Author: Janella Angeles
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 first novel in the Kingdom of Cards duology. I actually started this novel after receiving an ARC of the sequel, When Night Breaks. It is a solid debut novel which nicely sets-up the sequel when a cliffhanger ending. The story has been described as Moulin Rouge meets Phantom of the Opera and I think it fits the duology well. While there are multiple perspectives in the novel, the main protagonist is Kallia, who is a female magician working as a performer in a club called The Hellfire House, which is owned by the mysterious Jack. Kallia’s dream is to go to the city of Glorian and become a headliner of her own. An attraction exists between Jack and Kallia that is not straightforward and helped to set the tone for mysteries within the pages. While Jack will do anything to protect Kallia, he is not above manipulating her to get her to stay with him.
When Kallia finally arrives in Glorian she meets Aaros, who becomes her close friend and assistant. She also learns of a large-scale competition, “Spectaculore,” and decides that this is her opportunity to shine. Retired magician, Daron Demarco, who stopped performing two years ago, is judging the competition. His reasons behind the retirement remain mysterious for most of the novel and seem to be set up for further exploration in the sequel. The novel centers around the completion with nothing being exactly as it seems. Kallia shines throughout the competition, but I wish there were further exploration about why or how she became to be the best compared to just defeating her rivals. There are many mysteries surrounding the competition in the story as competitors go missing or are injured along with a mysterious and haunting presence.
The world-building is very atmospheric and the pacing does start off slow, but picks up towards the end of the novel. While I enjoyed the premise, this novel took me multiple tries before I was invested in the story. Once the competition started and there is a build-up to the climax, the story was enjoyable. There are still some confusing pieces, which seem to be left for explanation in the sequel. There is a semi-love triangle with Jack, Daron, and Kallia as Kallia has an attraction to both. While the story leans a little towards Daron, there is room for either (or even neither) to end up together by the end despite some events that happen in this story. Kallia’s character is both likeable and unlikable as her ambition rules her personality and it became the focus for her character. She is a woman trying to prove herself worthy in a misogynistic society, so I understand her character in a way; however, it did come across as very arrogant and unlikable at times. I am sure she will grow on me more as a character in the sequel as there are pieces of her that I greatly enjoy.
Overall, there is a lot within this novel, but I think it could have been reduced to make it a little more cohesive, for me. I love the writing, but the plot tended to get lost at times. If this was a standalone, I am not sure if I would rate it as high as it just seemed to not be enough in many places for me. Since it is part of a duology, I am more lenient in my thoughts as the potential is there to make the two novels together a great duology. The novel more-or-less, to me, read as a set-up novel for the sequel as the characters and story were described, but not explored in-depth. I am very curious to learn more about them and the plot itself as the mystery captivated me by the end and I am now fully invested to find out how it will all turn out.