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As I Descended

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“Something wicked this way comes.”

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

370 pages, Hardcover

First published September 6, 2016

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About the author

Robin Talley

12 books1,464 followers
I live in Washington, D.C., with my wife, our baby daughter, an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. Whenever the baby's sleeping, I'm probably busy writing young adult fiction about queer characters, reading books, and having in-depth conversations with friends and family about things like whether Jasmine's character motivation was sufficiently established in Aladdin.

My website is at http://www.robintalley.com, and I'm on Twitter and Tumblr.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 805 reviews
Profile Image for Madeleine.
229 reviews40 followers
October 15, 2016
Lesbian Macbeth?


UPDATE 8/28/16
So, apparently The Strand fucked up and I now have a copy of this book early. So here's my pre-publication opinion, which I smugly give because I never get to do this:

Short answer: If you like the tagline of this book, you will like this book. The tone was incredibly spooky, it had a great setting, the diversity was inclusive and refreshing, it definitely told the story in a new way.

Long answer: If you are a snobbish, nit-picky nerd like me, you will take some issue with this book. To elaborate, I probably know too much about Macbeth to be easily pleased by this subject matter. I spent a semester studying adaptations of Macbeth. So I couldn't just let this be a spooky book that was based on that play I read in high school. I was in deep, man.

My primary issue with plot is the motivation. Maria is competing with top-of-their-class Delilah for a scholarship. They attend a Southern prep school and it is no secret everyone has money to blow. Maria is a model student, involved in the community and has a perfect application going for her. Her girlfriend, Lily, is going to Stanford. She needs to follow Lily to Stanford. Apparently she needs this scholarship to get into Stanford. Here's the thing: colleges tend to have a soft spot for students who have glowing credentials and can pay their whole way through school. Maria would have gotten into Stanford. She is a Latina daughter of a politician with amazing grades, athletics, and social requirements. So the great hurdle to overcome doesn't seem like the scholarship is that important. There's no indication she wouldn't get in if she just applied.

So already this scholarship seems like life-and-death, but there's no...reason...to...get...so...crazy... about it...?

This is why doing books about spoiled, elite teenagers is kind of hard. It's supposed to depict them with problems, if money is like magic, you have to make rules for why it doesn't work that easily.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are adults of established station who have made their choices in life and decide that's not good enough and make the conscious decision to royally fuck up everything. Lily and Maria are just kids, kids who are not even out of the closet yet. Their lives haven't even started, is what I'm saying. If Maria's primary motivation is following her girlfriend to college, a relationship that in all likelihood end before they reach orientation week, the story is something very different. It's not about greed as much as it's about...being spoiled. Teenage entitlement.

This also really softens the blow of the guilt theme because Maria has the least amount of accountability for everything that she does, as though the narrative can't handle a Macbeth that actually murders. My favorite Macbeths tend to have three motivating forces in their actions: The supernatural force of the witches, the pressure of Lady Macbeth, and their own desire. These need to balance each other to make for a good character study. Some blame the witches entirely, or Lady Macbeth for not just getting back in the kitchen, or my hate-favorite is the Polanski depiction if the witches as hags alone out on a moor that no one would rightfully believe, ever. It's a delicate balance, and easy to mess up.

In As I Descended, it's all the witches. But not even witches. Literal ghosts that do everything. So our Macbeth has nothing to do. She drugs Delilah to get her to fail a drug test, effectively booting her off of every glowing pedestal she has beaten Maria to the top of. Lily provides her with the drugs and the peer pressure. Lily makes a mistake about what drug it is. So having not made the mistake nor obtained the drugs, Maria accidentally gives Delilah LSD, and the LSD and some ghosts scare Delilah into jumping out a window. So Maria only accidentally makes Delilah really susceptible to ghosts.

Second murder is directly caused by ghosts. Maria asks for their help and they give someone a heart attack.

I really hate how this is also a witch-less Macbeth, though ghosts tend to take over that job. Maria, Lily, and the guy meant to be Banquo play with a Ouija Board, and their game is crashed (literally) by a chandelier before they can say "Gooodbye" to the ghosts, which is what you're really supposed to do so they let loose the ghosts of, well, white guilt in this Old Southern Mansion that has the blood of hundreds of slaves on its hands. Which is, well, none of the students' faults, but they suffer for it because white guilt (only one of the three is white...?). There's a lazy slavery subplot to justify the ghosts, but it's not the everyday horrors of slavery that haunt the house, it's one bad apple burning his entire household to the ground. So no one's to blame but him? Slavery wasn't shorthand enough that bad things happened there?

