Book Review

Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe


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 am not at all familiar with Shakespeare’s The Tempest and was not aware this book was a retelling. So, I cannot compare the two. Sadly, I did not like this story too much. There were interesting ideas, but the execution lacked. The tempo of this story was slow, but that was not an issue for me. With what type of story this was, if executed well, it would have worked. The ending was not a favorite of mine; it did not give me the satisfaction I was looking for.   

Mae, who is the main character, did nothing to impress me as a reader. I tried to like her, but the more I read, the more annoyed I ended up being. Her decisions throughout the story were not surprising for me, as a reader, but they helped with her character arc. Even though I did not feel for the character, Mae had a character growth and was a well-written character.

For the rest of the cast, I could not connect with them as I would have liked. The only thing I liked about Coco was her spunk. Ivo, for me, was someone I was not sure if I was supposed to hate him or like him. Miles was only thinking about helping his mother, who never showed up in the story itself. The rest of the family felt like rich brats, which I guess would be very in character for them with this type of story feel. As for the romance, it felt forced and, as a reader and myself, I was trying to figure out if it was a love triangle or if there were four like a…. love circle?

This story setting was based on an island, but where, was not clarified, and when spoken about the mainland, there was still no clarification. The world building was interesting but felt like it needed more. I did not understand the spirits even though it was explained; it did not grasp for me. The time era felt kind of like the 1920s, but even that was not clear. The speech tempos and slang did not scream 1920s. I had to guess by how the women dressed and acted. The magic in this story was interesting, but I did not feel the author flushed the magic out as it should have been.

Even though this book was not for me, it does not mean I will not recommend it. If this book intrigues you, then I would encourage you to read it. You never know, you may like this story. If you like this style of writing, fantasy, magic, 1920s era, and Shakespeare retellings, then I recommend you giving this a try.

*I received an ARC from NetGalley and this is my honest opinion

I give this book a 3/5

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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