It has been a hot minute since I was so thoroughly let down by a book. And I should know better than to get hypnotized by gorgeous covers like I was with this one and Woven in the Moonlight, but how can you turn down this gorgeous cover and the promise of an enigmatic magic show?
It was meant to be mysterious and enchanting, instead it was muddled and confusing.
Where Dreams Descend follows Kallia, a powerful magician and star of the Hellfire House (think of a seedy little jazz club where you’ll probably get a venereal disease, but have a grand ol’ time doing it). But Kallia is ambitious and tired of being caged in this club, so she escapes her controlling mentor/lover(?)/boss and heads out for The Big City, where she wants to compete in a Magician competition. Well The Big City is hard on our girl Kallia, but made easier by her meeting a brooding, handsome magician with a tragic past. So Kallia has to learn to make it on her own while dodging her former life.
I’m first going to highlight that the descriptions in the novel; the attention to detail the author puts in describing how Kallia does magic and how the world around her operates, is very good. The novel has a very cinematic feel– and I almost think that this book would have fared much better as a movie or tv series. At least then you can rely on actors to bring characters to life.
Unfortunately the lack of life in these characters is where my main criticism lays. Kallia is… nothing. There is no real fire in her; we are told time and time again that she is a hard worker, that she shines bright with her powers… and it’s like reading from a script. The minutiae of what makes a character relatable and worth rooting for is missing here. She is a character of Christine Dae and Satine without being either. She feels very calculated– like the author was trying to fit in what she thinks biting wit and young adult spirit is supposed to be. But none of it came across as organic.
Demarco is just there as well. He’s everything a love interest should be I guess; mysterious, emotionally unavailable due to his dark and traumatic past. But he only really exists for Kallia to flirt with him.
Jack is the only one I found interesting and he is nonexistent for most of the book! Now when he rears his head back again (the last 100 pages or so) things do get interesting. But it’s just not enough to carry me into the sequel.
The pacing is brutal. The first 30 pages is a whirlwind of unexplained action and danger, and then… for 250 pages… absolutely nothing. And then the final bit is punch after punch. If the author has strung out some of the latter half of the novel into the first half, sped it up a little, this book could have gone somewhere.
I think that’s where I’m so frustrated. This book has so much potential. On paper, it shines. It’s the depth of the novel where everything is let down. The characters aren’t big enough to hold up this world. The writing style and pace isn’t enough to get it across. It’s just not good enough– and I feel very strongly that this book should have been published as is; it should have gone through another round of editing and notes.
But this is where I stand on the book as it has been published.