Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles
Release date: August 25, 2020
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.
slut-shaming, trauma, emotional abuse, gore
Thank you to Wednesday Books and Edelweiss for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Quotes used in this review are from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change.
It’s been almost a year since I posted a full book review on my blog. I’ve been posting reviews on Goodreads but they’re often not detailed. Sometimes I just type one or two sentences and click post without preamble. Writing reviews has always been the most draining part of my blogging life which is funny because my job is literally to review books. I just have this fear of being repetitive and uncritical but you know what? THIS TIME I DON’T CARE. I just want to scream about my love for this book. My insecurities are lesser than my need for everyone to know how good Where Dreams Descend is. I am COMPLETELY OBSESSED. Read my thoughts below!
• Oh Kallia dearest Kallia
I’m starting off at a fangirling note because this queen deserves it and more. There are badass-level characters and then there are Kallia-level characters who are ten times more badass than usual. Everytime she drags a misogynist prick to the mud, I gain five more years in my life (I might be immortal now because she does this a lot).
Kallia has lived with magic and illusions all her life and she’s determined to carve a name for herself in Glorian—a town that is full of ominous mysteries. She joins a competition of magicians where she’s always painted as evil because obviously men can’t handle women who are a hundred times stronger and more talented than them (disappointed but not surprised). Kallia is always vilified by these men but does she let them affect her? HELL NO. She fights back with grace in her bold red lipstick and clacking heels. It would have been better if she stepped on their faces with said heels but alas, I can’t have everything.
The men grumbled in reply, echoing vague agreements on why her performance posed a threat to Spectaculore. Funny how they couldn’t keep their eyes off her when she entered the room—only to now regard her as a sort of demon sent to haunt them.
I loved Kallia so much because she has so much confidence and spirit. She has also been through a lot of manipulation and I admire how she remained strong after that. One thing that I like about this book is that it addressed trauma quite well. I don’t want to say more because spoilers but Kallia is definitely a protagonist I rooted for since page one. I LOVE HER SO MUCH 😭
Nine men Kallia would have to best if she wanted to stay in the game, and she was determined to remain the front-runner.
• Hello to great friendships
I also want to insert my love for Kallia and Aaros’ friendship here. Aaros is a thief who eventually became Kallia’s assistant and most trusted friend. It comforted me to read about a platonic m/f friendship because there’s certainly a lack of that in fiction nowadays. It was refreshing to see Aaros (who is bisexual if I’m not mistaken) support Kallia with his whole chest and not asking for anything in return. It was just so pure and heart-warming.
It was also nice to see the women of the Conquering Circus and Kallia bonding and helping each other. In their world full of disgusting and judgmental men, they found allies in each other and WE JUST LOVE TO SEE IT. Sexism is a recurring theme in this book which shows a lot of parallels in the real world. Women here are seen as inferior to men in the magic/performing industry. I’m thinking that this is because men are constantly threatened by them. Aside from being an entertaining read, I also found Where Dreams Descend thought-provoking in more ways than one.
• Circus and magic!
If you love books about circus (hello Night Circus and Caraval), you need to drop everything you’re doing and pre-order this book now (check links above). There’s also a lot of magic and sparkles I’m sure you will love. I would say that the magic system could have been more established and detailed (with clear boundaries and all) but other than that, I really enjoyed the magical aspect of this book. THERE’S A MAGIC CONTEST HERE YOU KNOW. I know there’s a better way to describe that but my three brain cells are already struggling too much so you just have to bear with my mediocrity. So yeah. Magic contest. I did see problems with this arc because despite being a huge part of the book, it wasn’t really given the top priority (this book is more character-driven). I think it could have been more fleshed out. It would have been better if Kallia’s competitors were more three-dimensional because it would have given the arc more depth. This would also result to the stakes being higher and the disappearances of the magicians more gut-punching. Higher stakes = greater impact
• Mysteries are brewing
Aside from the magic, there’s also a mysterious atmosphere that surrounds Where Dreams Descend. I was unable to stop flipping the pages because I wanted to know the mystery of the characters’ past, the disappearing magicians, and Glorian itself. There’s also Jack. He’s making me lose my mind. I don’t know what to think of him.
While reading, I had so many questions and I’m the type of bookdragon who doesn’t back down from mysteries. Again, I would have loved it more if the other characters in this book were given more depth. It would have given a larger impact to the mystery surrounding the book.
Anyway, my questions just multiplied when I finished this book because THE MYSTERIES DO NOT END. I’m excited to read the sequel and learn more about everything because I am thirsty for answers.
• The male protagonist reminds me of Zuko
Obviously, this deserves a bullet point of its own because that’s just how it is when you’re comparing a character to the Zuko. I don’t know what others may say but when I read about Demarco, all I can see is Zuko (or maybe this is just because I love Zuko so much that I can see him in everything but whatever). He has that brooding attitude that makes him a bit of a drama queen sometimes. When you read this book, tell me if Demarco reminds you of Zuko. I need affirmation.
So Kallia had shut out her assistant, too. She shut everyone out. It was his usual reaction as well, in times of crisis. No one could perceive you as weak if they could not see you.
Anyway, I love Demarco so much (as if that’s still unclear). He’s such a soft boy and I find him so endearing. I’m looking forward to more of his character arc because he has a lot of potential. Now I sound like a talent scout. Don’t mind me.
• IT’S ALL ABOUT THE YEARNING
I’m saving the best for last because I’m just that predictable. THE SLOW BURN ROMANCE HERE MADE ME SCREAM A LOT OF TIMES BECAUSE ADJDKDKKD (i warned you this review is not going to be fully coherent). The yearning between Kallia and Demarco made me weak. This book has a lot of stellar qualities but I loved the romance most. I’m trash like that. I see two characters. I ship them. I go crazy. I rate five stars.
Daron wandered, lingered, stared at her door each time he passed. At this point, he’d committed the fixture to memory. Every intricate carving around the frame, the slight scuffs around the doorknob. After his last visit hadn’t gone well, he’d resolved never to touch it. No matter what he heard.
You can’t exactly blame me okay? When you read this book, you’ll understand. I really like the angst and the development of their relationship. I’ll scream forever over here.
There’s still a lot to unpack but I don’t want to be here forever. I have to be honest, this book is not without its flaws. In fact, I put off reading this for months because I found the pacing off at first. However, when I got back to reading it this month, it snatched my heart entirely. It took me a while to warm up to this book and when I did, my love for it blazed very strongly like Kallia’s flames.
Where Dreams Descend is a story of magic, romance and mystery mixed with poetic writing. It’s also an empowering story of a woman who faces her challenges head-on, no matter the odds stacked against her.
You wouldn’t want to miss this book. Trust me.