WHERE DREAMS DESCEND (Kingdom of Cards #1) - 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.


Published: August 2020 - Wednesday Books.

Genre: Young adult / fantasy / romance.

Pages: 464. 

Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild violence / sexual innuendos.   

Format: eBook.

Source: Netgalley, via the publisher. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All thoughts are honest, and my own. 

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Lyrical prose, sometimes too colourful, but undeniably evocative and vivid. I fell in love with the rich, magical atmosphere of this fantasy world and the scenes - particularly on the magician's stage - are gorgeously written and detailed. I also think it's a unique setting - despite having comparisons to The Phantom of the Opera, Moulin Rogue!, and even The Night Circus, this novel definitely stands on its own. I enjoyed the fact that it's inspired by other magician-esque romances, but doesn't feel the need to blatantly retell.    

The story is slightly underwhelming. It's slow, and nothing much happens. What major incidents occur are anticlimactic, and I was never desperate to keep reading. If you don’t mind a slower pace, and lots of romantic tension, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it more than I did. 

I also wish the world-building was stronger. It’s quite vague

“There’s no such thing as hidden magic,” he said. “And besides, that’s all impossible. Contradictory.” “Most stories are. It’s like the difference between a good trick and a great trick.” 
A knowing gleam twinkled in her tired, kohl-lined eyes. “A good trick amazes, leaves everyone breathless in that moment. But a great trick truly deceives, keeps the audience wondering what happened, long after the performance."

"Sometimes you can’t do magic anymore without certain people in your life. Sometimes you just . . . don’t want to.”

The characters are layered and unpredictable, which I loved. My favourite is easily Demarco - he's the most compelling and three-dimensional, and his backstory is so interesting and exciting. I also found his motivations airtight. I didn't love Kallia's character, just because she came across like so many YA heroines we've seen before: feisty, independent, confident, and beautiful. There's nothing wrong with that, obviously, but it's unoriginal, and Kallia didn't have anything to make her especially distinct or compelling. As for Jack, I don't have an opinion on him. He doesn't get much page time and I never grasped his personality. He's a flat character, at least in Book 1. 

The relationships are a little dull.  I did love the slow-burn of Kallia and Demarco's romance, and their chemistry is irresistible (their scenes together were a highlight for me). But I never felt much sentiment - positive or negative - for Jack and Kallia's dynamic. They don't have many scenes together, so there's no chance to understand their relationship. Kallia tells us a lot about Jack, but we don't see it for ourselves.      

I disliked Kallia's relationship with Aaros. He's not quite a love-interest, he's not a brotherly figure, and his friendship with Kallia isn't purely platonic, either - it's clear he wants more than that. I didn't think it was necessary for the author to hint at feelings, because Kallia doesn't need yet another male character to fall in love with her. It's cliche.  

Where Dreams Descend is an evocative, slow-burning YA fantasy perfect for fans of The Phantom of the Opera or The Night Circus.  

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