The stage is set. The Spectacle awaits…
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.
I’m always more than a little skeptical when it comes to pitches. I mean, it takes some serious balls to compare your debut novel to another established work of fiction. All too often, my expectations aren’t met and I’m left with nothing but bitter disappointment and a rather scathing review.
But when they said Where Dreams Descend is a mash up of Moulin Rouge and Phantom of the Opera, they hadn’t been lying. Like, Holy shit – what did I just read?
Dark and seductive, Where Dreams Descend is a fantasy about love, magic and betrayal. The atmosphere is lush, the stakes high AF as Janella Angeles weaves a tantalizing web of intrigue and deceit. The plot is both intricate and enchanting but shrouded in a veil of mystery. Even after that slow-stopping cliff hanger, I have no Idea who the real antagonist is. I mean, you can’t trust anyone.
Kallia is a showgirl and a powerful magician in her own right but she’s trapped. Having grown up an orphan, she works as the star attraction of an elusive club underneath it’s magnetic master, Jack. But Kallia dreams of a life on the stage – she wants to see the world and Spectaculore, a travelling competition between rival magicians, is her golden ticket.
Where Dreams Descend grabbed my attention from the very first Act. Kallia’s desperate need for adventure was pliable and I think anyone could relate to her sense of isolation. If you like Moulin Rouge, Kallia reminded so much of Satine. I could definitely picture her belting out One Day I’ll Fly Away on the rooftop of her greenhouse. Kallia is strong willed and confident in her power but she’s also the victim of emotional manipulation. It was interesting to see her grapple with her complex feelings regarding Jack.
Actually, besides Kallia Jack was definitely my favorite character. Jack’s elusive, he’s seriously seductive and he may or may not be the antagonist. He’s also got that Phantom vibe down. He’s obsessed with mirrors, he’s controlling, he’s charismatic and his manipulative relationship with Kallia is as equally sexy. I mean, I was LIVING for the sensual tension between them [although, I’m not exactly sure what that says about me as a person]. Let’s just say that there was some ~serious~ subtext in those opening chapters…
But if Jack is our Phantom, then Daron is our dashingly gallant Raoul. Daron’s charming, a little reserved and absolutely smitten with Kallia. But he’s also one of Spectaculore’s judges and evidently, off limits. Enter the most deliciously forbidden *almost* love triangle since Phantom itself.
But there’s so much more going on behind the curtain. Besides forbidden romance and toxic relationships, Where Dreams Descend tackles relevant issues like feminism and misogyny. There’s a narrative about female magicians and their roles within the world which adds a deeper layer to both the plot and characters. And it hits a little hard. Especially because these misogynist attitudes are still very much present in our own society.
The last thing I want to mention is the fact that I’ve seen a lot of reviews confused about the Phantom comparison. I want to take a moment to highlight Janella’s genius in crafting her debut. Here’s the thing: Where Dreams Descend is not a retelling but a richly imagined fantasy inspired by Phantom’s dark, sensual tone. Any true Phan who has read Gaston LaRoux’s classic will appreciate Janella’s subtle nods: the chandelier, the mirrors, the “accidents” and the manipulative romantic anti-hero. I mean, it’s literally all there and I love to see it.
Basically, Where Dreams Descend is a dazzling showstopper that’s not to be missed. A spellbinding slow burn, this new duology is perfect for fans of Caraval or the Night Circus. All that’s really left to say is that the stage is set for an amazing finale and I can’t wait to see where these characters take us. But be prepared: Janella leaves us stranded on a seriously evil cliff-hanger so don’t stress if you’re left reeling or confused. You’ll close this book with some burning questions and a desperate thirst for book two. Highly recommend!