Dance of Shadows (Dance of Shadows #1)FeaturedHot
But she never could have guessed how dangerous the school is. The infamous choreographer, Josef, isn’t just ruthless with his pupils, he guards a sinister secret, one in which the school’s dancers—prized for their beauty, grace, and discipline—become pawns in a world of dark, deadly demons.
When I was younger some of my favorite books were stories about ballerinas. I was fascinated by the ability to tell a story through dance. Probably because I have zero talent in that arena. DANCE OF SHADOWS delivers a vivid look at the high-pressure world of being a ballerina-in-training at the prestigious New York Ballet Academy. The author is very skilled at bringing every aspect of this world to life using sensory details and paying close attention to the little things that breathe life into a scene. I could feel the pain in the dancers' feet as they practiced for hours, could see the blocks of resin they rubbed on their shoes before performing, and felt like I was part of the dance as they moved to the music. The language used to describe Vanessa's dancing, and how it felt to push her body to obey her commands, is perfect. High marks to the author for really delivering a book about dance that made me feel like I understood it inside and out.
I also think the premise is strong. The mix of ballet, mystery, and supernatural elements is inspired. I love the idea of taking the dancers' inner demons and making them *real.* The different elements of the plot didn't really hit their stride and start working together seamlessly until the finale, but the climax of the book is strong and leaves the reader with a fascinating set-up for the next book in the trilogy.
What Left Me Wanting More:
As much as I loved the premise, I struggled with the pacing. The plot progresses in fits and bursts, rather than in a smooth arc, and I got impatient with the characters who didn't see obvious clues or try obvious solutions (like calling a missing girl's home to see if she actually went home). By the end of the book, the pacing found its stride, and I hope in the sequel, the author continues that.
I also struggled to like or relate to any of the characters. Vanessa, the heroine, feels distant from the reader. We get little glimpses of emotion from her here and there, but mostly we just move through her days without really scratching her surface. Other characters tell her she's fierce or fascinating etc, but we're left having to take their word for it because we aren't shown examples and allowed to come to that conclusion on our own.
The secondary cast of characters are even more difficult to know. They move in and out of scenes, but we don't know what makes them tick, and without dialogue tags, it would be hard to distinguish which of them was speaking because they all blended into one. The exception is the main choreographer, who is a creepy, mysterious, angry character right from the start and does grab both the reader's and Vanessa's attention.
I also didn't feel anything for the romantic element in the book. There's a huge dose of insta-love that I could write off as Vanessa being young and naive. Young girls can develop instant crushes on a hot boy. But when two hot boys, both three years older than Vanessa, instantly seem to develop feelings for her based on nothing more than looks, I had a hard time taking it seriously. The interactions between them felt stilted and forced, and the swoon factor I was hoping for just never materialized for me.
A fascinating premise and thrilling climax set in the vivid world of a competitive ballet school should be enough to overcome slow pacing and lack of character development for readers who love stories with dance, mystery, and a dose of the supernatural.
The ballet in this one seemed realistic as far as the setting, terms used, and the school. There is a paranormal aspect for Vanessa and select others, but as far as the paranormal goes, it is set up well and isn't too much of a stretch. Although Vanessa said more than once while she likes dance, she is mostly at this elite school for her sister. I find this to be a bit of a stretch because you couldn't be as good as she is without a pretty intense love for ballet at the end of the day, but I get where it is coming from.
I wasn't much a fan of the romance Zep never really sat right with me, and I think that Vanessa should have paid more attention to the feelings of unease or that something wasn't quite right with him. But I get the appeal, he is older, more mature, good looking, a good dancer, and he showed interest in her.
I was more rooting for the underdog, Justin. Not that it was really a love triangle, he was just there, and I liked him more than I ever did Zep.
The ending wrapped up things okay, but there are still lots of other questions that need to be answered in the sequel.
Bottom Line: Good start and ending, with a slow middle and some issues.
For example, I loved the mystery underlining the storyline. You just know that something sinister is happening, though I don't think I quite expected what it was. The book had a bit of a Black Swan feel to it. Ok maybe not that intense. Black Swan made my head hurt with all the psychological intensity. But still there was that tension building throughout the story that made me reminisce. The first half of the book was actually really good that pulled you in, showed you the world of ballet, and made you wonder what exactly was happening.
