Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe is an interesting historical retelling. Mae has only known a life of agreeing to things to be liked- but that’s all about to change.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.
Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all…
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.
In this YA fantasy, Samantha Cohoe wonderfully mixes magic and an atmospheric setting into a fantastically immersive world, with characters you won’t be able to forget.
“Magic was the silent, constant power behind everything I knew, stronger and stranger than the sea.”
Full disclaimer, I have never read the Tempest. However, I do know I like Shakespearean retellings, and adding “Gatsby” vibes sold me. The mystery around the family on the island and their magic was truly this book’s actual selling point, and I enjoyed it a lot. However, as with Cohoe’s previous book, getting to the interesting bits was tedious at times. This book focuses more on who Mae is and who the family thinks Mae is. This would be fine if Mae were an enjoyable character to read, but unfortunately, she wasn’t.
“And it was good to fear the sea, wasn’t it? Even if you loved the sea, learned about the sea, swam in it, and lived of it. Even more, then. If the sea threatened a storm, you stayed out of it.”
Mae wants nothing more than to be liked by the family around her. She simply does not tell them no, ever, for this purpose. I think this was a hindrance more than a help, as, her character growth doesn’t happen until someone calls it out. This made her character growth feel, inherently, like she was still doing it just to please someone else. I desperately wanted more for Mae. I wanted her to get magic, and to get her revenge on this family. However, she consistently falls back into doing whatever would please others. I found this incredibly frustrating and mind-numbing to read.
“I didn’t fear magic, exactly, but I respected it.”
The romance in this book was boring, as no one had any genuine connections. Truly, the greatest aspect of this book was the magic within it. I wish we had gotten more information on the magical world, and more action around it. Most of the time, Mae is bound away from magic. There is a great mystery and we only find out the details of it in the last 75%. This was a slow build-up to a quick wrap-up, and I left wanting more. I genuinely wanted to like this book more than I did.
“And I’m finished trying to wring more love from your family.”
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.