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Kingdom of Cards #1

Where Dreams Descend

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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.

464 pages, Hardcover

First published August 25, 2020

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About the author

Janella Angeles

2 books878 followers
Janella Angeles is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age–which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. She is represented by Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. WHERE DREAMS DESCEND, Book 1 in her debut fantasy Kingdom of Cards duology, will be out June 2, 2020 from Wednesday Books.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,621 reviews
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
January 28, 2021
This is definitely an instance where I'm glad that I don't do ratings anymore because oh my god I have no clue how to rate this. I liked it, but I also had some issues. I don't think I really started liking it until the last third of the book. There were a lot of times through the middle where I was annoyed because it's a book that is shrouded in mystery, but there was almost too much mystery and not enough answers so I didn't really get what was happening, so I kind of wanted to DNF it but something kept me going. It's dark and atmospheric with distinctive and interesting characters, and a cool magical competition full of whimsy, but there was just something missing for me. I'm intrigued enough that I am considering picking up the sequel when it releases, even though if you had asked me in the middle I would've said no way, but I'm not sure if I will yet. Definitely need to think on this one for a bit.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.5k followers
April 7, 2020
i have a very strong feeling this novel will be making its way into book subscription boxes this summer. its definitely one i can see becoming quite popular.

its fun, its daring, its dark, and it has that magical showmanship quality that i have been missing since ‘caraval’ and ‘the night circus.’ i really enjoyed the exciting cast of characters and the mysterious atmosphere of the story.

my only minor critique would be the overall vibe of the book. i think if the world-building had been a little bit stronger and really played into the whole ‘moody and broody’ tone, it wouldnt feel so juvenile. i understand this is YA, but it seems as if the story is holding back, which is a disservice to itself and its potential.

overall, this completely scratched my circus itch and i cant wait to see how everything is resolved in the next book.

thank you so much to wednesday books for the ARC!

4 stars
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,301 reviews43.9k followers
February 27, 2021
A delicious mash-up of Phantom of the opera, Moulin Rouge and Chris Nolan’s Prestige (nope, there are no big twist and twins, just relax and enjoy the magic of the story!)

Semi-love triangle dances with manipulation, secrets, the universe of magicians, dark pasts and intriguing, riveting, high tension story-telling hooks you from the beginning and you cannot get enough because question marks are swimming in your fish-tank head and you ask yourself “Did the book finish? But instead of getting revelations, I got lost in more puzzles!”

Well actually I’m starting the strong parts of the book which I truly like: Its mysterious, eccentric, exotic world building, dark, conniving, and also intriguing pacing, dynamism of trio MCs picked my interest from the beginning.

BUT here are the weakest points that I found: The book circles around three powerful, strong willed, charismatic characters but at some parts I found them so immature, especially the hard boiled heroine turned into arrogant bitch when she competes with the other magicians and we don’t have much clue about characteristics about heroes. (especially Jack) I think the author left the most of their stories and secrets to the other installment and keep us in the dark so we may wonder and continue to read their stories. Well, a little more character building and heart throbbing romance with more hot chemistry (there are already sparks flying around the characters but they need to be ignited more!) work better for me!

Kallia (ferocious, ambitious, skilled magician, orphaned) works as showgirl in a magical club since her childhood. She is rising star (yes, Nicole Kidman’s Satine appears in your head) of show business and she has undeniable attraction with the master of the club, enigmatic Jack (club master always reminds me Tom Ellis’ Lucifer Morningstar. At least when you give his face to the character, you keep giggling when you read his chapters!) who is doing whatever it takes to protect her. But he can be so manipulative and keep so many secrets into himself.

And we’re introduced with Daron Demarco (great name choice) was a successful magician till he stopped performing two years ago. Something earth shattering happened in his life but we have no idea what it is! For fixing the damage and paying his penance, he accepts to be judge of a magical competition named “Spectaculore” ( I don’t know it’s another reference of “Moulin Rouge” because as you may remember, Evan McGregor’s Christian character was play writer and his play he wants to write for Satine was “Spectacular Spectacular”)

And Kallia learns about this magical competition so she wants to participate immediately. But the competition takes place in the nearby town and going there alone is a big challenge for the young woman like her.

As you may imagine she accepts challenge and participates the competition, defeating her rivalries. And of course a sparkling romance and attraction between her and our mysterious judge Daron confuses hell of her.

Overall this is promising, exhilarating, volatile, mysterious, dazzling reading. I cut my points because of not enough layered characterization and lack of clues to capture the story’s direction ( we left in the pitch black forest and we need an urgent flashlight to learn more about the characters’ secrets for justification of their motivations. So 3.5 stars rounded up 4 because of promising, fresh start and SPECTACULAR (once again) world-building!

Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for sharing this intriguing ARC with me in exchange my honest review. I’m looking forward to read the sequel. This is such a great start!

Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,605 reviews10.7k followers
April 2, 2023
Where Dreams Descend is my Serpent & Dove of 2020. By that I mean, a book everyone else seems to be loving and I'm over here like...

As with Serpent & Dove, I really didn't start to enjoy this until around the 80% point. Unlike S&D however, I don't plan to pick up the sequel to this when it releases.

I'm sad about it. I had high hopes for this, but unfortunately it just didn't work for me.

The story begins with our protagonist, Kallia, working as a performer in a club, The Hellfire House, owned by a mysterious man named, Jack.

She has larger plans for herself, however, and sets her sights on a magical competition being held in the nearby city of Glorian.

In order to enter, something a woman wouldn't normally do, she must first break free of Jack and the Hellfire House.

Making her way through the cursed woods alone, Kallia makes it to the city and promptly meets a young man, Aaros, who immediately becomes her best friend, confidant and stage assistant. He also became, in my opinion, the best character in the book.

As with any competition, there must be judges. Enter romantic interest, Daron DeMarco, a retired stage magician himself, who becomes enchanted with Kallia and her powers.

There are other competitors as well, but of course, Kallia far exceeds them all for no apparent reason whatsoever; both in performance power and overall everything else.

Once the magical competition begins, it becomes clear, something is off in the city of Glorian.

Other competitors go missing, or are severely injured and Kallia begins to be haunted in her rooms by a menacing presence.

In spite of the chaos, the show must go on and Kallia is determined to win. DeMarco watches anxiously from the sidelines as she continually tries to one-up her competition.

While this Dark Magical Fantasy has a lot of elements that should have worked for me, it just didn't. It felt disjointed and like nothing was really happening, even though on page, plenty was.

I know that makes no sense, but it was like the dramatic plot points didn't really matter. It was nothing I cared about or felt compelled to know more about.

Kallia was one of the most arrogant characters I have ever read. I understand she was ambitious and needed to be portrayed as strong, but it's hard to have an arc showing growth when the character already claims to know it all.

Not only was she, in her estimation, eons above any of the other contestants, she was also more skilled than anyone else in the world.

Okay, enough about that. I think it is fairly clear how I feel about Kallia.

On a brighter note, DeMarco and Aaros were both saving graces for me. DeMarco was quite interesting. I loved his quiet humility and learning more about his backstory.

Some of the dark moments interested me as well. There were some sections involving mirrors, or the characters being magically trapped within the town, that I found compelling; I wish there had been more of that.

As mentioned above, around the 80% point, I started to feel like the flow was better and I liked where the relationship between Kallia and DeMarco was going.

Unfortunately, enjoying only 20% of a book, isn't enough for me to be able to give it a higher rating.

I do think that the story left off in a great place. Although I won't be continuing on, I am sure a lot of Readers will really be looking forward to the sequel.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. Although this didn't work for me, I am definitely in the minority!