So the ghosts are really the ones manipulating what's going on, a specific Mexican ghost story latching onto Maria to get her to give them the power to do evil in the real world. Maria might have magic power? It's not really directly addressed.

What I'm saying is, Macbeth is about murder. It's about the consequences of desire. It's about guilt.

Taking away Macbeth's accountability completely takes away from the story. Yes, the witches make you question if he would have been capable of this without the power of suggestion, but Maria just kind of thinks something bad about someone and the ghosts then kill them, and Maria suffers for...thoughts? Bad intentions? I just want to see someone get stabbed. It's just such a hands-off Macbeth. Maria is not more likable for having less of a direct role in the tragedy. Especially for a shitty motivation and a lack of development.

One of the big gender issues that also snared me a little was that Lily, now supposed to be the brains behind the murder operation, somehow has to appear lesser than her Macbeth, which is the primary motivation of Lady Macbeth's character:


"Unsex me here" "I wish I was a dude because then I could stab a guy in the face", all that jazz. In this version, Lily is crippled and on crutches, which I get handicaps her from the act of murder, but I'm still... on the fence about that translation. It's a choice, credit where credit is due.

Though my favorite adaptive choice was instead of killing Macduff equivalent's family,

Yeah, this one...I'm sure if I studied this less I would like it, but there's really not a lot of joy to it, it's just really saturated with ghosts. There's not a page where a ghost doesn't show up, or someone is too scared to sleep because of ghosts, or someone is talking about ghosts. You never really get a sense of the characters. And for the claims for diversity, that really bugged me. Brandon and Mateo's defining characteristics are gay. Maria and Lily are guilty and sapphic. We get that Lily loves Maria, and Maria loves Lily, but we're never really shown WHY. We're definitely told that, but take away a steamy shower scene and they might as well be every killer BFF clique cliche that we've already seen. This is like what tumblr thinks it wants out of a book; a checklist of diversity, but quality didn't run deeper than the surprisingly easy choice to make everyone gay. EVERYONE was gay. And I'm COMPLAINING about it.

So this one is a good spooky read, but don't let a good concept cloud your judgement. I wanted more out of this experience.
Profile Image for Riley.
422 reviews20.5k followers
June 27, 2018
This was so great! It was equal parts creepy and fun. I loved all the representation in it. Hispanic characters, f/f romance, m/m romance, disabled character. Also the inclusion of hispanic folklore was a pleasant surprise. The story of La Llorona is one I was told as a child, so it was cool to see that present in this book.

Highly recommend if you love Macbeth, or even if you haven't read it.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
June 14, 2019
There was nothing out there. Nothing up in the sky or below the dirt or walking beside them on the ground. There were just people. Good people, like her and Maria. Assholes, like the truck driver who'd slammed into the minivan and screwed up Lily's legs. And random people, like the other kids at Acheron, who she guessed were somewhere in between.

Well, I had a few problems, but guys: sapphic girl Macbeth. And really, really creepy. Definitely worth reading.

The primary strength of As I Descended is probably the aesthetic of it all. I love creepy boarding school books, and the eerie gothic element of this one was definitely a hit - a few scenes are genuinely a bit terrifying. This is one of those books where the atmosphere gives the whole book its character, to the point where it's hard not to get engaged and forget where you are. While the book isn't exactly fast, I found it really hard to put down.

And I really enjoyed all four of the lead characters. They're all terrible and gay and I love them. Maria, our bi Macbeth character, is ridiculously ambitious and probably would've won most likely to rule the world if she hadn't killed a person. Lily, our disabled lesbian Lady Macbeth character, is somewhat of an unapologetically terrible person and probably my favorite. Braedan, our Banquo character, is Maria's best friend and definitely did not deserve this. Mateo, our MacDuff character, is Braedan's boyfriend - which is possibly the best decision ever made in any Macbeth retelling - and enjoys dragging private school culture to hell and back.

