Written by: Robin Talley
Release Date: September 6th 2016
Pages: 384, hardcover
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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.
I don’t think I’ve referenced this on here yet, but like almost any theater kid, I love Shakespeare, and Macbeth is my favorite of his plays. It’s a wonderful story that, one would assume, would be difficult to adapt. But setting it in an old Southern boarding school, replacing the witches with some of the creepiest spirits you have ever seen, and making Macbeth and Lady Macbeth an f/f couple are all pretty amazing ways to do so.
I’ve been a fan of Robin Talley’s since I read Lies We Tell Ourselves, but this is my favorite of her books so far. It’s scary and beautifully written, with characters who are sympathetic even as they make bad decisions. It does a good job preserving the themes of the original play, and all the deviations are exactly what the story needs to keep it flowing and have it make sense in modern times. Even with the changes, the story never loses its high stakes, and I appreciated that.
I should also note that the four main characters are all not straight–a (Mexican) bi girl, a (disabled) lesbian, and two gay guys (one of whom is fat and has anxiety; the other one is Mexican).
Even though it comes out about two months earlier, As I Descended is a perfect Halloween read that will make you want to crawl under the covers in fear and then make you cry.
Certain developments with Maria and Lily towards the middle of the book, while they felt natural with where the characters were going in general, also appeared a little abrupt. The change made sense, but it could have occurred more smoothly. Lily’s character arc in particular felt somewhat incomplete as a result.
A minor quibble is the police-are-incompetent-for-plot-convenience trope. The police in the story made some decisions that I did not find believable at all.
I wasn’t expecting to love the supernatural aspect of this book so much–I was more focused on the “f/f Macbeth” thing–but it ended up being a high point for me. Every scene where the ghosts appear or speak feels appropriately horror-movie-ish in the best way possible. A certain scene in Lily’s bedroom made me want to never sleep again. Robin Talley uses Mexican mythology to develop the ghosts, which makes sense with Maria’s character and gives the story another layer.
As I Descended features multiple POVs, and all the narrators are fleshed out. The motivations are very believable, which can be tricky with a story as…well…murder-y as this one. I particularly loved Lily’s voice–her rational and ruthless thought process, how her disability and sexuality motivated her actions, her fierce love for Maria even as she disagrees with some of her decisions. Lily is the ideal modern adaptation of Lady Macbeth. And I loved Maria, whose conflict always felt believable and whose decisions I completely understood. Without giving away too much, her ending is a small deviation from the original end of the play, but perfect for this story.
There are small nods to the original play throughout this book that were a lot of fun for me. For example, a game exists where the player has to put items that were mentioned in the witches’ scene into a cauldron. I thought that was a pretty cool addition.
I heard someone say that reading this book felt like watching the original play, and I agree. Robin Talley nails the atmosphere perfectly, and her writing is top-notch. As I Descended was just the right mix of new and old material, and I can’t wait for all of you to get the chance to read it.
Definitely! Complicated messy teens + ghosts + good representation = a fantastic book.
ABOUT ROBIN TALLEY:
I live in Washington, D.C., with my wife, our baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. Whenever the baby’s sleeping, I’m probably busy writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine’s character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.
My website is at http://www.robintalley.com, and I’m on Twitter and Tumblr.
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