I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe
Published by Wednesday Books on 2022-02-15
Length: 342 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2022, 2022 New Release Challenge, COYER 2022
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.
Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all...
A loose retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe takes place over the course of one day, following Mae and her role in the Prosper family. I have never read The Tempest so I personally cannot compare the two. What I can say is that I enjoyed Cohoe’s melding of 1920s culture and magic. It made for a compelling read.
Mae herself is an okay character. I didn’t hate her, but I also didn’t love her. She’s an unreliable narrator as a lot of what happens is shown from her POV with her own emotions and feelings skewing the action. As an orphan of a former servant of the family, Mae keeps to herself, hoping the Prosper family will allow her to continue to live in her father’s cottage. But on the eve of her 18th birthday, it’s announced that Mae will marry Ivo, the heir apparent, much to her dismay.
Ivo I liked. He’s a quirky character whom we don’t really get to know in great detail. Mae is attracted to him and also scared of him. He is a magician, fueling the magic that feeds the island and gives the Prosper’s their fortune. Yet he is hiding a lot of secrets, the burden weighing heavy on his shoulders. The heaviest weight of all is what he has done to Mae without her own knowledge.
While I loved Ivo, the setting, and even the concept of the story itself, it was poorly executed. There are large plot holes, which can be written off as a part of Mae’s unreliable narration. But they were distracting to me. I kept thinking I was missing a page or skipped a scene when I didn’t. I also didn’t pick up that the entire book took place in one day. There are parts that truly drag out, making it seem like it is happening over a week instead of 24 hours. There is also a love triangle that is eye roll inducing and implodes as part of the main plot.
Overall, I thought this one was an okay read. I enjoyed the magical realism and 1920s setting. I also enjoyed all of Mae’s and Ivo’s interactions and wouldn’t be opposed to reading more about the Prosper family and their island. Mae’s narration adds to the mystery/thriller element of the book which is one of the reasons I’d say this is a compelling read as you need to find out what happens next. Bright Ruined Things is a Gatsby-esque thrill complete with magic, romance, and fireworks.