((The World to Me)):

Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
April 7, 2021

Annnd here's my Spring and Summer Book Recommendations! (click the link to check them out!).
Annnd here's the June OwlCrate Unboxing Video :

The theme this round was All the World's a Stage, featuring this lovely (nekkid) book and a handful of gorgeous bookish goodies.

I'm still reading it (and absolutely loving it) but in the meantime, check out my OwlCrate Book Unboxing Video to see my thoughts on this box!




The Written Review
“Strange how applause was just noise, when you were all alone.”
Kallia has spent her entire life in a gilded cage - performing feats of magic night after night for Jack, the club owner.

All Kallia has ever dreamed about is going to the city - to perform in the daring feats and become a headliner.

After a particularly memorable show, Kallia discovers that Jack has been deliberately manipulating her memory to prevent her from leaving his show.

She escapes - but barely - and makes it to the city, only to find that her dreams and what passes as reality in the magical town do not align at all.

I loved so many elements of this book!

The magic was interesting, Kallia was (mostly) an intriguing main character...but I did have trouble sinking into it (at the beginning).

It felt like there was a lot that was handed to Kallia and not enough of that was a struggle.

But the more I read, the more that turned around. I began to become more and more invested in the book and ultimately couldn't put it down!

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Profile Image for may ➹.
494 reviews2,058 followers
February 8, 2021
1.5 stars

I did not know the true feeling of freedom until I, after a whole month of struggling, finally, finally finished this book.


Where Dreams Descend follows a girl named Kallia, a magician who has only known the world of the Hellfire House and its master, Jack. Soon, she makes her way to the city of Glorian to participate in a magic competition, despite pushback against her being a female magician. But there are more sinister things taking place that might keep Kallia from achieving the one thing she wants—to win.

This was a character-driven book, which I genuinely prefer over plot-driven books. But it doesn’t work when I don’t connect to the characters, and I just didn’t care about Kallia or Demarco. I liked that Kallia was powerful and ambitious, and I loved seeing her drive and refusal to let the men around her bring her down. Demarco, on the other hand, was very bland and I will be forgetting about him 3.5 seconds after I write this. I didn’t particularly care to see where either of their stories would go—I was content to leave their mysterious pasts unsolved and just get the book over with.

The romance made me feel... absolutely nothing. It gave me nothing. When they finally kissed, I had an “oh finally!” moment, but it was less in the “finally they get together” way and more in the “finally something happens” way. I also thought that perhaps a side character could redeem it for me, if not for the main characters or romance, but Aaros is included in the first half and then completely forgotten about. And while I did like what little was portrayed of their platonic relationship, the way he and Kallia became friends was so unbelievable; there was no development whatsoever.

“I know the rain as it hits the trees, how it trickles over rooftops and down windows. That’s all I knew of the sound of rain.”

The writing in this book is definitely on the more flowery, descriptive side, but it feels very simple because of the way everything reads really choppily. The writing also made me feel weirdly distant from the characters—their emotions weren’t portrayed well through it, at least to me, and prevented me from further connecting to them.

The parts that were supposed to be exciting were not, because the plot basically repeated the same events over and over again. It was either Kallia performing some big magical act that ended in a stunned audience or a weird mishap that was soon forgotten about, or it was people disappearing/not waking back up that got only one page of attention before moving on. In general, the way that the characters in this book gloss over major events made no logical sense to me. I think the story could have been so much more interesting if the author had actually taken the time to explore these mysterious, dark events rather than just returning to mindlessly boring scenes.

The worldbuilding was, simply, nonexistent. I normally don’t mind poor worldbuilding, but when the book lacked in other aspects, I turned to the setting to be impressed and... I was not. Very minimal information was given about the magic system (which is so bizarre considering this is supposed to be a book about a competition involving magic), the city of Glorian, and the rest of the world. There’s a difference between “an air of mystery and intrigue” and “complete utter confusion,” and this book was trying to achieve the former but resulted in the latter.

Finally, probably the thing I am the most upset over with this book: It is absolutely useless to write a mysterious competition between magicians if you don’t know anything about the competitors and won’t even show their acts in comparison to the protagonist. I don’t mind that Kallia is much more powerful than them (because to me it read as a commentary on how even if a woman is more skilled than nine men, this society would still shun and mistreat the woman). But it’s a sign of really terrible writing when I can’t tell you a single thing about the competing magicians—not even their names—so there is absolutely zero way for me to care about how or why they are disappearing, which is supposed to be the main plot point of the book.

No one deserved to be sought out like prey, to be expected to fall freely into the jaws of the beast simply because it was hungry.

I was going to keep my rating at 2 stars rather than 1.5, mostly for the ending, which did have some plot twists that I didn’t see coming and really liked. But that 5% was truly only the good part, and when I think of this book, I don’t think of anything other than the pain I felt from having to force myself to read this. I definitely won’t be reading the sequel.

There are a few complaints I had that could just be a personal thing, but overall, I wouldn’t recommend this. I was bored the entire time and could not make myself care at all about what happened to the protagonists as a result of this book’s poor writing. If you’re looking for an exciting magic competition or an interesting cast of characters/romance to get invested in, you might want to read another book.


:: rep :: brown MC

:: content warnings :: misogyny

// buddy read with my favorite banshee + demon
Profile Image for Era ➴.
217 reviews557 followers
November 10, 2022
When I tell you I blazed through the last Part of this book -

I don’t even know where to start with this. Holy fuck. I haven’t been so invested in a book like this in a while - I say that because the books I’ve been swept up in this year were either Rick Riordan or rereads. This book was different than those ones, and in the best ways possible.

“A good trick amazes, leaves everyone breathless in the moment. But a great trick truly deceives, keeps the audience wondering what happened, long after the performance.”

The writing was...stunning. I was amazed at how beautiful and atmospheric it was, right from the trippy prologue.
I just loved it so much. It was gorgeous. I was blown away every chapter by something even more thought-provoking and intense and powerful and just -
Ugh. So beautiful.

“Only his face remained the same, half-masked and haunting. Like a prince who relished the bloody crown on his head, and the ghosts that came with it. A face almost hardened by beauty, though glints of youth ran deep beneath soft black eyes.”

The aesthetic of this book was so rich. The magic, the setting, the emotion, the tension and the writing combined into this incredible atmosphere that just swept me in. The spotlights and playing cards, mirrors and illusions, deceptions and blazing games...I fell for it immediately.

I loved all the different elements that were included in the plotline. There were tarot cards (an obsession of mine, although I don’t really remember any of them or their meanings), fire magic (always a favorite), competitions (immediate tension between characters), playing cards (this was such a smart aspect), mirrors (huge parts of the illusions) and obviously magic in general (I love this kind of element). There were flowers, acts and deceptions.

“The power lay not in bending what the beholder could see, but in convincing the reflection it was something else.”

Speaking of the magic, the world-building was just as spectacular and vague as everything else. I understood the layout of the island and the way their myths and beliefs worked, and the characters really illustrated how different parts of the island had different customs and opinions.
Glorian felt so real and vivid. Hellfire House was such a tempting, dark presence. The Conquering Circus was one of the most lively settings ever. It was amazing.

I also loved how the magic worked. You could assume that Kalia would be too powerful or perfect because of the strength of her magic, but it was also made clear that there were rules to the magic, there were limits to her magic, there were things that she couldn’t do and there were things she couldn’t manipulate. Kallia was more powerful than anyone else (other than Jack, and maybe Demarco if he counts) because she had the creativity to exceed the limits that everyone else believed had been set.

“In a matter of moments, she’d caged sounds in her hand and bore fire from water.”

These characters were fucking perfect. I love them so much.

Kallia is a powerful magician who’s out to earn her place on the stage, no matter the costs. Having been trained her whole life as a showgirl at Hellfire House deep in the Dire Woods, she sets out to prove her power and worth in a male-dominated competition of magicians.
I loved her. So. Fucking. Much.

