Robin Talley’s AS I DESCENDED takes Shakespeare’s Macbeth and transforms it into a chilling contemporary story with dark magic, a diverse and queer cast, and a haunted boarding school. Talley masters an eerie tone and dangerous atmosphere from the beginning, and readers should be cautious about reading this spooky tale at night. From scratching sounds on windows to stories of La Llorona to spirits who may or may not be deceased family, every chapter is riddled with a dark edge to send shivers up spines.
Lily, Maria, Brandon, and Mateo are beautifully written and develop well. The way Talley parallels the original Macbeth’s tension and stress of royal politics with modern day high school academic culture is masterfully (and a bit painfully) believable. Maria and Lily know how high the stakes are if they both don’t get into Stanford, and that introduces them to their dark journey. The way both the spirits and the characters themselves manipulate each other is wickedly done, but what makes the story so tragic is that each of the characters have good in them, especially in the beginning. You could easily see the bright future they would have had ahead of them, had their series of choices not changed everything.
AS I DESCENDED captures Shakespearean tragedy at its best with several vengeful spirits, a couple whose power together could change everything, and madness waiting around every corner.