TITLE: As I Descended
AUTHOR: Robin Talley
GENRE: Retelling, Contemporary, Horror, LGBT, Young Adult
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.
Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.
But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.
Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumoured to be present on the former plantation that houses their school. But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.
What I Liked:
- This book did a really good job with the 'Macbeth' references. In most ways it wasn't subtle, as for one it was easy to spot who each character represented - Maria being Macbeth, Lily as Lady Macbeth, Brandon as Banquo etc. Using the same first letter might not be in any way 'clever' but I still thought it was pretty cool. The supernatural elements remained in the book, though instead of witches there were ghosts who manipulated the students throughout until they drove themselves mad. Some of the references were oblique and I liked those even more. References to the Siwards, daggers, blood, and all sorts made it here. I enjoyed picking out parts of the story and saying 'I get that reference!'.
- The diversity in this book was incredible. Being set in a boarding school, I genuinely felt that this was going to be a book about white, privileged kids battling to the top with a bit of LGBT thrown in. But Talley developed everything in a very impressive way: culture and ethnicity actually played a huge part in the plot. The main character was a bisexual, Latina girl which is groundbeaking (of course it shouldn't be, but it is). Mateo, the Macduff of the book, also really impressed me in this book and it made the plot of Macbeth feel more relevant and modern.
What I Disliked:
- I had to give this book a lower rating because while the premise really had me invested, the writing was a little on the shaky side and sadly the constant jumping around of POVs left me feeling like I was stumbling around in the dark with this one. Plot events didn't receive enough focus and in turn it meant that I felt that everything was a bit rushed, as if Talley was desperate to get to the conclusion.
- Characterisation was not completely up to scratch either. While I felt there was some complexity there, Talley preferred to tell me about everyone's personality rather than show me. Not only that, but as we jumped straight into the ghostly action it felt like I wasn't given an opportunity to see how they changed as the spirits messed with their minds and lives. Mateo was my favourite character as I said before, mostly because he remained the most consistent from start to finish.
This was not a bad book. In fact, I quite enjoyed it and it was definitely the perfect read for October as it had so many spooky moments to creep readers out. I loved the diversity, the originality despite the fact that it's a retelling and the way that 'Macbeth' was weaved throughout the pages in a fresh, modern way. It's setting, world-building and plot were really given a lot of thought. For me, it just lost it's way when it came to the pacing and way that the story was told. POV hopping became a little confusing and I wish that I had got to see the characters before the ghosts got to them, so I could have learned about them through actions instead of what I'm told they used to be like.