“What’s so wrong with wanting more? I got a taste of it tonight, and it was only the first show.”

She had so much sass and ambition. She reminded me of Celaena Sardothien in the best way (I know people hate on her, but her sass and power are amazing in my opinion). Kallia had that same fire and sarcasm and showmanship, and I loved her.
She’s a true Slytherin (I would know). Her ambition rules her, and her intelligence is always underestimated. Kallia’s soft side and femininity and ownership of herself hid a whole lot of cunning and a lot of strength. She was so strong and powerful and advanced, but she had her own flaws and phobias that made her feel so real.

“Make no mistake, I know I don't have to prove a single thing to them. What matters most is what I prove to myself. Giving up would be an insult to everything I know I'm capable of. And I've already come this far.”

Jack is the master of Hellfire House, the rumored club hidden in the Dire Woods. He was Kallia’s teacher before she left, much to his...displeasure. Jack is a liar. He deals in illusions and memories, and for the whole book I had no idea what he would do next, or how much of a threat he really posed.
He had so much tension with Kallia at the beginning, I thought they were supposed to be the romance. But then within the first few chapters, everything changed. I guess you could call Jack toxic, because he definitely manipulated Kallia and trapped her. Again, I wasn’t clear on his motives or his actions, because Jack is a hidden character. He’s major and important to the plot, but our time with him is much less than the other characters. He doesn’t have a clear narrative, and that made it even more trippy after all the illusions.

“I gave you power,” he said quietly. “A life, a stage.”
“You gave me a cage.” Her breath shook. “And now you want to throw me back in it.”
The sharp edges and dark planes of his face shifted under the bitterest of smiles. “That’s where you’re wrong, firecrown. I didn’t throw you in a cage.” He raised a hand by her cheek, close without touching. “You walked right inside and turned the lock. And if you’re not careful, you’ll lose yourself to it.”

Demarco is a retired magician - but he’s still young. After leaving his career as a front-page-headlines magician and his famous, high-ranking magical family, Daron Demarco is someone who’s locked it all away.
Daron was...stony, at first. He was more critical, more focused, more careful to keep his emotions hidden. I wasn’t sure what his role in the story would be. But then his memories started revealing what happened (actually, they didn’t, since I was left guessing the whole time, but they gave him more depth) and I started realizing that I actually really liked him. He was honestly kind of like me. Everyone assumes I’m socially awkward (true) and that I would rather be left alone (also true), and they mostly just recognize me for something I did (“smart Asian” stereotypes can go fuck themselves). But in reality I’m just having an internal breakdown the whole time.

“Daron ignored the thump of his pulse, the smattering of laughs and ticking tongues around him. Whether it was doubt or denial, the answer was obvious. Not even the strongest acquired magician who’d crossed the stage performed with a fraction of what she’d displayed. A great trick instead of a good one.”

Aaros is Kallia’s assistant for the show. He became her assistant a few minutes after he met her and tried to pickpocket her.
He’s also a bicon.

“I promise not to steal another thing. Ever again.”
“You said that last time. When you stole some slip of a thing to please some lady friend, and then a skirt for the sister of that gentleman you were mooning over.”

Aaros’ mischievousness and quick thinking made me love him so much. He provides comic relief while also being a literal gay best friend and one of the best characters ever. I loved him. He would absolutely be a Hermes kid in PJO terms. And an extremely mischievous, intimidating Hufflepuff. Also a cinnamon roll.

“He didn't have to know to be her friend. He was just there to be there, and for that he'd become her truest friend.”

The premise of this book was just as incredible as the rest of the book. A competition between magicians? A leading lady who’s the only girl in her field? Trippy illusions and a showtime aesthetic?


My only problem with this was the similarities to other books. I think they could have been coincidences, but I just couldn’t stop comparing this book to the others. It’s still amazing and incredibly unique on its own, but I just couldn’t unsee it.

Celia and Marco in a magician’s duel, in The Night Circus = Kallia and Demarco in a magician’s competition.
The Night Circus, a famed circus of unbelievable performers = Conquering Circus, a famed circus of unbelievable performers.
The tarot cards influencing the events of The Night Circus = the deck of cards theme of Glorian.
Celaena Sardothien being the only female competitor in Throne of Glass = Kallia being the only female magician.
The competitors in Throne of Glass being killed off = the competitors mysteriously disappearing.
Beth Harmon psyching out the older male competition in The Queen’s Gambit = Kallia psyching out the older male competition.
The illusions and trippy games/rules/contracts in Caraval = the illusions and trippy games/rules/contracts that keep the competition running.

However, this book took all of it and made it its own. I’m not saying that anything was copied. I’m just saying that it was definitely very similar to other books that I love (so obviously I love this one too).

One of my favorite themes in this book was feminism. I absolutely fucking loved how Kallia proved herself to be above and beyond every single one of her male competitors. I loved how it showed the struggles of being a girl in a male-dominated field.

[Demarco] “...I can’t ignore how the others are trying to create more odds and stack them against you. Unrightfully so.”
[Kallia] “And what are you going to do, convince them otherwise? Save the poor, defenseless damsel from the devils? I already know I have to work twice as hard with all that against me. I don’t need anyone fighting for me behind the scenes.”

That’s how it works. Misogyny comes swinging like a bitch, and all we can do is work harder. Apologies to any men who are threatened by the fact that my body is prettier than yours.

“It was the first time someone had talked to her like that. Like an actual player. What a luxury it was to be taken seriously, and what a shame it had taken this long.”

This is what it’s like to be a woman. This is exactly what it’s like. We put so much effort and time into making people see us as equal to people we’re really levels past. And if you’re going to tell me I don’t know anything and that I’m just fifteen, spare yourself the effort. I’ve been alive long enough to know how this goes.

“The girl paced in her showgirl’s outfit with all the might of wearing steel-forged armor.”

The romance in this book had me thrown. This, people. This is what romance is supposed to be like. No tropes, no instant-connection, no predictability. The character dynamics here were confusing and I was living for it.

At first, I thought Kallia was going to be with Jack, because they had that tension and history. There was so much shared drama and so much suspense.

“Their gazes locked for a moment, their masked faces inches apart.
No one ever dared to get this close. To him, to her.
Only each other.”

Then Daron was introduced. And I was confused because I was thinking maybe this would be a platonic thing? And then it started seeming like they were warming up and I had that existential dread. Fuck. It's a love triangle.

IT WASN’T A LOVE TRIANGLE. Kallia, after leaving Jack, finally realizes how much he lied to her and starts trying to build herself up from what she was forced to believe.

“Honesty looked interesting on a man.”

The way Kallia met Demarco, at her audition, was understated and yet so enhanced by the writing and the narrative that you couldn’t deny there was something a little special there - although you could definitely write it off as because she just nailed her audition and defeated a misogynistic panel of judges.

“A sharp scowl paired with viper eyes, still studying him. Unable to properly pin him down, as she had all the others in the room, which gave him a small bit of satisfaction.”

I loved how showmanship and character flaws just brought it all together. Kallia’s ambition was such an amazing way to demonstrate that a strength could be a weakness at the same time.

“She thrived under the attention, like a wildflower under the sun. A star finding the night.”

Her development and the way the story changed to fit her was so amazingly done. I loved it. I loved how Kallia seemed like she was made for the spotlight. She seriously owned this book.

“Strange how applause was just noise, when you were all alone.”