The thing is, though, As I Descended fails as a good retelling of Macbeth. In my mind, the main thing that makes Macbeth work is that humans are utterly to blame. While yes, there's a touch of the supernatural, Macbeth is the one to blame for all his actions. The touch of supernatural here, though, takes over the book to the point where it could be argued ghosts are to blame rather than people. It's as if the author took the plot and the idea of the characters, but totally messed up the subtle things that make Macbeth work so well. You know, I could ignore this, and say it's not a retelling of Macbeth but rather a reimagining - my favorite Shakespeare reimagining of all time is Exit Pursued By a Bear, a book nothing like the play that came before (and coincidentially authored by someone who blurbed this book.) But this one feels too close to be so far. I felt as if As I Descended bled out my favorite parts of Macbeth; the character depth, the search for the human soul.

And I also thought the ending was disappointing. Spoiler-free thesis? It ended too quickly.

Okay, quick paragraph because I have discourse to mention. I'm aware people complained about bury-your-gays here, and it's fine if that bothered you personally - yes, some of the queer characters do die - but... um. guys. The entire cast is queer. The. Entire. Fucking. Cast. Bury your gays is an issue because it's always one already-tokenistic sapphic in an entirely straight cast who dies a super quick death written by some straight male author who immediately says questionably fetishistic things in some interview. This is not that. Also, hey, if you want all queer characters to be perfect angels, go read a contemporary and have a nice day. I, personally, enjoy my morally black characters. To be honest, I'm fucking ecstatic that we finally have queer characters who are morally grey too.

Maybe some of this can be attributed to weird expectations - I love Robin Talley, but she doesn't tend to be creepy. But all in all, though I appreciated elements quite a bit, I think this could've been better. Would recommend this as a good creepy read, but with hesitation.

TW for use of words like “cripple,” clearly called out, and a scene where a girl is essentially roofied.

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Profile Image for Stacee.
2,670 reviews701 followers
August 4, 2016
I have always enjoyed a good Shakespeare retelling, so imagine my excitement when I learned this was Macbeth.

First off, I was about 20% into the book and immediately knew I would love it and that I needed to slow down. It's so amazingly creepy that it left me feeling itchy when I was done with whatever section I was in. That creepy feeling never went away.

The cast of characters is small and large, if that even makes sense. The events of the book effects several people and how things start to unravel is hypnotic to read. It's all so perfect and intricate, I struggled with trying to pace myself.

Yes, this is horribly vague.
Yes, I know it's not a very good review.
Yes, I definitely think you need to read it.

**Huge thanks to Harper Teen and Edelweiss for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
852 reviews3,760 followers
April 25, 2017
3.5 stars.

This started off so wonderfully that at only a few chapters in I was thinking this could possibly be one of my favorite books of the year. I loved the characters and the eeriness and how it got right into things. However, as the book went on it started to feel less focused. It was a very accurate MacBeth retelling, but by the end I felt like the characters were just puppets going through the motions. I lost any connection with them. Additionally, the plot with the spirits felt weak. I kept waiting for more of a revelation or reason behind the events. I get that it was a retelling but I needed it to make sense in THIS context too, not just for the sake of staying true to MacBeth. I can't tell you why any of this happened.

This has gotten lots of recs as a diverse book so if you would like to know what representation you can find here, the 4 POV characters are a mixture of Hispanic and white, able bodied and physical disability, fat and thin, and they are in m/m (pretty sure both ID as gay) and f/f (I think one is bi and the other is lesbian) relationships.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,867 followers
October 3, 2016
For someone who doesn’t enjoy retellings at all, it’s odd that I keep finding Shakespeare-inspired books that thrill me and make me rethink my position. After Cat Winters’ The Steep and Thorny Way, As I Descended shows us that classics are classics for a reason and that things like ambition and jealousy are inherently human, and therefore always interesting and relevant.

Like Macbeth, As I Descended is divided into five acts, each inspired by its counterpart. Bloody knives and burning candles are taken directly from the original, but Talley took enough artistic liberties to make the story entirely her own. Ghosts and boarding schools always went well together and Talley used the connection better than most. Relying on an old Mexican legend about La Llorona, she created a heavy, ghost-filled, terrifying atmosphere.

Maria and Lily are a power couple at their boarding school, even though they are closeted. To be fair, though, their popularity falls entirely on Maria, who is second best at everything in their school. As a disabled girl, Lily was barely noticed before she got together with Maria and even now she’s only visible in Maria’s reflected glow. But Maria being second best isn’t enough for the girls. If they are to end up at the same university, Maria needs to win a prestigious scholarship, and for that they have to get rid of Delilah – unfair, sluttish, drug-using queen of Acheron Academy. Unwittingly, even stupidly, the girls team up with Acheron’s resident ghosts and are led on a downward spiral that can only end in tragedy.

