Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe is a YA historical fantasy set to be published February 15, 2022. I’ve had this one on NetGalley for months as the release date was pushed back from the original date in fall 2021 and I was excited to get into it.
The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the magic on the island and the spirits who inhabit it. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her. Now that she’s eighteen, Mae knows her time with the Prospers may soon come to an end.
But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends return to the island to celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.
When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae starts to realize that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past that she doesn’t remember. As Mae and her friends begin to unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.
This was not a bad book but it was a boring book. It had some pretty good ideas but when put together, I was just bored. Even during the final “action” scenes, I didn’t care at all and found myself stopping mid-chapter to get a glass of water. It did not hold my attention at all. It’s billed as a fantasy but the magic in here is really not important to the story except for being the reason for the mystery.
The cover and description seem to promise a 1920/30s backdrop but it really isn’t discussed at all. There’s a mention of jazz music and no real technology so I think that is the setting but there is so little description in this one that it could be set in any time period and the impact would be negligible. This was true of the overall setting as well. They’re on an island and there’s a house, some shacks, and wells. But as to what any of this looks like or how big the island is, I have absolutely no idea, the author never cared to divulge that information. A lot of the information on the plot was also given to the main character second hand. There was just way too much telling and not enough showing in all aspects.
The characters were pretty mediocre. I didn’t hate them but couldn’t really get invested in them either. Ivo was definitely the most interesting but every time it seems like Mae, the main character, was going to get to know him, it took a turn and we were back with the rest of the mediocre bunch. Mae herself was pretty boring and while I liked some of her revelations about herself, she made stupid choices and was really naïve, not at all what I want in a main character, especially for a book marketed as YA fantasy.
Overall, this was pretty forgettable and just wasn’t for me. It had the feel more of a historical fiction book (yet without clearly defining the point in history) and kind of felt like it was trying to mimic the pacing of a classic so if those are more to your taste and you’re good with a touch of magic, then this one might work better for you.
*I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
**Apparently this is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest which I didn’t know until after reading it. I don’t think that changes any of my opinions. I don’t really know that story so I judged this purely on my enjoyment of this book.