Book Review: Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

15755965Title: Dance of Shadows

Author: Yelena Black

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: 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…

I rated this book a 2-star total, and I think that’s being mild. I have no idea why anyone even decided to publish this crap. There are tons and tons of potential manuscripts out there that are ten times as well-written as this book, that have characters with actual depth and a storyline that makes sense. Dance of Shadows has neither of those, and yet it was picked up. The book doesn’t even look edited. It has major flaws screaming from the pages. The writing is mediocre, but unfortunately that’s only one of the many things wrong with this book. I can’t get over the fact someone chose to publish this, in its current form, riddled with awkward, run-on sentences and flat characters who make Bella Swan look three-dimensional. Needless to say I’m not impressed. At all.

Let’s start with the premise, and probably the only thing remotely good about this book. Vanessa, the MC, is an excellent ballet dancer but she’s not passionate about dancing, not like her sister Margaret was. Margaret went to a prestigious ballet academy in New York city and vanished soon after, while she was working on a dance named The Firebird. Vanessa is determined to find her sister and traces in Margaret’s footsteps. She joins the academy, meets some new friends and is blissfully unaware of the danger lurking behind every corner of the academy. Which actually shows a lot of ignorance on her part, but whatever. The first chapter basically gives away the entire plot, and that’s a shame, because when all else fails, the plot is the only thing that can keep a reader go on reading. Well, in the first chapter we see how Chloé, a ballerina, dances herself to ashes, lured in by some dark power. That grabbed my attention, but I was hoping there would, of course, be more meat to the plot. What is the use of having a plot, and a rather intriguing premise, if you’re going to give it all away in the first chapter? Right, no purpose, like most of the stuff in this book.

Vanessa, our main character, is the worst main character I’ve ever read about. She has no personality. No really, even a cardboard figure has somewhat of a personality compared to her. Vanessa is dumb, ignorant and annoying, but there’s no consistency there. Her personality, if any, is so small and insignificant I couldn’t grasp it. There was no way to predict what she’s do because all her emotions were random. Her romantic feelings for a guy named Zeppelin Gray were plain ridiculous. I had to wonder if the author has the slightest idea of how teenagers think. Because I’ve seen some ridiculous love affairs in YA, but this tops everything. Vanessa thinks Zep is good-looking, and she keeps on eyeing him like a creepy spy. No harm done there though, it’s not forbidden to look at someone. However, he looks back at her, they make a connection and poof. Let’s not forget that while all this happens, Zep is actually together with a ballerina named Anna. But he sees Vanessa and she sees him, and well, he breaks off with Anna for no good reason and leaves cryptic notes for Vanessa. They meet up on a date, I’m not even sure if they kiss because it was all that bland and boring, and poof, they’re together. Not to mention that afterwards he keeps on disappearing, acts totally guilty and borderline insane, and has even less personality than Vanessa. I’m serious, if you asked me to name one personality trait of Zep, I couldn’t do it. Because he has no personality. He’s as undeveloped as it can get, and I can’t believe the main relationship of this book would be between two personality-less characters, have no depth whatsoever and make absolutely no sense. How the heck can Zep love her or even care for her? They went on one date and as far as I know they did absolutely nothing that insists on romantic feelings. Why the heck would she trust Zep? He broke off with his last girlfriend on a whim and then he keeps on disappearing. And is Vanessa really so stupid, ignorant and naive not to think for one second he may have something to do with what’s going on in the academy? My main question when reading this book was WTF. Seriously, every page was another WTF-ery. I’m proud I made it to the end of this horror, but it was a waste of time and this book a waste of paper.

Let’s talk about the supportive cast next. Vanessa meets a ton of uninteresting, boring side characters that have names but no faces or personalities the moment she walks through the doors of the ballet school. One of them, Elly, vanishes by the end of the first week. It was so obvious to me what happened to Elly that I wanted to slap Vanessa and her so-called friends for not figuring out sooner. Maybe if the author hadn’t given away the entire plot in the first chapter, I would’ve had a bit more trouble figuring it out as well. Anyway, Vanessa and the doofus squad never find out what happened to Elly, and it’s never properly explained as well, and after a while everyone starts acting like it never happened. The side characters are so uninspired and bland I forgot nearly all their names, and I’m glad I did. They don’t make much of an impression.