As I Descended is practically bursting with diversity on all sides. If you’re looking for a book with LGBT themes, sobering thoughts on living with disabilities, and even a Latina heroine well-versed in Hispanic legends and culture (even though she often tries to hide it), As I Descended is the perfect book for you. Most importantly, all of it was blended so naturally, and in a book that isn’t primarily about diversity at all.

Unfortunately, Talley falls a bit short in characterization. She put a lot of effort into creating the right atmosphere, but the girls never quite become fully fleshed-out. Instead they remain just tools controlled by evil ghosts, without proper emotional depth or believable motivations. It’s difficult to care for props, and as much as I was entertained and frightened by their story, I was entirely indifferent to their fate.

Overall, As I Descended is a successful retelling of one of my favorite tragedies, and one of those ghost stories that hit just the right note at precisely the right time. What it lacks in characterization, it makes up for in many other ways.

Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,670 reviews1,268 followers
September 5, 2016
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

“The Kingsley Prize was half the reason Maria’s parents had sent her to Acheron instead of one of the day schools near their house in McLean.”

This was a YA paranormal story featuring ghosts.

The characters in this were okay, but I didn't really care what happened to them much. Maria was a bit spacey, whilst Lily came across as slightly homicidal, and the way she just took charge after a possible murder was a bit weird.

The storyline in this was about the strange events happening at a boarding school, and the mystery over whether these things were all happening due to evil spirits, or whether it was just a fight for a scholarship. The story didn't really hold my interest very well though, and although there was occasionally an interesting moment, even the mystery didn't suck me in.

The ending to this was okay, but I didn’t enjoy this as much as I expected.

6 out of 10
Profile Image for Korrina  (OwlCrate).
193 reviews4,576 followers
October 17, 2016
Really spooky book that had me up late reading. I loved the writing, the characters and the setting. Also the diversity! Highly recommend this for a book to read around Halloween.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
2,997 reviews796 followers
January 15, 2019
Galley provided by publisher

Rep: disabled lesbian mc, Latina bi mc, Latino gay side character, gay side character

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it's actually a good book, and well-written, and I liked most of the characters. On the other hand, I might describe it as an exercise in how not to write an LGBT Shakespeare adaptation (if I'm being particularly harsh).

It took me a while to get properly into this book. I read the first chapter, then had the sudden (late) revelation that everyone in Macbeth dies, and for a book full of LGBT main characters, that isn't what I want to be reading about. At which point, I took a two week hiatus from reading it.

When I finally picked it back up, it was less because I wanted to read it and more that I couldn't bear knowing it still needed finishing. And it was all going well up until the 60% mark, when and so did my motivation. Because I did know that someone was going to have to die, and the likelihood was that it would be an LGBT character, but I hadn't quite clocked that this one was the Banquo of the cast. And he was my favourite of the main characters.

This time there wasn't a two week pause, but I was pretty reluctant to pick it back up again. I think I skim read some of the scenes near the end in a desperate attempt to finish the book.

I'm not against characters dying, and I know that going into this that was to be wholly expected. And the characters didn't just die for shock value - they died because that was what Shakespeare wrote and the adaptation had to be mostly true to the play. What I didn't like was that 3 of the 4 LGBT characters in this book died. And one of them was the disabled character. Which seems pretty bad thinking from the author, in my opinion. I know their deaths aren't quite the same as authors who bury their gays, but it would have been so easy for, say the Banquo character, to go into a coma instead of dying. Or make them not gay. Or have the disabled character be the one who survives. I understand that's kind of hard if you're aiming to write a lesbian version of Macbeth, but I would so much rather have some bullshit deus ex machina reason for them living than read a book where three quarters of the LGBT characters die. And to top it off (aka the reason this pisses me off as much as it does), the straight character goes into a coma and wakes up. Thanks for that.

There were a couple of other bits I was leery about. When we first meet Mateo, and he's musing on Maria and Lily's relationship, he comments that both those girls seemed way too uptight to like pussy. Thanks mate. Then there's also the part where Maria, hearing Mateo has won a prize ahead of her, thinks something about him winning it because he's gay or whatever, conveniently seeming to forget that she has a girlfriend. But I suppose that's part of her deterioration towards the end.

Before both she and said girlfriend die.

At least Mateo got a happy ending, right?
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,460 reviews182 followers
January 23, 2021

Well, the rep in this book is outstanding.

