Book Review: As I Descended
By: Robin Talley
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Page Count: 384
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Paranormal, Shakespeare Inspired
MacBeth has always been one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. It's darkness and creep factor intrigued me as a teen. I was fortunate enough to have an amazing Shakespeare professor in college who made the play come alive for me and forced me to think about the characters in new ways. When I realized that As I Descended was a contemporary spin on MacBeth, I had to give this one a read.
Valley's version matches the original in the dark and creepy factor. The novel begins with three friends attempting to contact spirits in the kitchen of their boarding school, which is located in an old plantation. The plantation has a sordid history and is rumored to be haunted. It appears that a sinister force is released by Maria, Lily, and Brandon. As the novel progresses, it becomes unclear whether the spirits truly exist or are only in the mind of the main characters. I loved the way Talley presented the spirits throughout the story. It makes one truly consider how greed and power can corrupt the soul.
Each of the three characters at the beginning of the novel desperately wants something. Maria wants to win an exclusive scholarship, but constantly finds herself in second place behind Delilah, the campus it girl. Lily wants Maria to win the scholarship so they can be roommates at Stanford. While Brandon just wants to be popular and accepted in spite of his socioeconomic status. The world of an upper crust boarding school isn't always easy or forgiving. All of these characters will have to face their personal demons.
Like MacBeth, I had trouble liking the main characters. Sure, Delilah isn't a nice person, but she certainly doesn't deserve what happens to her as a result of Maria and Lily's scheming. Maria and Lily do some horrible things throughout the course of the novel which makes it difficult to find them sympathetic. I felt the same about the MacBeth couple, so this was certainly intentional. I did, however, love Mateo. He represents the light in all of this darkness. He is constantly trying to find out the truth; he wants to help everyone around him.
If you're a fan of MacBeth or are just craving a little dark reading as the summer fades away, I'd recommend picking up As I Descended.
One Last Gripe: The pacing was odd for me. Some moments raced by while others seemed to last longer than was necessary.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The MacBeth inspiration
First Sentence: The Ouija board was Lily's idea.
Favorite Character: Mateo
Least Favorite Character: Lily
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 rumored 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.
From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.