Author: Robin TalleySeries: Standalone
Released: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Mira INK
Length: 384 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.
For someone who doesn’t enjoy retellings at all, it’s odd that I keep finding Shakespeare-inspired books that thrill me and make me rethink my position. After Cat Winters’ The Steep and Thorny Way, As I Descended shows us that classics are classics for a reason and that things like ambition and jealousy are inherently human, and therefore always interesting and relevant.
Like Macbeth, As I Descended is divided into five acts, each inspired by its counterpart. Bloody knives and burning candles are taken directly from the original, but Talley took enough artistic liberties to make the story entirely her own. Ghosts and boarding schools always went well together and Talley used the connection better than most. Relying on an old Mexican legend about La Llorona, she created a heavy, ghost-filled, terrifying atmosphere.
Maria and Lily are a power couple at their boarding school, even though they are closeted. To be fair, though, their popularity falls entirely on Maria, who is second best at everything in their school. As a disabled girl, Lily was barely noticed before she got together with Maria and even now she’s only visible in Maria’s reflected glow. But Maria being second best isn’t enough for the girls. If they are to end up at the same university, Maria needs to win a prestigious scholarship, and for that they have to get rid of Delilah – unfair, sluttish, drug-using queen of Acheron Academy. Unwittingly, even stupidly, the girls team up with Acheron’s resident ghosts and are led on a downward spiral that can only end in tragedy.
As I Descended is practically bursting with diversity on all sides. If you’re looking for a book with LGBT themes, sobering thoughts on living with disabilities, and even a Latina heroine well-versed in Hispanic legends and culture (even though she often tries to hide it), As I Descended is the perfect book for you. Most importantly, all of it is blended so naturally, in a book that isn’t primarily about diversity at all.
Unfortunately, Talley falls a bit short on characterization. She put a lot of effort into creating the right atmosphere, but the girls never quite become fully fleshed-out. Instead they remain just tools controlled by evil ghosts, without proper emotional depth or believable motivations. It’s difficult to care for props, and as much as I was entertained and frightened by their story, I was entirely indifferent to their fate.
Overall, though, As I Descended is a successful retelling of one of my favorite tragedies, and one of those ghost stories that hit just the right note at precisely the right time. What it lacks in characterization, it makes up for in many other ways.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.