can. If you're looking for a story to keep you guessing this may not be it, but Where Dreams Descend's beauty lies in its captivating world and characters. It's a fun, beautifully written read for any lover of magic.