Moderate: Gore and Grief
Thanks so much to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for letting me read and review this gripping, vivid and lush fantasy.
This is described as similar to The Night Circus and Caraval, which I can see how it's like Caraval and has a lot of a similar feel to that book and series and it also reminds me a lot of The Phantom of the Opera as well. It's like all the circus, magic/magician, otherworldly amazing stories that are out there right now. I think it even reminds me of some of The Starless Sea also.
I enjoyed this story a lot, it did have a little bit of a slow start, but then it went really fast and stayed intense and building up until the end where you're left hanging with the very tense cliffhanger ending and wanting to know what will happen next.
In this story, it starts out with Kallia, the star magician, who is doing her show at a place locked away and hidden deep in the woods and Jack is her master/keeper who has been training and teaching her about her magic for years.
Kallia is feeling trapped and caged and yearns to go see what other places there are to visit and hears about competition in a nearby town called Glorian so she runs off one day and goes to Glorian leaving Jack and that life behind.
When she arrives in the town, Glorian, she meets a thief and then finds her way to where the magic competition is being held and decides to enter into it so she can showcase her skills, her magic and win. She meets the Conquerors, the circus performers, and magicians, who become friends with her and help her with things with the contest and everything in general.
Then she becomes friends and gets her own assistant, Aaros and meets DeMarco, who is also a magician that has his own secrets and a secret past. DeMarco and Kallia begin to be friends and then end up working together to train and prepare for one of the shows in the contest and then DeMarco comes out with his secret past to her.
Also while she's in Glorian competing and learning about the magic system the town is built on and everything else, whenever she's by mirrors and usually when she's alone, Jack keeps appearing to her, warning her what will happen if she doesn't leave the town or come back to him.
Then other magicians in the competition begin disappearing and strange things keep happening, but they're not sure what's happening and Kallia keeps trying to keep Jack away with her magic, but he keeps showing up then when they come to the last night of the contest, everything crescendos and you're left wondering what happened, trying to figure it out and hoping everything turns out in the next book.
If you loved or enjoyed Caraval or Phantom of the Opera or any of those kinds of books then make sure to have this one on your list!
Glorian is a cursed city. When a magician competition was held there, Kallia, eager to leave Jack's club and prove that women should have a place in performance magic, joined it despite Jack's warning. Things went awry from there and no one knew why.
The plot was passable. I appreciate Kallia as a strong woman, but other that that, it was a frustrating reading experience. Though Glorian was this mystical city whose history no one could remember, it did not feel intriguing when the mysteriousness was artificial. Every character was keeping a lot of important information from each other as well as the reader, and that took a toll on the overall level of enjoyment when everything was unnecessarily confusing.
That being said, I would probably still read the sequel in hopes of clearing up all confusions.
I received an e-ARC from Wednesday Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I am going to attempt to be as coherent as possible*. This book is Ownvoices for the Filipino rep, and was described as Moulin Rouge meets Phantom of the Opera, and a lot of people have compared this to Caraval. I could totally see Moulin Rouge parallels with the chandelier, and the drama of the characters. And there was this sense of unreliability that really reminds me of the atmosphere of Caraval.
*i’m going to be totally transparent and admit that i started this post with “SHIP SHIP SHIP”. yeah.
Kallia is an interesting case. She both exasperated and impressed me. I loved how strong she was, and how she pushed for female magicians to have more opportunities. But she also annoyed me a little? She didn’t entirely think things through. Which I mean same but it’s still a bit obnoxious.
Jack confuses me. He’s a super powerful magician and his character is extremely fascinating. But do I like him???? I DON’T KNOW. I can’t tell if he’s evil or good or just morally grey. I’m excited to see what happens with him in the sequel!
Demarco is another case. I really enjoyed the mysteriousness of his background, and the intracacies of his character. I actually grew to love him more as time passed.
Aaros is MY FAVORITE CHARACTER WHOOP WHOOP. He’s absolutely hilarious, and geuinely the bestest* friend Kallia could ever wish for. He has my whole heart and soul.
*this isn’t a word but we’re rolling with it
I loved the atmosphere, and all the greenhouse scenes specifically! We have a city in the middle of the woods, and magical performances. There’s empty estates and renovated ballrooms. Janella Angeles is a fantastic writer, for I could truly see the story come to life before my eyes. Her descriptions of magic were jaw-droppingly creative. I loved it!
“Music had a way of raising flames from the shadows, and Kallia breathed in the smoke, following it.”
also that ending…???????
I WAS SCREAMING. I NEED THE SEQUEL RIGHT THIS INSTANT. Cliffhanger endings are generally brutal…but this one is killer. While I felt parts of the book felt slow, I’m still shocked by the last 30 pages to be perfectly honest.
As for the romance, well, it’s honestly one of my new all-time favorites. The chemistry? The tension? The DYNAMIC??? Hello, we stan a good sorta enemies-to-lovers romance. I also really adored the talk of feminism and gender inequality in this book. It was handled excellently. I am so very excited to see what happens with the relationships in the next book!
