When Kallia learns of a magical contest in Glorian, she decides to go for it. She knows that she is the best. When she arrives though, the contest will become something even more dangerous, and the secrets that are hidden in Glorian and the people she meets will reach for the surface.
What I loved: The setting was really intriguing, especially with magic, its use, and the sexism around it. There are some politics of magic in the background, about whether it should be used for domestic tasks vs. "wasted" in performance, along the lines of whether a painter should be used for painting houses and buildings vs. creating artistic paintings. I found these background themes really intriguing.
What left me wanting more: The beginning of the book really pulled me in with this strange house, unusual person (Jack), and unusual skills. However, we leave it really quickly for Glorian, where things become more typical and move a little too fast. Kallia is somehow the best at pretty much everything (including detecting thieves and lies), and I felt like I needed more background for this. It felt like the plot knew where it wanted to go and took shortcuts to get there. I wanted more of the house/Jack and Kallia's training. I also wanted more context/background on the thief and Kallia (it was like he tried to steal from her and then they became BFFs). There was a lot of telling vs. showing. I didn't get the background on relationships or how people connected. The shows themselves were fully described, but not the other stuff that I wanted to know more about.
There are also a lot of secrets, and many of them were teased enough that they were easy to figure out before the big reveals. I would have liked to be more surprised. I think this book would be good for readers who like a fast-pace without as much inner monologue or build.
Final verdict: Fast-paced with intriguing secondary themes, WHERE DREAMS DESCEND has CARAVAL and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA vibes. This would work for readers who like a fantasy read that moves quickly without internal monologue or deep dives into character history and motivations.