It is really important to keep in mind that this is a YA sapphic reimagining of Macbeth. I say this because otherwise it feels like any other angst filled teen novel with girls and guys being backstabby, dramatic and whiny, in and amidst some spooky spectre action. The girls' slow descent into paranoia and madness was done quite well, as ambition, desire and guilt consume them. I liked Robin's interpretation of Macbeth in a high school setting with a major scholarship being the object of everyone's desire as opposed to the throne. I am a bit unsure about the paranormal aspect though. It kind of softened the brutality of Macbeth, which was likely the intent, but if you are going to add a chilling ghost element to a story then you should embrace it fully. There just weren't enough of the spooky scenes for me. The pacing is very slow which may not appeal to some Readers but I think this was an important part of the story telling, after all, Macbeth's and Lady Macbeth's madness creeps up slowly too. An entertaining book but I wanted more.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
1,966 reviews1,380 followers
September 26, 2016
I received this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. Thank you to the author, Robin Talley, and the publisher, HarperTeen, for this opportunity.

This is a tale than amalgamates time, genre and emotion into a cacophony of commotion! The contemporary setting, the YA genre tag and the synopsis concerning teen rivalries belied the horror and terror that ensued from the very first chapter. The unification of horror and contemporary has been unsuccessful in past experiences, but here the discord seems to work, somehow.

The boarding-school setting, the trite synopsis and the rehashing of well-used tropes was offset by the diversity of character and the fresh perspective. The horrifying paranormal aspects of the novel was worked into this Mean Girls revival and it actually worked!

I had, as you can probably tell, mixed emotions whilst reading this. I loved the diversity of character, the atmospheric paranormal scenes and the fluidity of the perspective alterations. I hated the pettiness and the bitchiness that was incorporated into every character. The parts focusing on this completely failed to grip me.

Despite my gripes, I have never read any other book that manages to amalgamate horror and YA contemporary so well before. For the most part, this utterly beguiled me and I haven't slept with the lights off since reading this, which I think says more about the power of this book than any of this review has...
Profile Image for Jillian .
425 reviews1,763 followers
September 21, 2016
it was spooky and i got goosebumps from time to time. i think the book had great diversity -- LGBT+ rep, a person living with a disability/chronic pain, a hispanic character and they weren't stereotypes or tokenized. they were written in an authentic way. unfortunately, i just didn't love the ending. it had a FANTASTIC beginning, intriguing middle, and then it was just done. i'm not sure what i wanted out of the ending but i was slightly disappointed. overall though, i enjoyed my reading experience. 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Aditi.
920 reviews1,320 followers
May 29, 2017
“Man is not, by nature, deserving of all that he wants. When we think that we are automatically entitled to something, that is when we start walking all over others to get it.”

----Criss Jami

Robin Talley, an American author, has penned an enthralling and chilling young adult fantasy book, As I Descended that is based on Shakespeare's popular play, Macbeth and revolves around two teenage girls fighting for a prestigious scholarship in their posh private boarding school and to get their hands on that scholarship, they are willing to go at any lengths, even to conspire with the residential ghosts of their school, to get rid of the topper of their class.


Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

Maria, the Latina teenage girl, and her closeted white lesbian girlfriend, Lily, would stop at nothing to make their shared goals come true, even if they have to kill someone to get there. Delilah, the star-child of their private Acheron Academy boarding school, will surely win the scholarship to get a full-ride to Stanford, but Maria and Lily, too are eyeing for that prize that will ensure their future together in a dorm room away from this small town. Unfortunately Maria is the second girl in her class and it is really hard to beat Delilah who holds the ultimate power to everything in their boarding school. So both Lily, who walks with a crutch because of a childhood accident, and Maria, must do something to stop Delilah winning that scholarship. And to achieve that, they must need some outside help, maybe help from the dead who still are believed to wander the grounds of their boarding school. Little did the girls knew that in order to save their relationship, they would have to traverse a downward spiral path to maybe death and cut-throat revenge.

Loosely based on Shakespeare's Macbeth, the author has come up with a creepy and extremely spellbinding young adult contemporary-cum-fantasy novel filled with dark magic, witchery, sorcery, ghosts and revenge, that will drown the readers into the depths of its mystery and thrill. The author has grasped the justification behind human's basic nature to fight for revenge and power with her excellent story telling where three girls are caught in the ultimate journey to revenge. Not only that, the romance element, especially the lesbian, bi and gay relationships are explored so well with passion and sensitivity so that common readers can easily feel the emotions exchanged among the diverse set of characters.

