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Title: Where Dreams Descend
Author: Janella Angeles
Narrator(s): Imani Jade Powers, Steve West
Run Time: 14 hours, 37 minutes
Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of a loved one (NOTE: If you believe I have failed to include any necessary trigger warnings, please inform me and I will add them)
Goodreads Summary: 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
Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.
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Sometimes you read a book that just leaves you wanting to sing that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory song “Pure Imagination.” That lovely feeling, dear friends, happened recently when I read Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles.
Here’s the thing: I have a history of not falling in love with magic circus/carnival books, so when I heard that Where Dreams Descend was about a mysterious magic competition with “Night Circus vibes”…well…let’s just say I wasn’t exactly jumping up to run to the bookstore. I mean…it’s a pandemic, so I wasn’t exactly gonna do that regardless, but, er, you get the point, yes? Anyhoo. My point is you wouldn’t think I’d be part of the target audience for Where Dreams Descend. But that’s what’s so wild—the fact that I actually fell head over heels for the book! Let’s take a look at why!
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My first love in Where Dreams Descend was definitely the characters! The cast was so intriguing and endearing! We primarily follow Kallia, a young magician with a dark past who decides to compete in a magic competition, and Demarco, a magician who no longer practices magic and is a judge of the magic competition. We also get fleeting snatches of a POV from Jack, a mysterious figure from Kallia’s past. We also get a cast of colorful side characters who are equally interesting! However, I want to take a beat to focus on our three central characters, Kallia, Demarco, and Jack…
- Kallia I personally loved Kallia, who’s a true Slytherin queen with a deep hunger for freedom which boils over and becomes a determined ambition. But—and there is a but here, sadly—I also am aware that Kallia may not be to many readers’ tastes. She’s brazen and bold, fiercely competitive and ambitious. She often uses arrogance as a cover for her insecurities and fears. She’s not the traditional archetype of a damsel in distress nor is she the picture perfect Strong Female Character™ which many readers have grown accustomed to reading. She’s “flawed” and complexly human. But that’s a good deal why I enjoyed her character (I know, I know. Me? Liking a “complex and unlikable” female character? Groundbreaking.) and even if I didn’t always relate to Kallia, I did feel like I understood where she was coming from. Call me a Sagittarius (you’d be correct in that assumption, btw), but part of me deeply understood how Kallia’s deep desire to be independent and free could spiral into such arguably reckless ambition.
- Demarco Demarco cuts an interesting figure, I think, because his personality is a cross between an introverted and reluctant Gryffindor and a gruff and grumpy Hufflepuff (if you can imagine that). Cool, calm, and collected, the quiet Demarco is the steady stream to contrast Kallia’s bright burst of flame. But, half Hufflepuff nature aside, Demarco also has a mysterious past and some dark secrets haunting him. His character is a little more static in comparison to Kallia’s journey across Where Dreams Descend, yet it also doesn’t lack for roundness and depth. I certainly enjoyed his part in the tale and what he brought to the story.
- Jack Jack is such an intriguing villain for this book, because while I, as a reader, could recognize that he’s quite sinister, at the same time he’s so mysterious that I couldn’t help but wonder if his possessiveness over Kallia is a corrupted form of protectiveness. Like, obviously that “protectiveness” went too far and tipped the scale far towards the side of abuse, but I couldn’t help but wonder if beneath it was motivated by true terror. This question threads through the narrative, making the story of Where Dreams Descend and its villains even more compellingly creepy.
PITCH PERFECT PLOT & PACING
Make no mistake, though, I don’t only love the characters of Where Dreams Descend, but also its enthralling plot! As I mentioned, I don’t typically go for books focused on magical circus/carnival type things, so to say I loved the plot of Where Dreams Descend is saying a lot for me. I think its because books like that seem to typically overdo it in my eyes when it comes to world building, losing the plot in favor of over-the-top, overkill descriptions of the magic (literal and/or metaphorical) of the circus/carnival. Angeles, however, seems to have mastered the skill of giving character, plot, and world building equal attention. We follow Kallia, Demarco, and Jack on a perfectly paced, agonizingly intriguing mystery, experiencing a dazzling magic competition along the way! There are so many threads Angeles manages to tie together with perfect timing, leading us steadily towards the shocking ending—from Kallia’s origin to Jack’s identity to Demarco’s secrets! Friends, if you’re looking for the magical circus competition mystery of your dreams, this is it.
And let’s not forget the amazing worldbuilding! Angeles lays out a lavishly magical world that’s dripping with mystery in Where Dreams Descend. While her descriptions don’t wander into the realm of purple prose, they do manage to still paint a vivid picture. We visit the eerie city of Glorian, where magic has been abandoned and where the magic competition at the center of the plot takes place. It was a great choice of setting—a mysterious and magic-less town hosting a magic competition—and added just the right amount of strangeness to the overall atmosphere. Speaking of atmosphere, Where Dreams Descend absolutely nails it! Angeles creates the right mix of intrigue, creepy-ness, and shimmering magic to perfectly enhance the plot and make the world really pop!
A QUICK QUIBBLE
The single complaint I have is that there was a minor instance of the plot being inconsistent and it was enough to pull me out of the reading experience. The issue is this: When Kallia discovers she is trapped in Glorian, it is described as everyone is trapped inside or outside of Glorian because a wall has replaced the gateway into Glorian. And this does not change after that point—everyone inside Glorian is trapped by the wall. Yet later, Lottie and other outsiders are able to travel into Glorian and Lottie alludes to being able to leave. Also, Demarco mentions sending letters via Glorian’s post office, meaning someone is able to take mail into and out of Glorian. So I was left confused as to what was going on—are only the people inside Glorian plus the contestants and judges of the magic competition trapped within Glorian??? It just seems really inconsistent.
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So, as you can see, I just totally adored Where Dreams Descend. There’s so much about it to discover and love, from the characters to the plot to the world! I can say with certainty that it’s definitely a new favorite and I will absolutely be picking up the sequel when it releases!
So that’s it for today, friends! I hope that you enjoyed this post and that you’re having a bright day, full of books and good cheer! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some books and tea to enjoy 😉
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SPILL THE BEANS, FRIENDS!
- Have you read Where Dreams Descend? If so, what are your thoughts on it?
- If you haven’t read Where Dreams Descend, is it on your TBR?