Dancing with someone is an act of trust. Elegant and intimate; you’re close enough to kiss, close enough to feel your partner’s heartbeat. But for Vanessa, dance is deadly – and she must be very careful who she trusts . . .
Vanessa Adler attends an elite ballet school – the same one her older sister, Margaret, attended before she disappeared. Vanessa feels she can never live up to her sister’s shining reputation. But Vanessa, with her glorious red hair and fair skin, has a kind of power when she dances – she loses herself in the music, breathes different air, and the world around her turns to flames . . .
Soon she attracts the attention of three men: gorgeous Zep, mysterious Justin, and the great, enigmatic choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky. When Josef asks Vanessa to dance the lead in the Firebird, she has little idea of the danger that lies ahead – and the burning forces about to be unleashed . . .
There are books that make me rage in a good way (for example, books I love with a cliffhanger on the very. last. page.) and books that make me rage in a bad way (the kind that leaves me wanting the hours I spent reading it back). Unfortunately, after drawing me in with its beautiful cover and mysterious blurb, DANCE OF SHADOWS ended up causing the latter kind of rage. Based on the description of the book, I was hoping for a combination of Black Swan and Center Stage with paranormal elements. What I got was an interesting premise that could have been a great story, but unfortunately fell flat with poor pacing, bland characters and laughable dialogue.
First of all, this book was about 100 pages too long. The middle section dragged with repetitive descriptions of rehearsals which 90% of the time featured the same characters dancing the same dance over and over. Then, when the conflict finally came to a head, it happened so quickly that I’m pretty sure I blinked and missed it. If the book had to be as long as it was, I would have appreciated less rehearsals and more conflict.
Vanessa is one of the most boring protagonists I have ever read. I can’t even summon up any strong emotion toward her except anger at how dumb she acts. She goes to ballet school to solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance, but that immediately takes a backseat to all the guys who just can’t stay away from her. She doesn’t put simple things together and walks into dangerous situations multiple times. I kind of wanted to shake some sense into her for at least half of the book. Then, other characters are so one dimensional. Take, for example, Blaine, Vanessa’s classmate who is “the gay friend.” Nothing comes out of his mouth that doesn’t have to do with cute guys. Or the mean girls- labeling them as such gives you all the information you need.
This book also had the most ridiculous example of “instalove” that I have ever read. The minute Vanessa shows up at school, she falls for Zep, a senior. Of course, Zep is also taken with her, and breaks up with his girlfriend to be with Vanessa, despite the fact that they’ve never actually had a conversation. Zep has absolutely no redeeming qualities and he treats Vanessa terribly. He practically never communicates with her and frequently ignores her in rehearsals. She is constantly questioning their relationship and why he would be interested in her. And yet! She stays with him and trusts him completely, which in the end, is to her detriment.
My biggest issue with the book was that there were so many unbelievable aspects. They range from small things, like the level of adult supervision at the school, to bigger issues, such as how the disappearance of the lead dancers over the years wasn’t noticed by anybody. The whole story seemed to happen in a self-contained bubble. I’m definitely accustomed to suspending disbelief but it was just so hard to get past the idea that there were disappearing dancers and nobody put it together except for a few high school kids. Even the organization of dancers which supposedly prevents other dancers from doing evil didn’t notice this (why yes, there is an organization that is pledged “to protect mortals from those who seek to use the art of dance for dark and sinister purposes”).
All in all, the beautiful cover on DANCE OF SHADOWS hides a ridiculous and poorly written story. While I normally will give a second book in a series a chance, even if I’m not the hugest fan of the first one, in this case I will be staying as far away from the sequel as possible.
- Dance of Shadows
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