As I Descended by Robin Talley

Received from NetGalley for review.

Well, that was…bonkers.

As I Descended is a rough retelling of Macbeth with malevolent spirits, gay teenagers, and private school on an old plantation, and I can tell you that it is as crazy as it sounds (although it was nice having so many different sexualities involved). Towards the end I couldn’t decide if the stuff that was happening was creepy or just incredibly weird, probably a bit of both.

The story centres around Maria and Lily, who both want Maria to win the Cawdor Kingsley Prize and guarantee herself a spot at Stanford with Lily. I found this a bit odd as Maria is from an incredibly rich family and is genuinely smart, so she would have probably got in by herself – it made the whole plotline seem a bit redundant as Maria wasn’t after something she needed, just something she wanted. Initially Lily is the more ambitious one (hello, Lady Macbeth), but then things start getting strange and madness seems to descend upon the school. I liked the use of dark spirits and urban legends within the story, and there were some genuinely frightening moments, but the plot became a bit rushed in places and the story didn’t seem fleshed out enough; lots of things happen but they were all a bit tangled together and it didn’t seem to add up into one cohesive plotline.

The characters were a bit like the plot: rushed and not real enough. There are a few main characters – Maria, Lily, Brandon, Mateo, Brandon, Felicia – but I didn’t feel like I got a real sense of any of them, not enough to feel an emotional connection to them at least. Most of the other characters were largely superficial and you only get the general impression of them being a bunch of rich kids with a lot of petty politics, rivalry, and bitchiness going on. Obviously there’s everything that goes on with the dark spirits and spooky happenings in the school but in the last hundred pages of the book even they seemed ridiculous. There’s a particular scene with Lily that nearly had me laughing it was so overly dramatic, like a spoof horror movie scene.

Although it’s a fast and compelling read it wasn’t enough for me to really love it and my lack of connection with the characters didn’t help. I enjoyed the references to Macbeth, though, and the creepiness of Maria’s experiences with the spirits.

Read: August 10th-13th 2016

3/5 stars


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