Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles: Book Review

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles Book Cover

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Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles Book Cover
2 Stars

Title: Where Dreams Descend
Author: Janella Angeles
Series: Kingdom of Cards #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: E-book

My Synopsis:

Kallia is an orphan living and working as a magician at the ultra-exclusive Hellfire House. One night Kallia stumbles on a disturbing secret regarding Jack, the owner of Hellfire House, and decides to run away to the mysterious town of Glorian, where a magician’s competition is being held. Glorian has been cut off from the world for a long time but a popular circus is visiting and encouraging the mayor to open the gates and revive the town. Kallia’s talent should take her far but female magicians are almost unheard of in this society. She’s only chosen for the competition because Erasmus, the owner of the circus, and Daron, a young magician who has given up performing, acknowledge her talent despite the fact that she’s a woman. But strange things begin happening in Glorian and Kallia isn’t as free of Jack as she thinks she is.

My Review:

I wanted to like this. The concept is strong and I couldn’t help comparing it to The Night Circus, another book I wanted to love. But there was way too much description, infinitely too many unanswered questions, and too little actual plot to please me.

This is author Janella Angeles’s debut novel and unfortunately, it shows. She has a powerful imagination and a great idea here but my first piece of advice to her would be that old adage, “Kill your darlings.” There were so many adjectives and similes wedged into every sentence, it was almost impossible to follow the thread. I admire how clearly she pictures the world she created but I really wanted at least half as much description and way more action and answers. It’s hard to give an idea of what I mean without devoting entirely too much space to an excerpt, but I’ll try.

“The sun was still climbing the sky’s dusky walls when Kallia finished watering. She scaled the vine-wrapped side of the greenhouse, muscles shaking even harder when she perched on the black rusted edge. The wind washed the rest of the dream off her. It whispered through her hair and her nightgown, around her bare legs that dangled more than twenty feet in the air.

It felt good to be as far from the ground as possible. It gave her a perfect view of the thick spread of treetops, dark spires under the sun’s slow rise and the morning mist between. The Dire Woods went on for mile after mile in every direction, wrapping around a wall enclosure just beyond. Even from this distance, the imposing black gates of rectangular shapes jutted up clearly from the rimmed enclosure. A few vast silhouettes peeked from behind. Buildings like mountains that could’ve been manors. Proud, jutting towers like the tops of palaces. Every hint, merely puzzle pieces in the distance.

The city, Kallia knew, as Glorian.”

I promise I enjoy beautiful imagery as much as the next reader, but there’s still at least one more paragraph of description before we get to anything resembling action. That “action” is simply pulling a couple of important objects from a hiding hole before moving on to a new scene. Every. Single. Scene in the book is set in this much detail. I personally found it frustrating. Others may enjoy the lavish language more than I did. Had there been less description, I feel like this duology could have been compressed into one tighter, more engaging book.

I had a few other complaints but I’ll try to wrap this up. Characters other than the main three or so completely lack any depth. I couldn’t name any of the other contestants or judges, even while I was reading the book. I don’t understand the system of magic very well (Some are born to it, others acquire it, but I don’t know how). Glorian has been cut off from society for ages (I’m not clear exactly how long), but Jack regularly visits and Erasmus somehow got inside to propose the competition and his circus performance. That seems inconsistent to me.

I do like the fact that Kallia is such a strong woman in a world that apparently expects women to quietly sit in the corners and embroider. But there’s another question I have: If women are so oppressed, how is Daron’s aunt the leader of the Patrons, a group that polices magicians? It’s all just so uneven.

The book ends on a huge cliffhanger but I won’t be reading the sequel. I do wish the author well on her journey as a writer and I might revisit her in a few years when the rough edges have been polished. She’s just not the author for me right now. Plenty of readers on GoodReads are rating this very highly, so please don’t take my word for it. Look at positive reviews and get a more balanced view of the book.

Recommended by:

MK French at Girl Who Reads

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I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site.

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  1. Ah I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this one more! I have it because of Owlcrate and I’m not sure its really up my alley. I’m with you on descriptions. Sometimes authors just put WAY too much and then you get lost on what the heck was happening in the first place.

    1. It could have been me and my mood but I knew within the first couple of chapters that it wasn’t a book for me. I should have stopped right there but the premise intrigued me so I kept reading, hoping it would grab me.

    1. I’m in the minority, so you should definitely check it out if it interests you! I hope it works better for you than it did for me!

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