Title: Where Dreams Descend
Author: Janella Angeles
Series: Kingdom of Cards
Page Length: 464
Publication Date: Aug. 25, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
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.
Where Dreams Descend is the first book in Janella Angeles’ Kingdom of Cards series. This is not a light, easy read. It is a deep and immersive story that pulls you into a secretive and frighteningly fantastical world. This is the kind of novel that leaves you with a book hangover, and you’re glad for it. Long after the story ends, you find yourself thinking about Kallia and Jack, mirrors, Damon and his loss, the city and its secrets, and the patriarchy that needs to be turned on its head.
Kallia is an ambitious and fiercely independent magician who refuses to adhere to the patriarchal demands of society. She knows her talent outshines the men, and entering a competition in the mysterious town of Glorian, a place she has always felt drawn to, proves the best way to reach her goals. I love Kallia’s confidence and her feminist attitude. She flees from the constraints of living and working for a man and strives to be free. Free from the constraints of society, and free from the rules of men.
“A cage…Not a home. A gilded place of false friends and stolen time. Any lingering fondness felt fabricated, syrupy-sweet taste she tried ridding from her tongue, for none of it had been real.”
Kallia has to face her past and Jack, her enigmatic and controlling master/friend/more? Jack is the owner of Hellfire House where Kallia lived and headlined. Think Moulin Rouge with magic!! Total Perfection! Except, though Kallia was pampered, she could not leave.
“How wonderful it must’ve been, to come into this life with the searing blaze of choice…It was only too easy to imagine how such a life might’ve changed her. To have had the power of choice over the glory of power.”
The relationship between Jack and Kallia is complex and confusing. A cross between toxic and sexy, controlling and oppressive, I couldn’t decide for the majority of the book if Jack was a sexy protector or a scary stalker, and I loved it. I’m curious to learn more about their relationship and Jack’s story in future books.
The story starts off slow, though the magical elements captivate from the start and compel you to read more. The setting is also enticing. It’s magical, mysterious, and deadly, which contrasts with the joviality and frivolity usually associated with the circus and magic competitions. Angeles’ style creates vivid and visceral descriptions of the town, the people, and the magic, which made for an exciting, immersive, and heart-pounding read.
Keep in mind, the magic depicted in the book isn’t just magic. It’s…well… magical. It’s like a fantastic and entrancing mix of music, dancing, circus-like performances, and magic. Fireballs whirling through the air, spectral images created in thin air, birds sweeping through a room only to disappear into ash – these are only a few of the fascinating yet scary magical acts that occur in the novel. The fact that the story takes place mostly in a town with a secret and dangerous past adds to the spectacular and suspenseful story.
As the competition in Glorian progresses and Kallie proves to be the strongest competitor, people begin disappearing. This is a town with secrets filled with people with even more secrets, and that makes for an intriguing story. As I read, I wanted to know more about the town and the people in it, from the sarcastic tailor to the amazingly talented women from the circus that Kallia befriends. I wanted to know why people were disappearing or injured and how it related to Glorian’s past, Kallie, and the mysterious judge, and retired magician, Daron.
Daron, attractive yet unapproachable, has secrets of his own, and as Kallia breaks through his walls, the reader learns precisely why he doesn’t practice magic. Daron is a fascinating character from old magic, and I enjoyed the slow-burning romance that developed between Kallia and Daron. They are alike in many ways, from their aversion to mirrors to their dreams of freedom.
And then there is Aaros, Kallia’s assistant and one of my favorite characters! He is a loyal and supportive friend to Kallia, and his witty banter with her and with Daron is charming. He brings a levity to the story (that I love) while still standing out as a strong and memorable character. Oh, and did I mention he’s a thief?
This story is an absolute delight to read. It has exceptional (and magical) world-building, unique and often morally ambiguous characters, vivid imagery, a suspenseful and unique plot, and an ending that I didn’t expect. The feminist themes are the cherry on top of this wickedly entertaining cake!
Thanks so much to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
- The Magic. It is fresh and exciting. Creative and vivid, this element of the story is fascinating!
- The rich characters. They are dynamic, well-developed, and interesting.
- The writing. Angeles is a powerful and captivating storyteller.
“The more others try to extinguish a flame, the greater its power must be. Why else destroy light if not envious of its radiance?”
“I didn’t throw you in a cage. You walked right inside and turned the lock.”
“She was one frayed tie that refuse to be cut.”
Readers that enjoy ya fantasy with amazing magical elements, possible love triangles, mysterious characters and settings, and cut-throat competitions will adore this book.