Dancing comes with a lot of pressure. Eating right, mastering dances that can often be complicated, not making a fool out of yourself during rehearsal or during the show, being reminded how short your career can be and that one wrong step can stop it before it ever begins,... I'm no ballet dancer, but I've read enough books involving dancing to know there are many demons dancers battle. The book's decision to make those figurative demons literal was part of what drew me to the novel in the first place, and this element is what sticks with me the most.
This appears to be the only strong suit Dance of Shadows has. Vanessa is too bland for me to understand why she's so extraordinary even when it's explicitly stated. The statement simply doesn't ring true. The motivation that brings her to NYBA--finding her sister-- almost immediately falls by the wayside and she makes little to no effort to try and find her. Progress is made only when it ties in with other girl's disappearances. Vanessa is also rather dim. The person who has long, private training sessions with the evil mastermind? They're probably in on the evil plot. That doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out, but she walks right into that trap.
I don't care for either of her love interests and overall, the cast falls flat. Some characters are given backstories, but they never truly play into who these characters are and why they do what they do. A plot point in which Blaine, the stereotypical gay male dancer of the book, says he feels the same odd thing Vanessa does when she dances is dropped completely and it is regarded as if he never said anything for the rest of the novel.
Mid-read, I likened reading this book to being slapped in the face with a neon pink fish that screams "HEY! THIS IS SUSPICIOUS! BE SUSPICIOUS OF IT!" constantly while the characters remain clueless. Paired with slow pacing that waits until the very end to advance the supernatural elements, Dance of Shadows gets frustrating very quickly. It almost seems like a spoiler to say there are demons because they come into the novel so late, but it doesn't count as a spoiler when the novel's initial publication announcement mentions demons.
Worse than that, I saw all the twists coming. Cover-ups? Called it. How said cover-ups are done? Same. To be honest, the cover-ups are horribly done; all it took to unravel it for one person was a single phone call home. No one ever thought to try that in twenty years? There are more called twists I am too frustrated to name. One of the notes I have written down for this book close to the end is "I DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING AT ALL. /sarcasm" and I would have been kinder had so much of my time, patience, and faith not been wasted.
Dance of Shadows begins a trilogy and it's unlikely I'll be around for book two despite a strongly written finale and a tantalizing set-up for book two. One more bad book from a book packager (The InkHouse, in this case; it gave us Fallen by Lauren Kate) like this and I'm done with them for good. I've given that part of the industry many chances and I have almost constantly been failed. (But before anyone gets confused, that has no influence on my rating/enjoyment of this book. This is simply how it happens every time.)