Thursday, 14 February 2013

Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black is a YA novel featuring the (imaginary) New York Ballet Academy and a demon.

Vanessa's sister Margaret, three years older than her, went to aforementioned dance academy and, shortly before she was supposed to play the lead in the school's production of The Firebird, she disappeared. The school told her parents she had run away or that she might be dead. Vanessa doesn't believe Margaret would have run away, though, nor does she believe she's dead. A ballerina like her sister, Vanessa applies to the same school Margaret disappeared from to try to find out what happened to her sister.

I had a few problems with this book. The first was that it moved a little slowly. From the start, it's fairly clear to the reader that something supernatural and probably demonic is going on. And it takes Vanessa ages to see it. I get that it's realistic to try to accept mundane explanations for what's going on, but that doesn't make for more exciting reading. I stress that it wasn't boring, I enjoyed the peek into the world of dance (it reminded me a little bit of the girls in Bunheads crossed with <insert dance school movie here>), but the plot definitely moved slowly. There were some scenes which probably should have been compressed or cut because, even looking back, I can't work out what their purpose was.

A bonus is there was no love triangle. The romantic elements were a bit confusing though. When she arrives, a freshman, Vanessa is immediately enamoured with the attractive senior lead dancer. That's fine, it makes sense for her to crush on him, especially after he sprinkles a bit of attention her way and takes her out on a date (like, the day after he breaks up with his girlfriend). But later, when it's blindingly obvious there's something weird going on with him she STILL doesn't see it and makes poor decisions which put everyone else in danger.

Vanessa isn't a particularly active heroine. She is actively trying to find her sister and at times does take the initiative, but when it came to the crunch, she was a bit too passive for my liking (that and aforesaid poor decisions). Highlight for spoiler: And then she decides to run off with the boy who's not evil but has been weird and stalkery throughout? WHY? It didn't particularly make sense.

(Side note: the magic system/style in this is practised by necrodancers, lol.)

I enjoyed the journey the narrative took us on. I'm not an avid fan of dance or ballet, but I enjoyed reading about that aspect. I suspect fans of performance schools stories would enjoy that aspect, too. The prose was fairly competently written just, as I said earlier, a bit slow. The finally thing that bothered me was that the lead into book two (of a planned trilogy) felt really tacked on. Perhaps it was planned as a trilogy from the beginning, but I think it would have worked better and more powerfully as a standalone. (Also, as a stand alone some of the more baffling elements would have, by necessity, not been present.) Would that the YA spec fic industry didn't suffer from trilogyitis.

I would recommend Dance of Shadows to YA fans interested in a slightly different setting. The speculative elements are most prominent towards the end, but when they come, you can't pretend they're not there. A warning for readers who don't like that sort of thing. (But then, why are you reading this blog?) I enjoyed reading the book, but I'm not sure I'll feel compelled to pick up the next book when it's released. Maybe if it has a really exciting blurb.

3.5 / 5 stars

First published: February 2012, Bloomsbury UK & ANZ
Series:
Dance of Shadows, book 1 of 3
Format read: eARC
Source: Courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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