Title: Bright Ruined Things
Author: Samantha Cohoe
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: February 15th, 2022 (Wednesday Books)
Synopsis: The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the magic on the island and the spirits who inhabit it. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her. Now that she’s eighteen, Mae knows her time with the Prospers may soon come to an end.
But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends return to the island to celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.
When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae starts to realize that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past that she doesn’t remember. As Mae and her friends begin to unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.
Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all…
Thank you to the publisher, Wednesday Books, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Mae has lived on the Prosper family’s island all her life and has never seen the world beyond it. But with her 18th birthday approaching, her future is uncertain and all she wants is to stay, and above all, have some magic of her own, magic which has been closely guarded and controlled by the Prospers for generations, making them extremely wealthy. Most of the family lives away from the island, returning only for First Night, when they host an extravagant party, and Mae looks forward to seeing her best friend Coco and her longtime crush Miles each year. This year is different however, when the spirits, who are key to the island’s magic, start dying mysteriously. Mae sets out to unravel the mystery with her friends, but the island holds more secrets than any of them suspect, and this First Night will bring to light the dark truth about the Prosper’s magic.
I really enjoyed this author’s previous book, A Golden Fury, last year, so I was really curious to check out this book. This is technically supposed to be a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but you don’t need to have read it to understand this story. The setting of the island, the spirits, the magic and the overall eerie feel it lent the narrative was my favourite part about this book. The magic system was an interesting one, if a little vague at times. The plot was intriguing and did not lack for twists, making this an engaging read, and with each reveal, I was more and more curious to see how it would all tie together.
This is probably the first time I’m ever saying this about a book, but it was the characters that ruined this book for me. They started out okay and Mae turning out to be an unreliable narrator was a good twist, but as the story went on and everyone’s motivations started to make sense, they all turned out to be either very unlikeable or extremely frustrating. None of them were as fleshed out as they could have been and it was really hard for me to connect to any of the characters, and the romance too, felt rather forced. Despite this, Mae’s growth from the sheltered girl terrified at the prospect of having to leave the only home she has ever known to being more independent and motivated as the story progresses was a great arc and a well written one.
I think much of this can be attributed to two things: a very short timeline and uneven pacing. This entire book takes place over the course of a day, which in an of itself is not bad – I’ve seen some amazing stories set over a short timespan – but for a story like this, it would have been great if it had taken place over more time, setting the scene better and building up the characters. The story felt too slow in the beginning and then too fast, with what I felt was a rather chaotic ending. This erratic pacing meant that I didn’t really get caught up in the story and felt like I was just watching from the outside, waiting for things to finally start moving.
I liked the concept behind this book and it definitely had potential, but the execution could have been handled better. I’m not entirely sure what to think of the ending, but it did have the shock factor. The epilogue was a nice touch as it showed how far Mae has come and how much she has learned. Overall, it turned out to be a decent reading experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this author writes next.
Bright Ruined Things releases on February 15th, 2021.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!