August 27, 2020

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Reading this book is like eating a cake covered in molded fondant. At first, you think, "Oh, this looks quite pretty and nice! I can't wait to eat it." But then as soon as you bite in, you realize that it actually doesn't taste all that nice and it's all just empty, molded sugar. The writing in WHERE DREAMS DESCEND is lovely, with some truly beautiful passages, but it doesn't quite flow naturally and there's a calculated edge to this prose that ends up coming across as overly ornate at times, to the point where "he picked up his cup of coffee" might turn into "his elegantly manicured hands lifted his porcelain cup with a neat flick of his wrist, causing the drink to slosh menacingly against the sides."

Nobody was rooting for WHERE DREAMS DESCEND like I was. I'm trash for Moulin Rouge! and I'm pretty sure there's a jar floating around here overflowing with quarters that I've had to put into it for mentioning Phantom of the Opera way too many times in conversation. A marriage between these two in a sort of pseudo-historical costume fantasy novel seemed like a really, really fun idea. Plus, the synopsis of this book teased at a dark eroticism that so many YA books lack. I was absolutely THRILLED when I got my ARC. Thrilled .

I actually first started reading this book all the way back in March with my friend Heather, who presciently bailed. I toiled on for two months, but kept putting the book down and forgetting about it. The opening is great-- Kallia is a girl living in a place called the Hellfire House, giving magical stage performances. Her mentor, who might also be her captor, is an incredibly handsome and dangerously powerful magician named Jack. One day, she finds out that he's betrayed her in the worst way and flees to the nearby city of Glorian to seek her fortune in a magical competition.

And thus, the story begins:

I think it might actually just be easier to list out my qualms in bullet form.

Like Phantom of the Opera, there is a love triangle. Ugh, ugh, ugh. So Jack is obviously the Phantom and the Raoul character is one of the judges of the magic competition, a tortured ex-magician named Demarco, who is basically a sad boy in a suit. Like PoTO, the heroine doesn't have any romantic interactions with the man I wanted her to. Demarco just came across as a pale imitation of Jack, who I actually really liked. She also has a male assistant named Aaros she becomes close with, and I'm not really clear if he's completely platonic or might reveal himself as a love interest, in which case, this could very well turn into a love pyramid.

Kallia is a strong heroine but no other woman is allowed to rival her. This is a very male-centric fantasy world. Women aren't allowed to do magic, so naturally it's quite scandalous that Kallia is as powerful as she is, and much of the novel is her fighting against the ingrained sexism of this world. This also means that we don't see any other strong female characters, unless you count the Rita Skeeter reporter who shows up in the last quarter, or her sort-of friend, a circus attraction character with a unique affliction. The only other character we see a lot of is the daughter of Glorian's mayor, Janette, who is portrayed as a shrieking, giggling, party-obsessed, man-stealing hussy who hates Kallia for being "awesome" and slut-shames or glares her as much as possible.

The magic doesn't really make sense? I feel like this book is a bit like THE NIGHT CIRCUS in that there's no solid magic system. Magic just happens and it looks pretty (or is scary), but there aren't really spells and the learning process is confusing and unclear. I was also really confused about the world-building, and by the end of the book, I was no clearer on why mirrors were dangerous, or what the mysterious forces in Glorian were, or how all of this magic actually worked. It was... confusing.

The writing is gorgeous but goes way over the top. I address this in my introductory paragraph. I do think this author has a lot of potential and part of this might be the usual "debut jitters," but it really distracted from the narrative at times. Which brings me to the last point.

It felt like this book was way longer than it needed to be. Which is partially due to the overwritten passages, but also due to the fact that because there really isn't a plot apart from "Kallia wants to be the best magician ever but mysterious bad things keep happening." I would have liked to see a tighter narrative with a story line that flowed linearly, instead of just kind of flowing wherever it pleased.

I might read the second book in this series and I'm certainly curious to see how this author grows as she continues to write, but this was not a favorite of mine. Others might like it, though. It definitely has that "pretty fiction" fantasy vibe that has made authors like Renee Ahdieh so popular. I can see this becoming very polarized among its audience, with those that love it really loving it, and those who don't dropping it without finishing. I checked out some of the preliminary reviews for this book, positive and negative, and to my shock, I actually wholeheartedly agreed with the points of both. So read the reviews and see what people are saying, and then decide if this book is for you.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,480 reviews79k followers
July 30, 2020
This is an absolutely solid debut, and one that I may have rated just a tad higher if it hadn't fallen prey to the long-winded, slow moving format that feels as though it's sole purpose is in propping up the sequel. Where Dreams Descend is chocked full of eloquent prose, whimsical atmosphere, and a permeating darkness which confirms the The Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge description to be spot on. While intrigued by the romance, I'm still debating whether this series will feature a love triangle or possibly more suitors, so I didn't feel able to fully commit to a ship just yet. The ending is gripping, and had me doing the grabby hands "I need it now" dance in the most dramatic way for the next installment. Janella Angeles has real talent, and I can see this book blowing up into one of the most beloved YA fantasy novels of 2020. If you enjoy atmospheric reads that feature a strong female lead, I encourage you to pick up Where Dreams Descend and try it out for yourself. You won't regret having that gorgeous cover on your shelf! 🤤🤤🤤

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Profile Image for Samantha.
438 reviews16.7k followers
November 1, 2020
DNF at 19%

Something about this book was rubbing me the wrong way and I felt myself having to force myself to read it. This soon into the book, that’s a problem. There was something about the writing style that wasn’t connecting with me, the characters didn’t feel fleshed out, and many of their actions already didn’t make sense. Such a shame with comps of Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge.. I thought I’d love this for sure!
Profile Image for Angelica.
814 reviews1,149 followers
March 16, 2021
This book could have been great. It wasn't. But it might have been.

There were many things that I found enjoyable in this book. For starters, I enjoyed the writing. It was easy to follow and flowed quite well. It was simple yet flowery and magical when it needed to be. In general, I'm a fan.

I also liked the atmosphere of mystery and magic that hung around the town of Glorian and Hellfire House. Angeles did a good job of setting the scene and setting up the mysteries of that town. That said, outside of that town, there is basically no world-building. Nothing outside of Glorian is talked about in-depth. But, I honestly care very little for extensive and irrelevant world-building, so I wasn't too bothered.

For me, characters are the base of any novel. You can have the most simple, or the most complicated plot, and none of it will matter if the reader doesn't care about your characters. Thankfully, I genuinely liked and cared for this book's core cast of characters.

Kallia was wonderful to read about.
She was a force to be reckoned with. She was arrogant and cocky, traits I usually dislike in a person, but honestly, she had every right to be. Kallia was never cowed by her adversaries and all the people posed to watched her fail. Even when it seemed as though she failed, she found a way to turn the situation in her favor. This quote describes her best:

"Kallia could fall down three flights of stairs and claim it as an act of grace. It's how she is. She owns everything she does."

The other characters too were interesting enough as well. Jack, the mysterious master, was an intriguing person. We only saw glimpses of him and small interactions with him and Kallia so I was surprised by how much I liked Jack's character. I kept waiting for him to show up.

I was also a fan of Daron Demarco, a magician with a mysterious past who no longer uses magic. I like his POV chapters and generally enjoyed his personality. Then there was Aaros, Kallia's assistance, and friend. I really liked Aaros and Kallia's relationship. We rarely see close m/f friendships that aren't at risk of ending is romance. Although, I do think that his character was underutilized and could have become a more vital part of the story.

Despite liking them, I feel like the characters are never fully developed to their full potential. I wanted more from them. Background information isn't all there is to character development. I wanted them to grow, to change, for them to be more than they first appear to be and I feel like I never quite got that from any of them, even Kallia.

And all the background characters felt two dimensional. The very magicians that Kallia is competing against don't even get personalities. We get their names and nothing more. It's hard to care about Kallia winning if her competition is irrelevant. Also, Kallia is highly overpowered and that's just no fun. Which, considering the story and her background, it makes sense, but still. It's even harder to care when the main character is miles ahead of everyone at absolutely everything.

