Hello readers, and welcome to my latest book review, and more importantly, my 300th post on this blog! This is a milestone that I realized only last week was already here, a huge surprise considering I’m just coming up on my second blogversary in a couple of months. Thank you to all my readers for your support, encouragement and feedback that have kept me blogging for far longer than I expected when I first started! That said, on with today’s review!
Title: Where Dreams Descend
Series: Kingdom of Cards #1
Author: Janella Angeles
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: August 25th, 2020 (Wednesday Books)
Synopsis: 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
Thank you to the publisher, Wednesday Books, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Kallia has lived in Hellfire House, a private club, for most of her life, perfecting her performing magic under the master of the House, Jack. But she yearns to see the world outside the House, particularly the city that lies beyond the Dire Woods that surround it – Glorian. Jack has always been staunchly against it, stating that Glorian is no place for magicians until one day, Kallia discovers a flyer announcing a magician’s competition in that very city. Uncovering some shocking secrets Jack has been keeping from her, Kallia escapes, determined to prove herself capable as she faces off against nine other magicians displaying their feats of magic in a city whose past is mired in mystery to win and become the headliner of the famous Conquering Circus. But she soon finds out that there might have been some weight to Jack’s words after all, as competitors start to go missing and danger seems to lurk in the shadows.
I had really high hopes for this book, because something about it reminded me of a mashup of two series I’m a huge fan of – Caraval and The Shadow Game. The world-building was minimal, but interesting and this was certainly a unique kind of magical realm that the author has built. The world beyond Hellfire House and Glorian is not described except through Demarco’s POV when he talks about his aunt and sister, which is something I’m quite eager to learn more about, because I’m especially curious as to why Kallia’s only aim was Glorian and not any other place out there, regardless of the competition. I’d love to see a map of Soltair where all these places are located, which is apparently an island? As for the narration, it was pretty standard, although there were POV changes mid-chapter, which is generally rather tricky. The characters’ voices were luckily distinct enough for this to not be a huge issue though.
I really liked Kallia as a character, with her confidence and determination to prove herself on a stage where women aren’t traditionally welcome, but there are times that she comes off as just a little too reckless and even immature. It also somewhat confused me how quickly a rapport formed between her and her new assistant Aaros when, after all, he was a street thief who tried to steal from her. I did like how his character turned out, but it seems to me a rather flimsy base for their relationship considering how quickly their partnership becomes such a strong one. Jack remains a mysterious figure for pretty much the entire book except for that little reveal at the end, and he had a very Phantom of the Opera vibe to him. Demarco was another character I really enjoyed though it would have been nice if we had more background on him earlier in the story because I found it hard to understand why he was important to the story initially.
Conceptually, this book was amazing, but the execution left something to be desired. I felt that the synopsis was misleading, since a competition between magicians should have been more interesting that what it was portrayed as, and I was expecting a tournament rather than a series of stage performances. I think the real issue though, is that the author seems to be holding back with this book. It had the potential to be something so much more grand and well, magical. It is understandable since this is a debut after all, but I hope this changes in the sequel. The other point is that the story revolves around three characters – Kallia, Jack and Demarco, but even as it focuses only on these three, it was severely lacking in character building since most of their past is a mystery, something that tends to give a much better perspective of a character. I also thought that the pacing could use some work, as this turned out, for me, one of those books, that despite having a continued aura of mystery and danger, still seemed to drag.
Shocking endings seem to be the trend this year, and this was no exception! I’m really excited to see what happens next and Where Dreams descend was a great start to a promising new series despite some issues. The ending does bring together several loose ends while still managing to leave things up in the air which assures an entertaining sequel! Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it!
Where Dreams Descend releases on August 25th, 2020.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!