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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Series: Dance of Shadows #1
Young Adult
Pages: 447
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Goodreads | Amazon
Dancing with someone is an act of trust. Elegant and intimate; you're close enough to kiss, close enough to feel your partner's heartbeat. But for Vanessa, dance is deadly – and she must be very careful who she trusts . . .
Vanessa Adler attends an elite ballet school – the same one her older sister, Margaret, attended before she disappeared. Vanessa feels she can never live up to her sister's shining reputation. But Vanessa, with her glorious red hair and fair skin, has a kind of power when she dances – she loses herself in the music, breathes different air, and the world around her turns to flames . . . 
Soon she attracts the attention of three men: gorgeous Zep, mysterious Justin, and the great, enigmatic choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky. When Josef asks Vanessa to dance the lead in the Firebird, she has little idea of the danger that lies ahead – and the burning forces about to be unleashed . . .

*Digital ARC provided by the publisher for an honest review*

When I was a little girl, dance, mostly ballet and tap, were the main focal point of my afternoons. After about two years, I gave up dance. I was fed up with the time and effort put into it, and I really was peer pressured into taking classes by a childhood friend, and in the end, all I really wanted was to get an award for my efforts after the recitals. When I learned that I had to wait three more years for for an award, I quit. As a child, I was very impatient. But, regretting my decision after realizing that I did enjoy going to dance class, I had to accept that my parents weren't going to pay to send me back when they knew I would just fight with them on taking me to dance class every week. So that was the end of my career as a dancer.

The moral of telling this tale about my life was really to just elaborate that ballet has always interested me. Whenever I hear about YA novels that feature or encompass ballet I definitely take the time to scope them out to read. But, so it happens, ever since I read Various Positions last year, I had been really weary about getting myself into any other ballet books; I feared that I'd been scarred from reading that genre of books.

After taking a deep breath and almost falling out of my seat when seeing that gorgeous piece of eye candy that is called a book cover, I knew that I needed to get my hands on this novel. With Various Positions hot and bothering my mind in ever way possible when reading the word ballet in the synopsis, I entered the story on cautious feet.

A slow start was what we as readers are given with Dance of Shadows. Yes, it's a long novel, but the beginning does not have to be a dreadfully slow bus stuck in rush hour traffic. It came to a point that I threw all the genres (paranormal, mystery, romance) out the window and slapped contemporary in big, bold lettering over this work, because it takes Dance of Shadows a ridiculous amount of time to get the ball rolling in any of those catagories. In the beginning you learn that Vanessa had been following in her sister, Margret's, shoes, she goes off to the New York Ballet Academy to figure out what happened to her prodigal sister who'd disappeared after landing the lead role in an upcoming dance recital. But, honestly, that mystery is lost time and again when Vanessa is caught in a rush of dancing, roaming around the City, and trying to catch the eyes of her ballet instructor. Margret is lost within the temptation of this new world Vanessa is caught up in.

Once the incoming mystery and darkness sweeps up from under the reader's feet, Dance of Shadows really does grab you and suck you in, making you wonder what's going to happen next and what is really going on behind closed doors at this prestigious dance academy. 

Then another roadblock makes its way into the story and I just found myself gawking at the flat, one-dimensional supporting characters that Ms. Black had produced as Vanessa's friends throughout the story. And Vanessa is no piece of cake either. Though she is the strongest constructed character of them all, besides the dance teachers, I found myself red in the face at how incompetent she was in her choice of male love interest. I, with a sound mind and deep intuition about these things, could see from a mile away what mess Vanessa was getting herself into. The signs were all there. Right in front of her, LITERALLY. But she, like many oblivious YA heroines out there, failed to understand the intent behind the guy that she though she could trust. And at that moment in time I was ready to chuck my computer to the side, take a pillow, plant my face through said pillow, and let God know how I really felt at that moment in time. Characters: need improvement.

As the book went on, the more I really enjoyed the world building, the less I liked the characters and the info dumps and important-parts-of-the-story-that-should-have-been-brought-up-or-explained-earlier-in-the-story-rather-than-towards-the-very-end-confusing-the-shit-out-of-me and just the rush of the ending and the motives all in one final blow. I lifted my face from my screen, blinked numerous times, and asked my dogs sitting down at my feet "What in the Lord did I just finish reading?" and even they cocked their heads to the side, confused. There was so much confusion in that room that I just couldn't even handle it. So I went downstairs, went out to dinner, got back to college, and took two months to digest the novel. And I had knocked this book down from three stars on Goodreads, down to two after really getting into the gut of this large mess that I wish Dance of Shadows hadn't been.

Final Summation: There was major critiquing that needed to be done with this novel. Parts rearranged, information spread out, characters more developed to actually be considered characters. You know those stories where you just can't even remember a character's name after they had just been introduced countless times, you know they're not going in a direction you were really hoping for. Dance of Shadows was a huge let down, and I'm always so upset when a gorgeous cover goes to waste on a badly put together novel.

First Line: In the harsh glare of the lights, ChloĆ«’s shadow stretched across the stage.
Story: B
Cover: XS