Bright Ruined Things
February 15th, 2022
Young Adult Fantasy
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 island’s magic and its spirits. 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.
But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends 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 realizes 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. As Mae and her friends 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.
Though I've said it before, The Tempest is my favorite Shakespeare work.. so it should come as no surprise that when I spotted a new retelling in 'Bright Ruined Things' by Samantha Cohoe.. I was quick to want to read it.
While the original story is rife with those signature dramatic swings, Cohoe managed to put me through the emotional wringer with her take on the classic. I found myself in tears at times I didn't expect to be, wondering how I got there.. and by the end my eyes were just an aching, swollen mess.
Cohoe does a beautiful job of developing the reader's feelings toward her characters, both for better and worse. The relationships amongst the family and our protagonist.. Mae Wilson.. are all extremely complicated. Each character is richly layered in their own right and while we're learning about them, many of them are still learning about themselves as well.
There's no stated era, but somehow the story feels like it takes place in the Forties. Everything centered around the family has a glamorous sheen to it, in no small part I'm sure due to the abundance of Prosper wealth.. with anything beyond them seeming to be just a distant echo in the background.
I really enjoyed Mae and her struggle to carve out a better place for herself. She's a likable character even when she's self-pitying a bit and I wanted to cheer her on. Likewise, I love the depth reverberating within Ivo, Miles, and Coco. Almost no one is really what they seem to be and their truth is so much more interesting than their image.
The themes of betrayal were harnessed expertly, the magical elements were creative and distinctively rendered in the mind's eye of the reader, and there is such a feeling of loss that just builds throughout the story. There are lessons here to be learned.. perhaps about right and wrong, the many shades of unkindness, and most definitely about the pain of hindsight.
Sitting here now in the silent aftermath of this read, I am deeply moved by all of them. It's a beautiful book and I'd highly recommend it for anyone who might enjoy the story of power.. in its many forms.. that comes at a cost. If you enjoyed The Chosen and the Beautiful, These Violent Delights, or Where Dreams Descend.. this is probably the one for you.