So that’s it! 10/10 would recommend this for people who love beautiful settings and rich descriptions of magic. I can definitely see how many people wouldn't enjoy this, with it's slower pace and it more character-focused, but this duology has a lot of potential!
the last twenty pages has me HYPED for the sequel! also, heck yeah to the moulin rouge vibes i got from this. full rtc :)
a huge thank you to Wednesday Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review
Where Dreams Descend is the first book in Janella Angeles’ Kingdom of Cards series. This is not a light, easy read. It is a deep and immersive story that pulls you into a secretive and frighteningly fantastical world. This is the kind of novel that leaves you with a book hangover, and you’re glad for it. Long after the story ends, you find yourself thinking about Kallia and Jack, mirrors, Damon and his loss, the city and its secrets, and the patriarchy that needs to be turned on its head.
Kallia is an ambitious and fiercely independent magician who refuses to adhere to the patriarchal demands of society. She knows her talent outshines the men, and entering a competition in the mysterious town of Glorian, a place she has always felt drawn to, proves the best way to reach her goals. I love Kallia’s confidence and her feminist attitude. She flees from the constraints of living and working for a man and strives to be free. Free from the constraints of society, and free from the rules of men.
“A cage…Not a home. A gilded place of false friends and stolen time. Any lingering fondness felt fabricated, syrupy-sweet taste she tried ridding from her tongue, for none of it had been real.”
Kallia has to face her past and Jack, her enigmatic and controlling master/friend/more? Jack is the owner of Hellfire House where Kallia lived and headlined. Think Moulin Rouge with magic!! Total Perfection! Except, though Kallia was pampered, she could not leave.
“How wonderful it must’ve been, to come into this life with the searing blaze of choice…It was only too easy to imagine how such a life might’ve changed her. To have had the power of choice over the glory of power.”
The relationship between Jack and Kallia is complex and confusing. A cross between toxic and sexy, controlling and oppressive, I couldn’t decide for the majority of the book if Jack was a sexy protector or a scary stalker, and I loved it. I’m curious to learn more about their relationship and Jack’s story in future books.
The story starts off slow, though the magical elements captivate from the start and compel you to read more. The setting is also enticing. It’s magical, mysterious, and deadly, which contrasts with the joviality and frivolity usually associated with the circus and magic competitions. Angeles’ style creates vivid and visceral descriptions of the town, the people, and the magic, which made for an exciting, immersive, and heart-pounding read.
Keep in mind, the magic depicted in the book isn’t just magic. It’s…well… magical. It’s like a fantastic and entrancing mix of music, dancing, circus-like performances, and magic. Fireballs whirling through the air, spectral images created in thin air, birds sweeping through a room only to disappear into ash – these are only a few of the fascinating yet scary magical acts that occur in the novel. The fact that the story takes place mostly in a town with a secret and dangerous past adds to the spectacular and suspenseful story.
As the competition in Glorian progresses and Kallie proves to be the strongest competitor, people begin disappearing. This is a town with secrets filled with people with even more secrets, and that makes for an intriguing story. As I read, I wanted to know more about the town and the people in it, from the sarcastic tailor to the amazingly talented women from the circus that Kallia befriends. I wanted to know why people were disappearing or injured and how it related to Glorian’s past, Kallie, and the mysterious judge, and retired magician, Daron.
Daron, attractive yet unapproachable, has secrets of his own, and as Kallia breaks through his walls, the reader learns precisely why he doesn’t practice magic. Daron is a fascinating character from old magic, and I enjoyed the slow-burning romance that developed between Kallia and Daron. They are alike in many ways, from their aversion to mirrors to their dreams of freedom.
And then there is Aaros, Kallia’s assistant and one of my favorite characters! He is a loyal and supportive friend to Kallia, and his witty banter with her and with Daron is charming. He brings a levity to the story (that I love) while still standing out as a strong and memorable character. Oh, and did I mention he’s a thief?
This story is an absolute delight to read. It has exceptional (and magical) world-building, unique and often morally ambiguous characters, vivid imagery, a suspenseful and unique plot, and an ending that I didn’t expect. The feminist themes are the cherry on top of this wickedly entertaining cake! Thanks so much to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
What a thrilling ride this has been! I originally grabbed this book since it has theatrical elements to it. And I loved that it was told in three acts, much like a play. But the intrigue that went along with this novel was spectacular!
There are essentially two plots going on at all times throughout this novel First and foremost: Kallia trying to rise to the top of the magician's ladder and step out from the cage she was in. Then, the underlying plot: what has been causing the mysterious disappearances and brutal torment of magicians?
This story was woven so well that you were never quite sure what was going to happen. Never sure who to root for or to hate. Each chapter giving just enough of a taste to keep going.
Each act upped the stakes and the ending was worth a standing ovation. The intrigue, the heartbreak, the mystery! I need the next book now!
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netgalley in order to give an honest review.
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