I’m a sucker for retellings – I’m not quite sure why, although I suspect it’s because it’s easier to read a modern retelling of a Shakespeare play than it is to read the play itself. And, let’s be honest, many of these great tales are products of their own time. Sometimes that means they’re problematic as hell, including everything from racism and homophobia to sexism and generally different morals and beliefs. Macbeth isn’t one of Shakespeare’s most problematic plays, unless I forgot more about it than I realized, but it certainly didn’t have a lot of female representation and absolutely no racial or sexual diversity. It had one interesting female character, Lady Macbeth, who was a bit complex and go the chance to get the power-hungry one in the leading couple, but she didn’t even get her own name, just Lady Macbeth, the wife of the titular main character.
As I Descended, like so many great retellings, took an interesting tale that lacked a lot of the diversity we need in our stories and turned it on its head by crafting a story that reflects our world. Diverse books often fall into the hole of actually just having token diverse characters – the Sassy Black Friend, the Gay Best Friend, the biracial protagonist who occasionally forgets her non-white part of her identity. There are four “main” characters in this book, and each one of them is diverse in their own way.
Maria is Latina and bisexual. Lily was in a car crash that left her physically disabled and is gay. Brandon is overweight and gay. Mateo is Latino and gay. This is all treated as a fact, not like they all have to come out and figure things out, but they’re also still at a boarding high school in the South, so things aren’t super easy and Maria and Lily are still in the closet while the boys don’t really have a lot of options. There’s intersectionality, though, and that’s something that can really be lacking in all books, diverse and otherwise.
You’re probably interested in the retelling part of this story, though. You don’t want to get all excited about the diversity and the idea of a f/f retelling of Macbeth and then find out the book is so boring. I don’t know if it was quite as strong as I wanted, but I was definitely enthralled by this lush ghost story. Even when I was yelling at the main characters because they were all being stupid and they shouldn’t be putting drugs in someone’s drink or chasing after ghosts and all that, I was still interested. I wanted to know what was going to happen and what was going on. I knew that this couldn’t have a good ending because, hello, Macbeth is a tragedy, not one of Shakespeare’s comedies, but I needed to see how everything would end.
There are some parts that I feel like could be strengthened a bit, parts I wanted to end differently and characters I wanted to know more, but as I write this review way too many months later, they aren’t anything that I actually remember, just that feeling that I wanted a little more. But perhaps that bit of something more I want is just more from Robin Talley, who has managed to write three very different but all wonderfully diverse books – I definitely want more from her.
Title: As I Descended
Author: Robin Talley (Lies We Tell Ourselves)
“Something wicked this way comes.”
Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.
Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.
Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.
But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.
Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing 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, the girls must decide where they draw the line.
I was extremely lucky to receive a digital ARC of this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of this review.