Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles: Book Review

Rating: ★★★★.5

“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.”

Janella Angeles, Where Dreams Descend

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: “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.” -Goodreads

My Review

Where Dreams Descend is the whimsical and intricate tale of a girl with the ambition and powerful energy I strive to have. This book is full of twists and turns that kept me constantly on my toes and wanting more. The character dynamics were beyond interesting, with both platonic and romantic chemistry. Moreover, the setting was detailed yet inexplicably mysterious as the secrets of the city of Glorian were slowly revealed. It was a fantastic portrayal of both the circus tropes and magic tropes I love most, all led by a strong, independent, and bold female lead confident in herself and her abilities in a world led by men. 

If I could talk about The Star: Kallia, for my whole review, I would. I have waited so long to read a female lead like her that carries herself with dignity and confidence because she knows she can compete with any man. In many other novels, the female lead has been disappointingly unsure of her own abilities and destiny. Although they aren’t demure, they also are not very bold in their acts. Kallia is quite the opposite. Kallia is the spotlight of every single scene in which she stars, decorated in elaborate gowns and shaded by her own powerful aura. Furthermore, even as Kallia is chased by adversaries and her own past, her ambitions continue to drive her not only because she wants to be safe and secure but also because she wants to be seen. I can think of nothing negative about Kallia’s personality. She is simply everything I could ever want in a character. 

Another wonderful aspect of the novel is the interpersonal relationships between the characters. One of my favorite dynamics is that of Kallia and her magic assistant, Aaros. In the novel, Kallia meets Aaros when she catches him trying to pickpocket her. She shows him her magic and the rest is history. Aaros and Kallia have a beautiful, platonic dynamic that illustrates aspects of caring and privacy in friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how Aaros respected Kallia and her boundaries and Kallia how respected Aaros back, even if she did feel guilty for keeping her secrets. The two of them were confidants, to an extent, and there was a level of trust in their relationship that I loved reading on the page. Although Kallia’s romantic relationships were great reads, I enjoyed her platonic relationships much more. 

Finally, I thought the book perfectly wove the city of Glorian into a mysterious and murky city that lives under a shroud of modesty and secrecy. Glorian is similar in vibes to late-Victorian London. Before the arrival of the Conquering Circus, it was bland and boring and cold. However, this perfectly contrasts with the vibrant colors and unusual spectres of the travelling circus. Every time the book shifts from city to circus, there is an instantaneous shift in mood, going from ‘bleh’ to magical in seconds. Not to mention, I loved the way Angeles peeled back the layers of Glorian without revealing the city’s secrets too easily. Truly, the setting was a job well done. 

The only criticism I would have, if any, is that I wish the novel moved at a slightly faster pace. Sometimes the book lulled a little bit, moving a bit more sluggishly through events. However, even with the slow pace, the book still enraptured me until the very last page. 
Overall, Where Dreams Descend was an exciting, invigorating, and magical read with a strong, opinionated lead and a magical, mysterious setting. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys circus books, magic, and fighting the patriarchy.