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.
Spectaculore has arrived in the City of Glorian – where the best magicians compete in a contest to be crowned the best of the best and join the Conquering Circus.
Meet Kallia. A female magician who spends night after night performing parlour tricks as a showgirl, but decides its time to break free and make a life for herself.
Meet Jack. A secretive but powerful magician who’s desperate to keep Kallia locked away from the outside world.
Meet Daron Demarco. One of the judge’s of Spectaculore who’s trying to find answers after a personal tragedy.
Ughhh this book. This book. I’ve not read any book recently that has left me in such turmoil the way this has. I’ve been of two hearts about how I feel. Plus the cliffhanger is excruciating. On the whole I liked Where Dreams Descend, but there were some things I didn’t like too.
The book unfolds primarily through Kallia and Daron’s perspectives, with the occasional one from Jack. I found the first quarter a little slow, but after that I felt the book flowed well and built up good foundations for the characters.
The crowning jewel of Where Dreams Descend is the characters and their interactions. Kallia is one of the most likeable YA heroines I’ve read in a while. She has got serious backbone, is unapologetically herself and is adamant she’ll never be a damsel in distress. I also loved her friendship with Aaros as his character was really funny. And Jack’s character was full of menace and mystery; I didn’t know whether to be intrigued or terrified when he popped up.
Sadly, whilst I liked him, I felt the main purpose of Daron’s character was to support Kallia. In fact, I’d say that’s what a lot of the characters did – they contributed to Kallia’s story rather than telling their own. This left me feeling a little meh because I went in thinking there’d be more going on in this instalment due to different POVs, especially when it was made clear from the beginning Daron had an intriguing backstory, which wasn’t really focused on until nearer the end of the book, but I’m assuming that’ll be something exciting for the sequel.
I liked Kallia and Daron’s romance as their chemistry was sizzling from the get go. I’m looking forward to seeing where things are going to go from here – if it’ll last or if it’ll only get better.
My favourite thing was the clear theme of feminism in Where Dreams Descend. Due to the fact female magicians are treated differently to male magicians, feminist undertones build and build throughout through Kallia as she pushes back boldly against misogynistic attitudes. I really enjoyed this, because it felt empowering to read. I also appreciated how journalist Lottie de la Rose is described by men as the “poison of the press”, when she’s been calling out men for their disregard of female magicians importance and safety. It was great to see the efforts for female equality interwoven so effectively. Just read this quote and see what I mean:
“If you can’t stay small in the box they’ve built around you, they will make you feel small until you fit right back in it.”
The weaker parts of the book were its world building and magic system. The world building left much to be desired; I wasn’t left daydreaming about being whisked away to see Spectaculore and I couldn’t effortlessly envision the City of Glorian or Alastor Place. Not only did I feel like the world building wasn’t developed enough, I got the impression it’s as if the reader was meant to already know (or at the very least assume) what the world and magic was like without it being illustrated in the actual book. All in all, the setting and magic wasn’t fully explored enough for me.
The majority of the questions Where Dreams Descend raises (some pretty early on, like Jack’s motives) haven’t clearly been answered. So naturally, I was left feeling somewhat confused and disheartened that, even for a first in a series, the reader didn’t get much if any answers by its end. It’s no secret to keep an audience interested you’ve got to give them something… which Angeles in fact did, in the form of one heck of a cliffhanger.
My gosh the cliffhanger. The cliffhanger! I won’t be forgetting that anyyyy time soon. I’m really, really looking forward to the sequel. When I finished the book, I honestly felt aggrieved that I didn’t have the sequel at hand to continue the story. THAT’s how gloriously torturous the ending is! It has guaranteed I won’t be missing the sequel.
I’d say my rating is somewhere around 3 – 4 stars. Where Dreams Descend is a decent debut that has set the stage for what I hope will be an enthralling sequel that answers all of the leftover questions and ultimately blows readers away.
Where Dreams Descend by Janelle Angeles
Published August 2020
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Thank you kindly to Wednesday books for granting my wish and giving me an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review.