My greatest complaint about this novel is that it felt long. Some books are long and fly right by. Some books are short and drag on forever. This book was long, and it felt longer. It would have benefited from being trimmed down and being more focused. Somewhere near the middle, I was looking forward to reaching the end. But, then the end came and I was suddenly intrigued again so there is that.

All of that said, I actually really did like this book. While it was flawed, it was also entertaining and I do look forward to the sequel. For this having been her debut novel, I think Janella Angeles did a wonderful job and I am sure that she will only get better in the future.

**I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Profile Image for ✨ Helena ✨.
378 reviews1,000 followers
June 17, 2020
I received this complimentary ARC from the publisher, courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

So, you're telling me...I have to wait a year to find out how it ends?!?!?!? Greattttt, just greatttt.

Well, this was everything I didn't know I wanted. Rather than being influenced by Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge, aka two of my favourite musicals, it seemed to be more of a mashup of Caraval and Ace of Shades. It had all of the mysterious and magical vibes that those two series are famous for.

I liked the romance, but wasn't necessarily blown away by it either. Rather, I liked the respect and rapport they had with each other. It felt very authentic, so I'm looking forward to seeing how their relationship will develop (especially when taking that ENDING into consideration!!! #mindblown).

But mainly, I just liked Kallia as a character. She was so spunky and didn't have a care in the world about what others thought of her. She knew what she wanted and was ambitious enough to chase after it, even when all the odds were decidedly stacked against her.

The quote that stuck with me the most was: "Magician or not, we've always lived in a series of boys' clubs we're not allowed to enter...We're told we're simply lucky to be in the room, as long as we stay quiet. Make even a little murmur, and it's like we've disturbed the order of life itself."

Not only was this a beautifully-crafted fantasy, but it was also an important discussion of gender equality and feminism. Despite being as good as, or even better, than their male colleagues in the work force, women still have to fight twice as hard to even be heard, much less receive equal recognition for our successes. I really liked that timely issues such as this, as women still work as hard today as they have in the past to "break the glass ceiling", was included in the novel.

I highly recommend picking up this novel when it releases. I'm already counting down the days until its sequel is available for me to get my hands on! ;)
Profile Image for Althea ☾.
625 reviews2,011 followers
November 4, 2021
I find it rare that marketing comparisons on books are actually accurate but “phantom of the opera” x “moulin rouge” really is a good way to describe the overall tone of this book. And as a major fan of those two for both their classic stories and musical goodness, I am ecstatic to report that this did somewhat live up to the vibe that I was expecting, my problem was just that the plot and characters weren't interesting enough to hold my attention.

I did have some mixed feelings starting this because of the number of mixed reviews I came across but it was a pleasant read. It's just unfortunate that I didn't really care for most of the characters (that wasn't the mc) and their relationships, which I find important for a story focused on romance. Nevertheless, it does feature a strong female lead that grew into herself and was a very unique voice.

Kalia is that snarky and sarcastic MC that is quite popular in YA so if you are looking for more of that in a ~not fae~ setting, here you go!

It started off endearing and intriguing but the plot never really sunk in for me. I did like how being a magician and possessing magic is a normal phenomenon in this world. And how the issue was between those who acquired magic in their life and those who were born with it. It was an interesting conversation and kept this book from getting a lower rating from me.

You’re basically thrown into the world with little build up from there so I would not recommend this if you’re looking for in-depth world-building.

If you’re looking for that tall, dark, and handsome male mc that’s always brooding somewhere, you’ll find that here together with the magical carnival vibes. If you liked the concept of Caraval and The Night Circus, together with the mysteries, but you didn’t enjoy the execution, perhaps try this. This felt more magical to me personally as it takes you straight into the world. But I'm not sure I liked any of those enough to fully recommend them either.

I really liked the tone that the writing brought to life. It’s mysterious and adventurous, while still being magical. Even though the characters and the plot were not for me.

↣ It does takes time for the mystery aspect to take part in the plot but if you’re looking for the type of light fantasy filled with drama then you can try this out.

“Make no mistake, I know I don't have to prove a single thing to them. What matters most is what I prove to myself. Giving up would be an insult to everything I know I'm capable of. And I've already come this far.”

— overall thoughts: 3.0 —
trigger warnings database//

moulin rouge + phantom of the opera ?? I AM SOLD!!!!


the musical person in me is craving
Profile Image for aly ☆彡 (hiatus).
346 reviews1,169 followers
December 25, 2022
I would love to venture more into magical circus books but my first experience with it has not been entirely pleasant (The Night Circus LMAO). And so, I don't really have any expectations on this one; especially when the book failed to grab my attention at the beginning. However, Where Dreams Descend proved to be dark, romantic and mysterious, I find myself truly enjoying the book ♡

The story was dramatic with a slow-paced start but once it started to pick up, I couldn't find myself putting the book down. The world-building was decent and there are still lots of questions left unanswered but I think it what makes the book captivating. Readers are left to wonder why Glorian is a cursed city, the real identity of Jake or the truth behind Demarco's missing sister.

The characters are equally bewildering yet skimpy.

I love Kallia, who is ambitious, passionate and independent. She's well written and had the best character development. I just wished the book would showcase more of her magic and ability since she was described as powerful since I find most of her performances rather ordinary and centring around flame a lot (which proved to be her only specialities).

Demarco started gruff and a bit impasse but later developed to be something more; particularly when he is with Kallia. Even so, we still did not get to learn much of his backstory, so I am looking forward to a big reveal in the next book. Hopefully, it wouldn't disappoint and he'll live up to the glory that he once was.

Meanwhile Jack is such an enigma. I find him toxic and manipulative, but also very cryptic that readers could not identify if he is truly to be the antagonist or not. I find myself liking and hating him because of this which goes to show the beauty of his character.

I just wish Aaros would be given justice and written thoroughly. I find his presence to be rather a meagreness; he only appears when it is being convenient to the plot. I couldn't understand how someone who initially planned to steal from you ended up as your best friend and assistant. The author just failed to establish their friendship/relationship properly which is a bummer. I kinda like those two moments together.

Even so, I am surprised by the romance. I am not well acquainted with slow burn since it is not my favourite go-to genre. I don't like insta-love either because I prefer steady and fast-paced romance. However, this book manages to hit it off, leaving me wanting more. The kiss between the couple is long-overdue that when it finally happened, I am left wanting more. I need more Kallia and Demarco please-

Overall thought
Surely, this book is flawed and there are few things I wished to be different. Nevertheless, I still savoured the book. The characters are still easy to like and the plot is interesting enough. Primarily with that cliffhanger? I would so get the sequel.
Profile Image for Boston.
421 reviews1,874 followers
January 16, 2021
Kallia and Daron managed to accumulate *checks notes* 63 years of bad luck in just book one...
Profile Image for Kyle.
377 reviews557 followers
February 17, 2020
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with this free advanced copy, in exchange for an honest review.

You know, I love me some YA fantasy, but this one was a mixed bag... and mostly of the disappointing sort. Listen, I don’t like giving negative reviews. I just get my expectations so up, and so when they’re dashed, it hurts more. The blurb sounded promising, and the book started off cool, but floundered between 20% and the last 5% (and that’s the bulk of it).

**Please, do not let this review dissuade you from considering reading Where Dreams Descend. I am a horrible cynic and highly critical... let that sink in before continuing with my review. This book is by a Filipino-American authoress, and nearly all the characters (from what I gathered) are also PoC/Southeast Asian. I think there’s much to this book that will appeal to, frankly, people outside of my age/gender demographic.** That being said...


