Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1) – Janella Angeles [ARC Review]

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Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️

Synopsis:

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.

Review:

Huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for providing me with this eARC in exchange for my honest review!

When I saw that Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles was pitched as “Phantom of the Opera” meets “Moulin Rouge” I knew I absolutely had to read it. The synopsis totally pulled me in and intrigued me to see what Where Dreams Descend was all about. The competition aspect actually also made me think of that one Disney Channel Original Movie, Now You See Me!

Where Dreams Descend is an atmospheric, fantasy tale that follows a female magician named Kallia as she competes in a magician competition in the icy city of Glorian. It is a high tension story of magicians, their dark pasts, and a mysterious presence wreaking havoc on the city. 

Unfortunately, Where Dreams Descend fell flat for me. My overall feeling is just … meh. It was ok. I hate when I can’t be super positive about books, but I have to share my honest opinions. 

I’ll start with what I liked . . .

  • The vibe and atmosphere is by far the best part of Where Dreams Descend. The whole story is fantastical with a dark mood. The Dire Woods and the city of Dorian are so captivating and have this air of mystery. Honestly, this was the only thing that kept me invested in the story. 
  • The first chapter/prologue totally pulled me in. I was like ooooh this is going to be sexy and magical! It definitely started off strong. 

Now, onto what I did not enjoy. 

  • First, and perhaps most important, the lack of world building and characterization. Where Dreams Descend starts off strong with an eerie and mysterious setting, but does nothing to build upon it. I feel like I know nothing about this world. We get a little bit of history with the tale of the four families of Glorian, but even that is vague and quite brief. I just felt like I was kind of thrown into this world. The same goes for the characters . . . I really don’t know that much about them. Like I barely even know what they look like. It seems like the main detail is that every character is running from their past and has a bunch of secrets. That’s it. I don’t know, I’m just not attached to any of the characters. I wanted so badly to love Kallia, but it just wasn’t there. 
  • Going along with characters and character development, I was not a fan of the romance. The two characters involved just like suddenly fall for each other. I mean it was obvious that they were going to be love interests from the beginning, but I would have liked to see some development and actual formation of a relationship. To me it felt like they were attracted to one another, talked twice, and then were obsessed. It just didn’t feel natural and was definitely rushed. At one point they’re together, broken up, and together again all within like three chapters. Their relationship didn’t feel authentic to me. 
  • I wanted more! Going into this book I was expecting exciting and extravagant magical competition scenes, but there were only a couple. And these scenes were cool, but it didn’t really translate into reading. Maybe it would have been better on screen? It just wasn’t what I expected. 
  • Along with the magician’s competition, I wanted more of the Conquering Circus performers. These awesome ladies had so much potential, but they felt more like a prop to be used for Kallia’s performances. 
  • We got no answers about the mystery. Now I know that this is a duology and the author can’t give away everything in the first book, but I would have liked at least some answers!

Wow, while writing all of this out I feel bad being so hard on a book. Especially for a debut author. It just sucks to be let down by a book that I was excited for! 

I do have to mention the cover, because it is seriously gorgeous! I feel like it perfectly captures the vibe of the first chapter and the mysteriousness of the setting. 

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles will be released on August 25th, 2020 by Wednesday Books.

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