ARC Review: As I Descended

As I DescendedAs I Descended by Robin Talley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: September 6, 2016

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 is imagined, it quickly becomes too late for the girls to stop the series of events they’ve set in motion.

Retellings are my favorite, even if I barely know the original story – because they take a known story’s elements and give it a new twist. In As I Descended, we have a modern retelling of Macbeth with LGBT characters. The only other Macbeth retelling I ever read was The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove, and while I was definitely impressed with that one, this one takes the cake for sheer atmosphere. The setting is a boarding school, said to be haunted, and one of our main characters Maria *cough*Macbeth*cough* has been able to sense spirits since childhood. When she and her best friend, as well as her girlfriend hold a seance once night, she kind of reactivates the spirits of the school. What begins as an attempt to gain back the top position in the school, soon descends into a chaotic ghost-ridden murder-fest.

By the time the first act ends, it becomes pretty obvious that the book is going to be deliciously creepy. There is, first of all, the fact that Maria, who being egged on by Lily (her girlfriend) accidentally causes her friend and rival, Delilah to go into a coma. But in covering up that crime, she gives too much rein to the ghosts she thought she could control. Then the real haunting starts, with people getting scaring nightmares left and right. I was a bit freaked out to read it in the darkness of my room, because the descriptions were a little too real and detailed. The eerie atmosphere brought on by the writing definitely upped the creep factor of this book, and made reading this quite an immersive experience.

The ending – well, it naturally wouldn’t end well, considering its source, but I was a bit confused as to the curse, or whatever it was that was haunting the school. It wasn’t clear as to what exactly caused it, since the backstory was varied and there were a lot of people dead on the school grounds. Suffice to say, the ghost aspect was mostly relegated to being vengeful spirits, and it wasn’t really resolved – but once again, considering it is MACBETH, I shouldn’t expect it to, either, right? In summary – brilliantly written, high creep factor and a good retelling!

Received a free galley from HarperTeen, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.

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