Vanessa's friends made me laugh, and I found Justin to be adorable and complicated. The dance scenes for me were intense and a bit erotic. I don't know if that was quite the right word, but everything was so intimate and close. I mean for those Dirty Dancing fans, you know they say dance is like making love. So yea maybe erotic is the right word. Either way, most of the dance scenes were well-written.
Vanessa though, the main character, was annoying. I hate to say it, but she was. She refused to listen even though she came to the school to find her sister. If anyone seemed like they knew anything, I think I would hear them out with an open mind. I mean if my sister were missing, my ears would be all open. I wanted to shake her a few times to stop being so stuck up her butt and pay attention to what Justin was saying. Honestly, the book could have been a bit shorter and cut out some of Vanessa's horrible pigheadedness.
And sweat is not sexy. Nor is it something that smells sweet. Please disregard this misconception if you read the book.
I would read the second book in the series though. The author shows promise, and with some work I think Vanessa could be made into a much more likable MC.
Who Should Read It: Dancers, lovers of dance, and those people who sit on the couch and yearn to be dancers. If you like paranormal or that dark tone *similar to Black Swan* you may enjoy this book.
Dance of Shadows is an intriguing, dark and interesting story that compels you to keep reading. Think of Black Swan with a touch of magic and the paranormal. The story is set in New York City as a backdrop and one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the country The New York Ballet Academy. The action develops slowly, but the author doesn’t waste time in pointing out the characters that will make an impact in the story.
It all starts when Vanessa decides to follow her sister’s step and attend the same school her sister attended before her disappearance. I think the promise of the book is good, we don’t always get to hear or see what goes on in the world of ballet and this book gives you an idea of how intense that world can be. The story follows the events three years after Margaret disappearance, Vanessa is set on becoming a dancer while finding out what exactly happened to Margaret. She is convinced Margaret is alive and is somewhere in New York City. Though it is not clear what exactly happened to Margaret, Vanessa is convinced that whatever happened to her, it happened while she was in school but nobody knows what happened or worse, they don’t want to say anything. The New York Ballet Academy is one of the most prestigious schools in the world, and behind the perfect and sophisticated facade there are mysteries, secrets and pain.
I liked how the author introduced us to a world that for most is unknown and sometimes obscure. The world of ballet is one that isn’t always spoken of. I enjoyed the mystery behind Margaret’s disappearance, the whole story felt like a conundrum that was being decipher piece by piece. Vanessa had matured since her sister disappearance, becoming a ballet dancer wasn’t a dream of her as it was for Margaret, but she knew that by becoming one she would be able to get close to the mystery surrounding her sister’s disappearance.
The characters in this story were very mature and likeable. Margaret was smart though at times insecure and childish, she brought the needed drama to the story. Joseff on the other hand, brought mystery and passion though not necessarily a major character in my opinion he did gave the story a sense of realism. Zep’s character showed that adversity and passion when mixed can shape and harden a person, making them susceptible to do horrible things, some unimaginable. Justin, I knew his character would be the breaking point of the story, the one whose important thought not immediately recognized would be the one to make it all come into place. I think the secondary characters made more of an impact to the story than the main characters. I enjoyed how mature most were and how they interact with one another. Though I am not exactly convinced that friendships develop as quick and strong in the matter of days, I did enjoy their bonding.
eARC received from Bloomsbury via Netgalley
Release Date: On Shelves Now
Reviewed by: Middle Sis Jenn
The Sisters Say: Dark and Chilling
I will admit that the cover is what drew me to this book. It is easily one of the best covers I’ve seen so far in 2013, and although the book did not live up to the amazingness of the cover; I still enjoyed it.
This is the first ballet book I have read, and I will say that I spent most of the book picturing the people from the movie Center Stage (probably because it’s the only ballet movie I’ve ever seen). That did make it more enjoyable because, having never taken ballet before, I actually had an idea of the moves so I wasn’t just picturing some random leaps into the air. I actually enjoyed the ballet aspect of the story better than anything else. It’s a world that is so beautiful and severe, and Yelena definitely captures that stress and flawlessness of ballet in her writing. I could see the tension in their nerves melt away as the characters started dancing. The ballet made this book captivating, and it is the ballet that will bring me back for book 2.