Let me just get this out of the way: I typically write my reviews while I’m still reading. Every so often, I jot down notes and add or redact things from what will become my final review. As I write this, I’m only just starting Chapter 4, but I had to stop reading and come back here to remove a bit of a rant I made about writing and context and vague world-building. After initially lambasting the first three chapters, I must confess that I was wrong for those criticisms, because that little twist made up for it all. I was so caught up in my annoyed confusion, that I didn’t even notice... well, you’ll see.

Still, though, as much as I applaud something that surprised me (which, sadly, doesn’t happen often enough these days), the way it’s structured is a bit faulty. Three chapters to develop that, but I’m still less aware of how this world operates. But yeah, major kudos for making me eat my words. Truth be told, the book doesn’t really get much better beyond that.

On our main characters:
Kallia- Our MC: an orphaned showgirl with lots of power and visions of grander stages. Admittedly, I thought she was great at the beginning while with Jack, but then her character became annoying for the stage competition. She became cocky (which is never really a bad thing, but she came off rude), arrogant, dismissive, and so distracted by a MAN!
Jack- “The Master”. Honestly, we get little-to-nothing about him. He just flits in and out, broody and secretive. The story remained too obtuse around his character, and I think it did a disservice to the plot.
Daron- I could not get behind him as a character. I don’t even have anything to say beyond that.

As for the rest...

There was a severe lack of characterization of the other magicians in the competition. We only get a few names and one surface-level description, but nothing of substance in regards to the nine men Kallia must face up against. By the time they start (for lack of a better phrase) dropping like flies, I felt nothing. I was like, “Okay? Who cares?” It was not very interesting. Having some background on these side characters was sorely needed; It would have raised the stakes (emotionally and narratively). A greater sense of foreboding and tension would’ve benefitted this story immensely. This should not be the case: “The magician now performing—Daron forgot his name, the men already blurring together in his mind—...”. Aside from the others in the competition, the side characters are: Kallia’s assistant, the leader of the circus, a reporter (Lottie— funnily enough, one of the only characters I liked), the mayor and his daughter, all the judges (Daron among them), a snappy elderly seamstress, and a horde of young women that belong to the traveling circus. We’re introduced to two of the circus performers who I would consider second/third billing in this book, and then a dozen others. It was dizzying. I was trying to gauge the reasoning behind giving us all these goddamn characters, but developing (poorly, I might add) only a handful. Herein lies another problem this book had: too many characters and ideas made it seem discombobulated, resulting in severe pacing issues. We don’t even get a clear idea of what many of the characters look like (Daron and Aaros included!), but we are greeted with detailed descriptions of everything anyone is wearing. Speaking of Aaros, Kallia’s assistant is such a prop of a character— his only purpose is to subvert the gender roles and provide moments of banter, but he is so undervalued and underutilized. There is nothing of importance that comes from having him around, which is disappointing.

There were moments in which the POV switched from Kallia to Jack to Daron with no clear transition or warning—no break in the page to indicate anything had changed—and I had to go back and make sure who’s POV I was reading from. I’m guessing this is simply because this is an advanced, unfinished copy? Or maybe an eBook/Kindle issue?

Come the conclusion, I still had no idea what the main plot was. Usually with novels such as this, there is a clear endgame/antagonist, but all I got out of it was characters running from their pasts amidst a magician’s competition, and something to do with mirrors. That’s it. There was nothing to say in the grander scheme of things, and I should’ve been okay with that, but it just felt, well, lacking. And this is a fairly long book (overlong, actually, by at least 100 pages)!

At times, the feminism theme was extremely heavy-handed. I’m all for it, and you have my attention, just don’t drown me in it. I get it. We’re dealing with fragile masculinity, mansplaining, et al, and yet we have what is undoubtedly what I couldn’t help feeling like The Taming of the Millennial Shrew disguised as YA feminist fantasy lit. Kallia frequently rebuffs Daron, but also moons after him and Jack (“leaning in” to their hands and “warm touches”), which is pretty disappointing. This book would’ve been so much more effective without a romance aspect. It’s more of a slow-burn, sure, but sooooo much angst and repetitive back-and-forth/hot-and-cold between the love interests. Certainly, there’s an ‘enemies-to-lovers’ trope at play, which may appeal to most readers, but I found it frustrating. I’ll be honest, towards the end I hard skimmed dozens of pages of kissing and touching and flirting and dancing. It was so unnecessary; You sacrificed plot progression for saccharine swing.

In terms of the whole “magician competition”... Kallia was just waaaay too overpowered. There lacked any real surprise there, when it was clear from the start she could out-perform all the others. And really, the whole “competition” was so lame. We don’t get any of the other performances (because the other magicians are throwaway characters—fodder for a plot that ultimately went nowhere); We only get Kallia’s. Her acts are showy and kind of intriguing, but lacked much substance beyond grandstanding and theatrics.

I could not get over the inconsistent world-building. I was pretty damn confused about what was going on for most of the book (and even still after it concluded). The author went ham over detailing inconsequential (for me) scenes, and then at times throwing all this random info in our faces without much explanation. I craved more context and less vagaries. We spend so much time with the Conquering Circus girls, but like, what other purpose do they serve? We spend all this time with Kallia prepping for her performances, her annoying back-and-forth with Daron, a few pages for each show day... and that’s pretty much it. I know more will probably be explained and is being saved for book two (this is a duology), but for a 400+ page book, I expected more substance and less filler.
Profile Image for human.
641 reviews1,013 followers
January 20, 2021
Thank you to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(actual rating: 3.5/5)

I'm afraid this book didn't work for me as much as I had hoped it would.

Set in the magical and secretive city of Glorian, Where Dreams Descend tells the tale of a high-stakes magic show, starring Kallia, Jack, and Demarco. Each has secrets they're not willing to share, but as danger lurks between each act, they've got to reconcile with their pasts and secrets if they want to make it through to the end of the competition.

The beginning of the book was actually quite solid, and I was pleasantly surprised, if not a bit relieved. However, as I read onwards, getting to the middle, it got quite boring very fast. It is made very clear that things aren't right in Glorian, and that each of the characters is hiding something, but not much is even foreshadowed or hinted at until the end of the book. I loved the ending, all the possibilities and answers it revealed, along with all the questions. It sets up nicely for a sequel, which I will certainly read, if only to find out what happens.

The characters themselves were interesting, but none with so many questions as Kallia. I liked reading from Jack's perspective in the third person, which gave a bit more insight to the whole situation. The romance is slow, which I can't complain much about, if I'm being honest with myself, because I was cheering for the characters when they finally accepted what was growing between them.

The character development was decent, but the descriptions and the world-building were beautiful. At times I felt it was a bit over the top and made the book longer than it needed to be, but the storytelling effectively paints a vivid picture with words I was able to see clearly.

Overall, I would recommend this book to those who enjoy fantasy with a magical, showmanship side, and fans of Caraval or The Night Circus. What this book lacks in plot pacing, it more than makes up for with drama and theatrics.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,274 reviews1,195 followers
January 29, 2021
Goodreads giveaway win!

3.5 Stars!

This was a hard book to rate.

It started off slow and I couldn't really get into it. I had no idea what was happening for the first 40 pages. You're kind of just thrown into the world with little explanation. I'm still not sure I understand the magic system. Maybe we'll learn more in book 2 which I am interested in reading.

In one of my updates I predicted that I would either love this book or hate it but I was wrong because I didnt love or hate it, but I did enjoy it. It's super melodramatic and this book takes itself way to serious but I liked the (unintentional) campiness. This book was over the top but I liked it.

I dont think this book is for everyone. I can see some people Living For This Book and other wondering why they wasted their time reading this book.

I fall in the middle. It was a fun read and I liked that it didnt have as much romance as I thought it would. I mean we didnt even get a kiss until like 300 pages in!

