Monday, June 14, 2021

Review: Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohen

Have you read Shakespeare's The Tempest? I haven't, but today's review still caught my attention the minute I read the blurb It sounded interesting. Not only is it a somewhat retelling (I'm told), but it's set in the 1920's and is packed to the gills with dark secrets, magic and intrigue. 

Did I spark your interest? Then, let's take a peek!

by Samantha Cohen
Wednesday Books
Young Adult Historical Fantasy
352 pages

OCTOBER 26th!!!

A deftly-plotted tale about ambition and belonging, Bright Ruined Things takes Shakespeare's The Tempest and brilliantly reimagines its themes of family and love. Cohoe writes with a magic that dazzles and cuts right to the core. - Chloe Gong, New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights

Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all...

The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the magic on the island and the spirits who inhabit it. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her. Now that she's eighteen, Mae knows her time with the Prospers may soon come to an end.

But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends return to the island to celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island's magic and started producing aether - a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she's always wanted.

When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae starts to realize that things aren't what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers - including a secret about Mae's past that she doesn't remember. As Mae and her friends begin to unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers' magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.

In this YA fantasy, Samantha Cohoe wonderfully mixes magic and an atmospheric setting into a fantastically immersive world, with characters you won't be able to forget.



Greed weaves with magic and wealth to form an addictive world, where everything is a mirage, even freedom.

Mae's lived her entire life on the island of her rich, benefactor...the best friend of her deceased father and mother. Lord Prosper and his family aren't only wealthy but possess magic and control the island, the island's magic and its spirits. Her dream is to perform magic herself and stay on the island, the only home she's only known, but with her eighteenth birthday around the corner, she's not sure the Prospers won't force her to leave and enter the real world, where their own children live and attend school. With everyone returning home for the yearly celebration, she's excited to see her best friend and hopes that maybe her crush might finally take notice of her. But this year's celebration brings another announcement, and while it will give her the family name, wealth and a life on the island, it's the last thing she wants.

I need to first say that I've never read The Tempest and know very little about the tale (I know this sets some gasps, but I just need more time in life to read everything). Still, the moment I read the blurb on this one, I wanted to read it...even though the cover isn't quite my thing.

I read this book in one setting and found myself bound to the pages to see what would happen next. The author has woven a rich world, and from what I've heard, this does base itself superficially, at least, on Shakespeare's work. Even the names give a nod in its direction. It has the flair of the 1920's, but this is a slight dusting and doesn't present itself much. That's due to the seclusion of the island, and the very sheltered life Mae lives there.

This is a fast-paced read with tons of intrigue, woven secrets, greed, and deceit, and while there are hints at what is really happening, its hard to piece it all together in its exact direction until the very end. There's a constant tension and unease lurking in the background, which whispers of evil doings while the rest of the plot plays along. But this is still a strong young adult novel in so far that Mae is a teen...a very sheltered one, at that...and has a lot to break through and learn.

The characters are intriguing. Most are not exactly likable, but that fits the tale very well. Even Mae has some sharp edges, which make her hard to completely embrace, and there's a sudden switch in her plans, which I didn't ever quite understand how she got to the point, but then, everyone in the book is, at least, a little messed up...which I assume mirrors Shakespeare a bit. The romance slides a touch to the young adult side, but then, also doesn't completely. It was interesting and doesn't really ever hit romantic strings fully...which also fits the tale, though. 

I enjoyed this one quite a bit and found it very well woven and written. The characters didn't always hit me right, but I do think it fit the setting and plot better that way. It's definitely a grabbing read and worth diving into if you're a fan of intrigue, magic, dark secrets, and breaking free of bonds.

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