From the acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley, comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair. Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—but one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. But Delilah doesn’t know that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to unseat Delilah for the scholarship. After all, it would lock in Maria’s attendance at Stanford—and assure her and Lily four more years in a shared dorm room. Together, Maria and Lily harness the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school. But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what’s imagined, the girls must attempt to put a stop to the chilling series of events they’ve accidentally set in motion.
As I DescendedFeatured
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.
The main character was Maria but the story was told in other characters’ POVs as well. Maria was the one with the most POVs and most of the plot centered on her. She was someone was worked very hard to get where she was, top grades, spot on the soccer team, in the running for the elite Kingsley scholarship, but it seemed like all she could focus on was the one girl who kept beating her. She was together with her roommate Lily, and for some reason they both viewed the Kingsley prize as the only way they could be together after high school because the prize was so elite the recipient pretty much got their choice of college and Lily was going to Stanford so Maria needed to go to Stanford. I didn’t really feel a love connection between them so it made it difficult for me to care if Maria got the prize.
We also see the POVs of Lily, of Maria’s best friend Brandon, his boyfriend Mateo. I did find myself liking Brandon and Mateo. Their relationship felt like they had a developing connection that had the potential to grow into something special.
The book started off with a Ouija board scene and got progressively creepier and darker. Robin Talley did a good job at bringing the chills down your spine at a page’s turn. She also did a great job addressing a lot of issues: sexuality, racism, privilege being among them and making them fit into the plot without overcrowding it or taking away from the horror aspect.
I think if I had connected more to Maria and Lily I would have enjoyed this book a lot more. I liked the creepy factor and it almost read like an old urban legend warning tale.