Then there’s Justin, the only one who seems to have a clue of what’s going on, which instantly makes him the most interesting person in the entire book. But alas, instead of turning him into a possible good friend / mentor / maybe even love interest, he falls flat again and takes on the role of creepy stalker turning up uninvited anywhere. Yuck. And whereas Vanessa hates him at first, she falls for him the moment Zep is out of the picture. Talk about shallow. There’s no indication whether Justin likes her though, and I’m kind of hoping he doesn’t and she’s the laughing stock of the century. However, Justin would be about fifty times as interesting and reliable as Zep, so I’d get why she’d choose him instead, except not while she’s still proclaiming her undying love for aforementioned Zep.

Let’s get back to Margaret, because after all, she’s the main reason why Vanessa came to the academy since she cares nothing about ballet. Now I get some people are talented, but ballet takes a lot of effort and discipline, no matter how talented you are, two qualities Vanessa lacks but obviously doesn’t need because she’s oh so freaking talented. Mary Sue syndrome, anyone? Even the most talented ballet dancers need tons and tons of practice. I can imagine that for ballet dancers this book must be quite insulting, because it’s practically a parody of what ballet is truly like. Anyway, the Margaret mystery remains unsolved even by the end of this book. We have a faint clue, but no definite answers. Make room for the sequel, that means. However, it was the only interesting thing about this entire book and that it’s not solved annoyed me endlessly. What a boring, dull way to drag out a plot and turn what should’ve been one book into a series.

Next up is the paranormal element. So Vanessa’s teachers dabble into the occult, and they need dancers with extreme skills to fulfill some kind of ritual. If it fails, the dancers turn into ashes. Well, I’m willing to buy that plot. But why has no one, EVER, noticed the disappearance of dozens of dancers from the academy? I doubt all ballet academies have such high disappearance rates that it’s common. People don’t just vanish. Of course, one or two disappearances over the course of a few years I could’ve lived with. But dozens? Maybe even hundreds? Ugh. Someone is about to look into that and see a connection, and I doubt the only one interested in solving this mystery would be a bunch of high school kids.

The book is repetitive as well. I felt like we were in the same rehearsal over and over again. There was no story progression, no plot moving forward, and nothing happened for large periods of time. The pacing was off as well. Sometimes the author rushed through scenes that needed more time to be fleshed out, like the beginning romance between Zep and Vanessa, and then she dragged on scenes that were uselesss or unnecessary. She also focused way too much on details that didn’t help us picture the scene, and left out possible descriptions that could’ve helped. For example, instead of describing Vanessa’s new room, she starts talking about Steffie (roommate) and her earrings, which is totally unnecessary. The descriptions that were there were flat and showed no real picture. It felt like the book had been written in a rush, without any real care for the characters or setting. But this isn’t just the writer’s fault. Editors should’ve caught the hollow, empty descriptions and the inconsistencies thrown all across this book. It had potential, but fell flat in every single way.

Lastly I’ll mention the writing. It wasn’t redeeming. The dialogue was immature, sometimes even downright ridiculous. Teenagers don’t talk that way. Secondly, the writing itself used generic words. It was flat and uninspired, like most of this book. I understand this is a debut novel, but I would’ve expected a greater quality writing. Regardless, if all else would’ve been great, I would’ve been able to look past the sloppy writing job, but as it stands now, with everything else being a disaster, I can’t ignore the bad writing on top of that.

I don’t recommend this book to anyone. The only other time I felt so passionate about not reading something was with The Vampire Diaries books. The thing that annoys me most with Dance of Shadows however is that it had potential. The premise was intriguing. That’s the only good thing about this book though, and it’s not enough for me to even remotely like it. I gave the book two stars for the premise and effort, but that was me being generous. Don’t waste your money on this book. And if you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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