Ok, let’s get one thing out of the way…
I’m sorry. I had to. I continue to be a massic Once Upon a Time fan and as soon as I wrote the title to this blog post, I knew this gif had to happen. But let’s get to the book.
Bright Ruined Things tells the story of Mae who has only ever lived on this magical island along with the Prosper family. But while they come and go, she never leaves the island. Why would she want to? It’s magical!
But as the big event of the year arrives, so do truths that Mae could have never imagined.
(this is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but since I haven’t read that, I can’t really say how well it represents/subverts the themes in that story)
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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…
I actually requested this book by accident. I saw the title, the cover, and the synopsis, and was like YES PLEASE! And then I saw the author and was like…oh no. I didn’t love her first book (I DNF’d it) so I was a little nervous I was going to feel just as meh about this one.
Luckily, I was wrong!
This book is so complex and dark and does not go anywhere you think it will go. It’s also very hard to talk about without spoiling huge plot points.
But the island is run using ether or magic that is coming from these caves/mountains. Lord Prosper has harnessed it so he can have magic of his own, but also so he can control spirits that work as servants around the estate.
What these spirits actually are is chilling. I do wonder if the author is saying something about colonialism. That’s what I got from it, but I’m not exactly sure that’s what she was going for. Especially with the way things end on the island. If that was the case, I wish she had been more obvious about it.
But let’s get away from the possible message and go to the characters.
I think Mae was the perfect main character and perspective to write from. She is flawed, under the spell of the family, and wishes for nothing more than to be accepted by them. Because of that, she believes things much longer than she should. But that’s a good thing. At least for the story.
Because, in real life, even when the truth is hitting you in the face, you don’t always believe it right away. I like how that was shown through Mae.
And the magic of the island and the goodness of the Prosper family is not the only thing messing with Mae’s head. She has boy issues too!!
She has been in love with Miles since forever but beyond friends, he doesn’t see her that way at all. But that changes as the story goes on.
Then there is Ivo, the outcast of the Prosper grandchildren, who is actually learning magic from their grandfather (Lord Prosper) and who the adults in the family agree Mae should marry.
Mae, on the other hand, is not enthused with that option. They were friends for a month or two but then he caught her snooping in his hut and was PISSED. Now, she’s really just scared of him.
But as the story goes on, it’s clear that Ivo definitely has feelings for her and he’s loyal, almost to a fault.
Unfortunately, once the truth is out, Mae doesn’t know who to believe.
Ok, let’s get one thing clear. Mae should have ended up with Ivo. Miles is a dick. The ending is open so we don’t know exactly who is alive or who is with whom in this little love triangle, but let’s just say….there were moments when I was reading this and shouting “GO BACK TO IVO!!!”
As for the other characters on the island and in the Prosper family, HOLY SHIT, they are all complicated and it’s like a dream come true for me. I love a character that’s not all good or bad.
Like yes, most of them couldn’t give a shit about Mae when the story starts off, but they also have their own demons to deal with.
I also LOVE the way the book deals with memories and how magic can take memories from people without them knowing and what that removal does to those people. I have always thought that yeah, memories can hurt like shit, but they can lead you places that are a hell of a lot better than where you’d go if you didn’t have them.
Overall, while this book wasn’t everything I wanted (Miles should have been punched multiple times), it’s a pretty good read. Definitely something I would reread.
I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.
If you love dark magic, a big helping of “things are not what they seem,” some romance, plenty of thrill, a touch of running for your lives, and a pinch of glamour, you need to check out Bright Ruined Things.
Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe is available now!
Thank you to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for the free eARC in exchange for my honest review.
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