Bright Ruined Things

Wednesday Bks. Oct. 2021. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250768841.
Gr 9 Up–Known as the obedient, orphaned steward’s daughter, Mae has dreamed all her life of training as a magician on the Prospers’ island, center of all aether magic and home of docile spirits who serve the Prosper family. Readers will grip onto the thread of mystery 18-year-old Mae discovers after witnessing a dying spirit and the turbulent revelations about the influential Prosper family, their magic, and the price of Mae’s own dreams. The narrative, set in a sparkling Roaring Twenties aesthetic, takes place over a day and a night, leaving readers with much family drama to absorb as they follow Mae into the darkness behind the Prospers’s prestige. Personal ambitions define every character in this fast-paced, dialogue-heavy fantasy, but readers’ understanding of the backstories—and seemingly precipitous consequences—of these desires are limited by Mae’s first-person narration. Declarations, rather than explorations, of character, emerge from Mae’s conversations and internal thoughts, as she waffles among her longing to belong, be free, or feel worthy, depending on the person with whom she interacts. Romance and tests of friendship emerge amid themes of free will, colonization, power, and self-knowledge, an unbalanced meld that weighs on the characters’ decisions and thrilling conclusion.
VERDICT This dizzying struggle over power, magic, and dreams will sink readers into this fantasy’s web of ambition and family tension. A strong choice for libraries serving teens.

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