No rec but I'm looking forward to reading book 2!
Profile Image for nuin giliath.
201 reviews56 followers
April 27, 2020
*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

DNFed at 56%. This did not work for me at all - which is disappointing because I really wanted (and tried) to like it. I gave the story chance after chance to prove it had real potential, yet I just ended up feeling frustrated to the point that I simply had to stop.

At the beginning, I felt optimistic about this book and even found myself drawn in after a big twist early on. But everything started falling apart for me after Kallia arrived in Glorian - around the 10% mark. I was looking forward to seeing a fairly timid young woman break free of the roles previously forced upon her and become stronger from the hardships she would likely endure. Instead, she seemed to have no problem adapting and was remarkably and unrealistically astute for someone in a major city for the first time in her life. Whenever she interacted with others, particularly magicians, she was nothing but arrogant and displayed a "you can't tell me what to do" attitude that made her come across as immensely juvenile. We are supposed to cheer for her as she shakes up a male-dominated establishment and proves herself as a capable competitor and magician, but her behavior overshadowed any of her positive contributions.

Even beyond the unlikable main character, I struggled to stay invested when I could barely understand what was happening. I wasn't able to picture these characters due to a lack of descriptions regarding their physical appearances. Neither the magic system nor the reasons behind the competition were explained well. Dialogue involving three or more characters was often difficult to follow as were the chapters where POVs would sometimes switch without warning. There was such an effort to keep information hidden from readers that we were left with too many vague references to various people and past events. I have nothing against saving reveals or twists until the ideal moment, but don't beat me over the head with "I've got a secret" for chapters on end and then expect me to care about it when the truth finally comes out. It's just tiresome and irritating.

While the world building fluctuated between shaky and somewhat decent, I did like the concept of Hellfire House - a casino/nightclub secluded from the outside world and surrounded by a haunted wood. Although the time spent there was limited, it felt sinister and mysterious. I was particularly fascinated anytime Jack, the "master of the House", was featured in a scene or chapter. Even though I didn't agree with his actions and thought his relationship with Kallia was super toxic, I found Jack to be an intriguing character with his ability to manipulate the mind and memories. I felt like he was pulling a lot of strings behind the scenes and I actually wanted to uncover more about him and his own past.

If this wasn't an ARC, I would not have pushed myself to read as much as I did and probably would have stopped around 25-30%. I've seen some positive reviews from other readers who have truly enjoyed this book, so it may be a case of "it's not you, it's me." However, in my perspective, this just felt underdeveloped, uninspiring, and ultimately unsatisfying. I don't think I will be continuing with this series.
Profile Image for Umairah (Sereadipity).
216 reviews111 followers
May 3, 2023
4.5 stars

Where Dreams Descend is one of those rare books that actually surpassed my expectations. It seemed like the sort of book I would like but I didn't think I would end up adoring everything about it!

Content Warnings: character death, emotional abuse, manipulation

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4.5/5
Writing: 4.5/5

Months after reading it, the characters and story are still fresh in my mind. Drawing inspiration from The Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge, Angeles crafted a world that will lure you in with its lavish façade only to trap you in the sinister claws of its secrets.

The book is set in a world where magic could be acquired and rarely, a gift one could be born with. However, it was only socially acceptable for men to take their magic to the stage and become show magicians. Women were expected to only use their magic (although it was often stronger) for labour and domestic tasks. The closest they could get to the spotlight was being a showgirl in an underground club or bar.

"Why else destroy light if not envious of its radiance?"

Which brings us to Kallia, a showgirl in one of the aforementioned underground clubs who escaped to join a competition for magicians and carve her name into the spotlight.

Now when I say Kallia is a queen and deserves the world I really do mean it. I loved her determination and ambition, her sass and flair for the dramatic. She knew that she was talented and she demanded the recognition she was due. She faced the sexism in her world head on and was not afraid to put up a fight. There truly is nothing more satisfying than reading about Kallia putting another crusty, misogynistic man in their place. The sexism in the book had parallels with our world, especially the sexism in the entertainment industry.

For much of her life, Kallia was isolated from the world and manipulated. The book addressed her struggle with trauma because of this, hidden beneath a confident and arrogant mask. As well as her flamboyance, there was a vulnerable side to Kallia too. A part of her that was scared to show weakness, scared of failure, scared to let people in, scared that she wasn't enough. This made her all the more relatable for me.

"Their first mistake was in thinking obstacles gave them an upper hand. Little did they know, she would always find a way to grow through cracks in the stone."

Another character worth mentioning is Daron. Normally I don't like the 'broody love interest with a Tragic Past™' trope but Angeles pulled it off. I liked how he gradually softened and opened up as Kallia (and the reader) got to know him. And I loved how his slightly awkward and sombre nature contrasted with Kallia's vibrant character.

"She narrowed her eyes on each judge all the way to the end, and met Daron's stare with a wink."

The romance was sweet and full of yearning without being the main focus of the plot- we even get a swoony dance scene! And I've seen people saying this book has a love triangle in it but I disagree, to me it seemed like Kallia knew who she wanted to be with and there was only one love interest.

I loved Kallia's friendship with her assistant, Aaros, and how he was always there to support her (although I wish we got to know more about him). I also loved the friendships she made with Canary and the circus women and how they found kinship and strength in one another. Another side character I liked was Lottie de la Rosa and I hope we see more of her in the sequel.

I can never resist a book with a strong sense of atmosphere and this book definitely delivered in that respect. It was full of elaborateness, music, dancing and glamour with ominous undertones lurking in the background. I loved Angeles' gorgeous writing and imagery that reflected Kallia's personality with its drama and intensity.

So you might be wondering: Umairah, if you loved this book so much why did you drop off half a star? And the answer to that would be: the plot. While I loved the mystery, magic and theatrics of the plot, the ending was extremely open ended. It didn't answer any of the questions the story brought up and left me with even more of them. Personally, I like endings with a bit more resolution but I hope the sequel wraps up all the loose ends.

Where Dreams Descend was a spectacular (or should I say Spectaculore) read that had similar vibes to The Night Circus and gave me everything I found lacking in Caraval. It is a book that tackles themes like misogyny and trauma head on and I would highly recommend it!

Thank you to Wednesday Books for providing me with an digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Emetis.
97 reviews34 followers
October 23, 2020
I tried and I tried but I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it.
I’ve lost my interest and I cannot imagine continuing with this book. I got ~200 pages in and then just stopped reading.

The concept of the story is great and I think it had so much potential to be something greater; but unfortunately that potential was wasted. It could’ve been the next great thing, up there with throne of glass...

Once I heard that it’s a phantom of the opera retelling, I immediately wanted to read it. That’s the only reason I picked it up. And while it did have some elements of the original work, it didn’t live up to it.
I am thoroughly disappointed. I read phantom of the opera as a kid and that was my first real “book”. I was 8 at the time and the version that I read wasn’t the original. It was an easier version and that’s why I was able to understand it.

I love phantom of the opera and I was hoping that this book would hook me up from the beginning as well. But unfortunately it didn’t, the characters were interesting to read about but I couldn’t connect with any of them. The main character was two dimensional and poorly written.

I am, however, curious about how the book would’ve ended; but not curious enough to actually finish it.
Profile Image for Fanna.
992 reviews533 followers
October 5, 2021
Like a dream played at the crack of dawn where a hopeful sunrise is awaited but the night still lingers, Where Dreams Descend is a beautiful quilt sprawled in a cold winter, hiding thorns in the softness, and jerking one awake from their dream of freedom to find walls standing tall around them.

read this review on my blog!

