Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
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
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED AUGUST 25TH, 2020
Where Dreams Descend is nothing short of a spectacle.
When Kallia sees the opportunity to escape her life as a showgirl and take center stage as a magician, she takes it. In her world, performing under someone else’s wing is not enough, not when she has magic and power the likes of which the world has never seen. A born magician, she knows she can own any stage, captivate any audience.
And when a competition gives her the opportunity to do just that, despite all the odds, there’s no stopping her. No matter the obstacle, the spotlight is going to be hers.
“The ones who dare most often disappear.”
In a world where women are labor magicians, not show magicians, Kallia finds obstacles stacked against her left and right. The judges of the contest have no respect for her. Her fellow competitors are equally dismissive. The world simply refuses to make room for a female magician, even one as talented as Kallia.
Which means Kallia makes room with her own power.
This, I think, was the main draw of Where Dreams Descend, in my eyes. Kallia is not only a charming heroine, confident in her power and charisma. She’s ambitious, dead certain what she wants and willing to go to any lengths to get it. As much as I love a good dose of the reluctant hero trope, it truly was refreshing to see a main character take charge of her story so willingly, with such certainty. No matter who or what stands in Kallia’s way, she does her best to remain three steps ahead.
Plus, she’s under no illusions that the men who look down on her will change their minds just like that. She’s well aware that she has to work twice as hard as anyone else for half the recognition. But even more importantly, she’s not in it for their approval. Instead, she’s in it to prove to herself that she’s good enough to walk the stage. Kallia aims to make of her life whatever she chooses, not what someone else dictates, and I honestly adore her for it.
Speaking of disappearing, though…where’s the heart of the story?
Kallia carried most of the book on her back, and for good reason. She’s the star of the show, and shouldn’t be side-lined! However, a good book is more than just its main character, and this was the area I found Where Dreams Descend to be a little lacking in. Sure, we have a brilliant, vibrant main character, and she’s navigating an uncanny, dazzling new setting while grappling with a past that refuses to unhook its claws from her. That alone is powerful stuff, convincing enough to keep me reading. But there needed to be more, namely in two areas: side characters, and plot.
The side character problem is far easier to explain. With a vibrant cast like the Conquerers, Aaros, and Demarco featuring so prominently, I should have felt more for them. Aaros in particular had a cheeky sort of demeanor that I adored. The problem was, though, that they were often pale beside Kallia. Less interesting, or perhaps simply less developed. And in a story where Kallia must learn that friends can be more valuable than simple allies, I wish more time had been spent really fleshing out those friends.
As for the plot, this is more of a gripe with the conclusion. A duology, of course, can’t resolve everything in one book. Otherwise, it would be a standalone. But by the end of Where Dreams Descend, I felt that only one small question had been answered, while plenty of others had been opened up. It shaped the final scenes not into a startling crescendo worthy of all this showmanship, but something of a tailspin that left me frustrated. I plan to read the second book because I so desperately want the answers, but there’s no escaping the way the finale left something to be desired.
Release has been pushed back to late August, so there’s still time.
Time to pre-order, perhaps time for changes to be made to the book, and time in general to prepare for Kallia to take the stage! Not that you can really prepare for the wonders she’s capable of, to be honest. Where Dreams Descend is now hitting shelves on August 25th, about three months from now, giving you plenty of time to place a pre-order or request it through your local library. If the dazzling flash of the stage is your thing, or you want to watch a competition take on a dangerous life of its own, I recommend you get this book on your TBR today!
CW: gambling, drinking, loss of a loved one, gore