On the surface, Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles has it all – magic, mystery, a fierce heroine, one shadowy hero, one potential antihero, a decrepit town, a dangerous forest, and so many questions. Based on those qualities, it should be a novel I not only devoured but one that would turn me into a superfan. Folks, I wanted to be just that. I really did. Unfortunately, once again, the story fails to excite my superfan juices and left me more confused than energized.
Where Dreams Descend fails in two areas. One of these areas is in world-building. Ms Angeles does include a map to her world, which helps understand the geography, but she fails to properly establish the rules of magic in her world. We never get a clear understanding of why some people are born with their magic while others can develop magic, nor do we get an idea of how one goes about developing magic. We don’t know the differences between the two either. There are hints of course, but in my opinion, the hints are not enough. One can’t understand the stakes or the differences between Kallia’s magic and everyone else’s if one doesn’t understand all aspects of the magic in this world.
The other area where Ms. Angeles fails is in establishing her characters. We never learn Kallia’s origin story even as she waffles between being a sophisticated temptress to naive and desperate orphan. Jack remains as much of a mystery at the end as he does in the beginning. The Dire Woods is an unknown barrier that seems to have some importance outside of being mysterious and dangerous. Daron is the most well-defined character as we actually learn about the mystery haunting his past, and that’s just sad.
Where Dreams Descend is a frustrating experience because I want more. I want more answers, more character development, more world-building. We need a greater understanding of the magic and the society which reveres magical entertainers but ignores domestic magic. I want to love Kallia but need to know more about her to fulling embrace her.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t rip through the book. Nor does it mean I won’t be reading the sequel. The ending practically forces you to do so, if only to make sense of it. Personally, I hope the sequel provides the answers I crave and the development the story needs.