The characters were, unfortunately, hit and miss for me. I really enjoyed the minor characters, while I didn’t like the main ones. Vanessa is one of those heroines who doesn’t see what’s going on right in front of her, and that really irked me. Plus, her friends tried to get her to see reason at times, and she wouldn’t hear them out. I guess she was just kind of dense, and at times, it was like the world revolved around her—and that type of heroine really bugs me. I’m hoping she will become more mature in the next book because she has great potential. Her best friends were great though, especially Steffie and Blaine. They were each quirky in their own way, and you could tell they really cared about what Vanessa was going through.
So, let’s get to the guys. First, there’s Zep—the amazing dancer who makes jaws drop all over the place. He’s the kind of guy who should be on the cover of magazines, and he definitely has the charm and charisma to back up his good looks. However, from the start, I got the feeling that his charm was fake, and it bugged me to see Vanessa fall straight for it. But, I probably would have fallen for it, too, if he was as good looking as everyone says he is! Still, I could feel that he had secrets that he didn’t want discovered.
Then there is Justin, another boy who has secrets. He comes off as this big jerk who is a bit of a bully. I liked him because he just seemed to tell the man to “Suck it,” and I love guys who are rebellious in the face of authority. However, like Zep, I just didn’t trust him because he was obviously hiding something. Still, when Vanessa describes him, I can’t help but get a bit swoony. Add that to some of the smexy dreams Vanessa has about him, and I might be giving him another look.
Even though the story was slow, I still found myself lost in the hauntingly beautiful dance. When Yelena described the world slipping away as the dance unfolds, I was just completely lost in the imagery. I could see time stop as the dancers transcended reality and became almost dream-like in their beauty and grace. Yelena’s words were beautiful and foreboding at the same time, and I fell straight into her macabre world.
Would I recommend it to others?
I would recommend it to YA fans who are looking for something different, who don’t mind pushing through slower moments to revel beautiful writing. YA fans with a history or love of dance—you should definitely check it out.
Will I read the sequel?
Yes, although it won’t be one of those that I pre-order and start reading the day it arrives.
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.)
On both counts, I wasn’t disappointed. Yelena Black does an excellent job of drawing you into the world of the ballet, with the action set in and around the New York Ballet Academy (NYBA) at Lincoln Center. She includes a lot of little details – sewing ribbons on shoes, the crunch of rosin underfoot, the daily strains of classes and rehearsal – but at the same time she doesn’t bombard you with too many technical terms, so the balance feels right. And the story certainly had mystery and drama in bucketloads.
Vanessa Adler has gained herself a place at the ‘world’s most elite’ ballet school, but she hasn’t come there to dance – she came to find her sister Margaret, who also attended the school and mysteriously disappeared. But when she’s cast in the lead role of The Firebird, a notoriously difficult dance, she realises she has a rare talent that she is compelled to pursue – and her development as a dancer and her quest to solve the mystery of her sister become inextricably entwined. Vanessa is a likeable character in that she is beautiful and talented without really being aware of it, strong-willed and intelligent, and seems, at first at least, to value her friends and to focus on finding her sister above her own achievements. (As an aside, what is it with redheaded lead characters at the moment?! Defiance, Pantomime, Neptune’s Tears…)
There are some pretty creepy things going on behind the scenes at NYBA and the whole atmosphere is broody and intense. It did remind me of Black Swan in the sense that there are half-glimpses of sinister undercurrents in a seemingly innocent setting that lead to the growing paranoia of the protagonist, though in this case the source of unease is supernatural rather than psychological in nature. I would even go so far as to say that it verges on the melodramatic at times.
As a counterbalance to all this are Vanessa’s instant best friends – TJ, Blaine, Steffie and Elly – who provide the light relief and a sense of normality with their witty banter. There’s also a little love triangle going on at the centre of this book, between Vanessa and Zep (tall, dark, handsome, lead dancer with body and moves to die for – the moody, mysterious type), and Justin (blonde, muscly, handsome, irritatingly eager to keep Vanessa out of trouble). Be warned – there are some pretty steamy dance scenes between Vanessa and her leading men! I must admit that the romantic moments between Vanessa and Zep provided some cheesy lines that had me cringing, though as the characters develop and their motivations become clearer I felt able to forgive these. I will just say that there’s a certain amount of cheesiness and melodrama that, in the spirit of the theatrical setting, you just have to embrace and if you do you will enjoy the ride. The mystery continues to unfold right until the end and not all questions are answered, so I guess we can expect an encore from Vanessa and friends. I’m intrigued to find out what happens in the second act.