Reigning through a confident, magically overpowered, and an extremely talented woman—Kallia—who believes herself to be more than a mesmerizing dancer, and longingly looks at the city across a forest she has been warned to stay away from, this tale instantly makes one hopeful. And bestriding two men: an enigmatic keeper of the club where Kallia is a showgirl—Jack—and a brooding magician who is judging the competitive magical contest Kallia participates in to prove herself—Demarco—this tale makes one anxiously anticipate the complexity connecting these three characters.

Jack's lies coated in hypnotizing truths and Demarco's dark past are key propellers in this risk of illusions, mirrors, fame, and fire. Mingled with Kallia's strong headed persona determined to win the coveted spot among other young magicians, but often pulled back by the naivety of remembering her former home's long lost comfort, occasionally estranged by the perfidy of someone close, and forced to raise emotional barriers in the name of surviving against anything dangerous—but mostly heartbreak—Where Dreams Descend delivers allure and power through skillful writing and stunning imagery.

Equally thriving on a romantic tension filled with quick glances, unwarranted support, and yearning around an air of mystery, this debut strongly wraps instances and sequences as sharp as a shard of broken mirror in a delightful tenderness that only magic can perpetuate, and even shines through a themes of rebelling against a controlled environment, smashing sexism, and proving the true affinity in oneself.

♥ an absolute favorite. ⇷

25.08.2020 first of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THIS FUCKING AMAZING BOOK and secondly, I have no idea how to say I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH; everything is the best, the writing, the characters, the story, and now I can't wait for the next book and I don't care if this is just a bunch of random fucking appreciation words because nothing can sum up how much I've loved this book so just stop all of you, go and read this book okay.
18.04.2020 wow, I have been excited about this for a while and now I'm in the heavens because not only have I got an early copy but because I'll be interviewing the author. Oh my god. thank you so much, wednesday Books for the digital review copy via netgalley!
10.07.2019 OMG, do you see that? do you see the part that says 'magician competition'? do you see the comp titles? do you see my NEED FOR THIS?
Profile Image for Grace A..
411 reviews37 followers
August 27, 2022
In Where Dreams Descend, Kallia was a powerful female magician in a world where females in prominent roles, was uncommon. she lived with Jack who manipulates and controls her mind to suit his convenience. When she broke free from Jack, she entered another world similar to the one she left with harsher judgements, bickering, and pettiness.
Kallia had no problem fending off the wolves, but something was starting to get to the contestants and judges of the show. It was no longer a jovial matter as people started going missing.
I loved the mystery and intrigue. I want to know more. So I am off to the next book in the series..3.5 stars
Profile Image for Morgan.
135 reviews147 followers
August 29, 2021
Actual Rating: 3.5-3.75

Where Dreams Descend was one of my most anticipated reads of the year but with the knowledge that it was a debut, my feelings wavered between excitement and fear of over-hyping it in my head and making myself extra disappointed when I actually read it. Though this wasn’t the masterpiece I desired, Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles was beautifully written and though originally inspired by Cinderella, sold as a magical mix between Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge. Due to me never seeing Phantom of the Opera or Moulin Rouge (yes, I know I’m uncultured they’re on the list) I can guarantee anyone can enjoy Where Dreams Descend.

So who are the characters?

Kallia: Our protagonist has an unyielding desire to be something more than a showgirl at Hellfire House which is owned by Jack. Kallia is almost the ideal heroine of a book, she’s confident, though a little arrogant, it’s hard not to appreciate her perseverance. But I didn’t understand that she didn’t question her parents and her past. Kallia is described as an “A child left in the woods” as in the same woods you’re forbidden to go in? The woods that are cursed? And we’re just going to accept that? I’m hoping we learn more in the sequel but I have my doubts.

“The fools thought they could treat her like a flower - take away her sunlight and water so she would shrivel up and die. But she was more the stubborn plant… she would always find a way to grow through the cracks in the stone”

Aaros: A thief who knows his way around Glorian and who became instantaneous friends with Kallia after he attempted to steal from her. I tried really, really hard to connect with his character, but I couldn’t. We know hardly anything about him, we know he is considered a ‘street rat’ so I’m assuming he is orphaned? We are told that he values Kallia because she opened up a world of luxury that he had never known before but that, to me, seems like a flimsy basis for a relationship considering how one second they were complete strangers and then the next they are competing on stage together as partners. I wish we had more background on the beginning of their relationship to make it feel more real.

Daron ‘Daring’ Demarco: A judge at the Spectulore who has an agenda of his own being in Glorian. I overall really liked Demarco’s character, but we needed more background on him earlier on in the story. And I understand his dislike for mirrors but I didn’t understand Kallia’s aversion. I feel like the sequel needs to be massive to clarify all the included elements.

Jack: your ‘Phantom of the Opera' aspect of the story - not a whole lot of information given about him but there was a little reveal about his origin at the end.

I felt mislead by the synopsis, Where Dreams Descend is described as “a group of magicians faces off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus” based on that, I got the impression that the magicians would be actively competing against each other in similar fashion of the Triwizard Tournament from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire or the Element Games from A Gathering of Shadows. But instead, the competition consisted of the magicians giving an on-stage performance in front of a crowd in succession to each other. Perhaps this was just a personal misconception but I was surprised by the format of the actual competition while reading.

I also think it would have been nice to see at least one other competitor in the Spectulore have advanced magical powers. There’s a heavy emphasis on how elementary Kallia’s opponents are and how superior and powerful Kallia herself is, that it's apparent from the beginning that none of the other magicians had a chance to win, lessening the stakes of the competition. I found Where Dreams Descend to be more of a competition between Kallia and stereotypes and misogyny than her fellow magicians.

Now that being said, I enjoy strong feminism themes in a book and a powerful heroine proving her doubters wrong, but I disliked how Kallia treated Aaros at times during the story:

“Pretty, strong boys should be seen, not heard”

I smell affirmative action !! But in all seriousness I can’t stand the idea of ‘we can treat men poorly because they used to treat us poorly’ I can guarantee that Kallia would be pissed if someone said this to her. I will forever have the personal belief that we need to build women up to reach equality, not tear men down. I'm very sorry that I got political, but this part of the story completely rubbed me the wrong way.

As for worldbuilding, it was practically nonexistent. Names of other cities are dropped casually; Tacana is in the East and borders water, there is a city called New Crown, I’m getting the impression these are all on an island called Soltair? But that’s it. It was hard to visualize where everything was located in correspondence with each other. I also would’ve liked to see some variation in cultures (if Soltair is more of the continent than a country, I don’t know for sure) considering the magicians are from various locations.

Another issue I had was the change of POVs in the middle of chapters. In most books, there is a design to signify a change in time, pov, or location but in Where Dreams Descend there was nothing and it threw me off a few times while reading. I’m assuming - and hoping - that due to my copy being an ARC this issue will be resolved, and because of that I did not factor this aspect into my overall review.

Overall, this was an amazing debut, Though I wish we were given more background on certain characters, and had more worldbuilding, I was pleasantly surprised with the writing and the ending made the whole story come almost together, BUT left everything in limbo so the sooner I can have the sequel, the better.

Thank you to Goodreads and the publisher for providing an ARC!

Pre-read review:
So you're saying this isn't a historical fiction?

*I weep*
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 11 books1,241 followers
January 24, 2020
I can't think of enough adjectives to praise this! Dark, stunning, magical, romantic all come to mind. Don't miss this gorgeous book that draws inspiration from and reimagines Moulin Rouge and Phantom of the Opera (and has plenty of Easter eggs for fans of both, like myself!) but is a completely original story all on its own.

My official review:

"WHERE DREAMS DESCEND is a glamorous dark gem of a tale, sparkling with romance, magic, and intrigue. Readers will be captivated by prima donna Kallia as the mystery is slowly unmasked. Bravissima!"
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