I recently read As I Descended by Robin Talley, and absolutely loved it. I thought I’d share my thoughts on this book with you.
This is a spoiler-free review, so if you haven’t read the book it’s okay. I have read Macbeth, so please keep that in mind when reading this review, as my knowledge of the original story has impacted the way I read and view this novel.
please note. there is a very unhealthy and abusive relationship in this book
As I Descended
author: Robin Talley
number of pages: 370
published: September 6th, 2016
genre: fantasy, retelling
my rating: 4/5 stars
“From the acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley, comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.
Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—but one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. But Delilah doesn’t know that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to unseat Delilah for the scholarship. After all, it would lock in Maria’s attendance at Stanford—and assure her and Lily four more years in a shared dorm room.
Together, Maria and Lily harness 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’s imagined, the girls must attempt to put a stop to the chilling series of events they’ve accidentally set in motion”
I would recommend reading Macbeth or watching a film adaptation of the play before you read the novel. Just because, I think, it makes the reading experience a lot more enjoyable.
I went into this book knowing that it was a Macbeth retelling, with an f/f relationship. Little did I know, this book was literally flooded with diversity. There is; LGBT representation, a character that is living with a disability/chronic pain and Hispanic characters. I love retellings, and I love retellings with characters I can relate to.
there were problems that other people had with the book, things that I did pick up on while listening to the audio book. Leah (from the blog Small Queer Big Opinions) has a goodreads review about some of the problems, not only they had but also I had, with this novel.
The book is split into five acts, and each chapter was named after an important quote. I also liked how each chapter title was an important quote from the original play. There were so many little things which were from the original play which was added in.
I appreciated how there were aspects of the original play scattered throughout the novel. Things such as; the dagger, toil and trouble (which was a video game), Lily/Lady Macbeth trying to wash the blood of her hands, as well as the football field being named Dunsinane. There were other things, such as the scholarship being called the Cawdor Kingsley Prize. I didn’t pick up on this until I finished the book, mostly because for the majority of the novel it was just called the Kingsley Prize.
Other than physical things in the novel. The characters names somewhat echo the original Shakespeare characters names. Macbeth is Maria, Lady Macbeth is Lily, Macduff is Mateo, Banquo is Brandon, and Duncan is Deliah. I loved the fact that there is that small connection between the names of the original characters. Something I really appreciated was that all of the characters, even though you could see aspects of the original Shakespeare characters in them, they were still their own character.
Robin Talley was able to change iconic scenes from the play without changing the essence of the scenes. Throughout the entire novel, even though it was a modern retelling, you could still sense that it was Macbeth, or at least inspired by Macbeth.
something I really would’ve liked to see was the students actually going to classes and doing homework or actually interacting with teacher/adults. We didn’t see a lot of this, and at times it was easy to forget that they were actually high school students at a boarding school. There was quite a lot of conversation about college scholarships, campus security, and homecoming. But the lack of classes, teachers, and assignments made it feel more like they were just a group of people who lived in the same block of apartments.
Something that didn’t make a lot of sense to me was, why Maria needed the scholarship. It is made very clear that Maria is a very intelligent and appears to be a well-rounded student. It seems ridiculous to think that she wouldn’t have gotten accepted into Stanford University.
I have recently been tweeting my thoughts on the books I’m currently reading. I thought I’d include a link to that thread in here, just in case anyone wanted to read them or find out more of my in the moment thoughts
overall I really enjoyed this book. it was a fun entertaining read. If you loved Macbeth then you’ll love this book, I guarantee it!
let me know if you’ve read this book and what you thought of it in the comments.