Narrator: Imani Jade Powers, Steve West
Series: Kingdom of Cards #1
Published by MacMillan Audio
Published on 25 August 2020
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Historical, New Adult
Source: my local library
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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
I can see the similarities to The Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge! which were the selling points that drew me to this book. The elements are there.
But it’s just so… Boring.
I’m not going to do a ‘real’ review since I didn’t finish the book. I got about three-quarters of the way through the audiobook before I had to return it to the library, and I have no interest whatsoever in borrowing it again to finish it. But I will detail why I consider this a DNF:
- Literally no one cares about solving the main mystery. No one even thinks it’s a mystery or anything to wonder about. There’s a bunch of ‘accidents’ that no one thinks are accidents but also literally no one thinks someone is behind them? There’s a bunch of people who go missing or are attacked and no one wonders who’s behind that? It’s not that no one is investigating (which they’re not) but no one even wonders about it. It’s written in third person, so it wouldn’t be hard to have at least one character go, “Oh I wonder who’s behind all these accidents” rather than there being an accident and then the next time there’s another accident and they just keep putting on shows with no regards to anyone’s safety or wondering who’s behind it. Seriously. If they don’t care, why should I?
- I don’t understand Kallia’s magic. She’s a firestarter but can also do other completely random stuff which is supposed to be wondrous and amazing, but is really just boring. Like mirror illusions. You know, stuff that you can actually fake like illusionists in the real world. Nothing Kallia does seems interesting or magical at all, yet supposedly she’s got this real amazing actual magical talent.
- Kallia is also basically the only female character. There are others, but they can’t hold a candle to her because she’s so powerful and interesting and unique. And everyone’s mean to her because she’s a girl.
- We literally don’t learn the names of her competitors because they’re not relevant.
- It’s less about a magical competition and more like The Kallia Show where she struts around thinking she’s top shit, does nothing impressive, and then faints. I can’t stand super-powered damsels in distress, they really annoy me. Like, you can’t have it both ways.
- The actual story largely consisted of Kallia and Demarco getting mad at each other and then apologising, rinse and repeat.
- Jack is meh.
- Demarco is meh.
- Everything is meh.
While the plot and characters annoyed me, the writing itself was pretty decent. To me, there is also a real comparison to The Night Circus, which similarly promised amazing things and then didn’t deliver. I said in my review of the Night Circus:
And just like… what? What was so ‘mysterious’ about everything? You can’t just dance around in circles, waving your arms and going ‘woooooo, I’m so spooky and mysterious!’ You need to actually give me some answers. It wasn’t mysterious at all, it was just vague!
That’s completely relevant to this book, too.
There are also other similarities to The Night Circus which led me to believe this book may have even been inspired by it, including the names of the main characters: in The Night Circus it’s Celia and Marco, and in Where Dreams Descend it’s Kallia and Demarco.
So if you liked that book, you might like this one.