The backdrop of a boarding school suits aptly with the tale, where the cold school grounds and the lake inside the school property, along with that atmospheric setting perfectly falls in place with the story line. The readers are bound to get the spine-chilling sensation while reading this story. The writing is evocative and laced with intensity that will glue the readers into the heart of its story line. The narrative is engaging and are kept very close to realism, hence the readers will be able to contemplate with them. The pacing is moderate, as one twist after another keeps spilling in from the book, ultimately compelling the readers to keep turning the pages of this book until the very tragic climax.

Not only references from Shakespeare helps add a bewitching element to this enticing tale, but also a Hispanic folklore about La Llorona makes the tale even more enchantingly ghostly. While reading this book, now and then, I had to look behind my back, since it was giving me such level of creeps all through out the story line. This book is perfect for those looking for hair raising story filled with folklore, love and enough bloody drama to keep them thrilled till the very last page.

There is a myriad set of characters, who are unique, thoroughly diverse and realistic enough to make the readers believe in them and their demenaor. Although, they lack one important thing, that is, proper imitation. The portrayal of the characters are done poorly as most of the story is consumed with the revenge and the voices of the dead manipulating the humans seeking for revenge. It could have been a 5 star read if the characters spoke from their inner voices amidst their flaws and strong aspects. Since the characters play a major role in this story, hence this is where the story turns a bit bland.

In a nutshell, this is a must read young adult LGBT fantasy story where the plot thickens gradually with the hair raising events taking place one after another.

Verdict: A not so cliched teenage ghost story with a touch of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers from Harper Collins India for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.
Profile Image for K..
3,540 reviews999 followers
October 12, 2016
This...was way more horror based than I anticipated. I mean, it's a retelling of Macbeth. It was never going to be the most lighthearted book on the planet. But I wasn't expecting the ghost side of things to be quite as prominent as it was. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad thing - just an expected thing!


This book was creepy. But it was also incredibly compelling and wonderfully diverse. I sped through it because I was dying to know what was going to happen next. The four narrators - Maria, Lily, Brandon, and Mateo - all identify as LGBTQIA+. Maria is bisexual, Lily is a lesbian, and Brandon and Mateo are gay. So we're already winning in the diversity stakes. Add in the fact that Lily walks with crutches and is constant pain due to a car accident as a kid, and the fact that Maria and Mateo are Latinx and you've got yourself one hell of a diverse story.

So I loved the diversity and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. However, the motivations were...odd. Maria and Delilah are both ridiculously privileged. Regardless of whether or not they get the scholarship, they're going to end up attending whatever college they like. To me, it would have made more sense if it was two wrong-side-of-the-tracks scholarship students fighting it out for first place and a full ride to college. Because the scholarship being the decision maker on whether or not you actually get to attend college? That makes FAR more sense as a "Yes, killing this person is a thing we should do" motivation than "I just really want to win"...

Still, it was moody and creepy and a pretty damned fabulous modernisation.
Profile Image for Mike.
489 reviews171 followers
Want to read
August 15, 2017
If you are not excited by this premise, you're probably living your life wrong.
Profile Image for Joanna .
425 reviews84 followers
March 1, 2017
Wow this is a totally unpopular opinion here. I initially went into this book with the idea that I would give it three stars but as I continued to read it it just slowly dropped to a one star. This book was getting a lot of hype during Diversathon mid September because of its diverse characters. I mean the story is a lesbian retelling of Macbeth which piqued my interest immediately. Unfortunately it just didn't hold my interest all the way through.

Let's start with the characters. Maria is the main character and I felt like she was just a puppet. She didn't have her own opinion and she was led by Lily and then eventually the spirits. Because she didn't have her own voice, her motivation to wanting to claim the scholarship prize felt fake to me. It never seemed like something she wanted. Lilly was another character that didn't have much dimension. She's disabled with a jaded sense of humour but her main focus was hiding her relationship with Maria from everyone else and making sure that Maria remained at the top of the class so that they could go to a college where they could be together openly. Lily wasn't really her own person though either. She solely depended on Maria. She felt incomplete without her and we all know that half of a person is almost no one at all. Brandon was a funny character that brought slight comic relief. He wasn't around much so we didn't really get to bond with him and he was so different from Maria and Lily that I didn't really understand what he gained from being their friend or what he brought to their group friendship. Mateo is Brandon's boyfriend and surprisingly becomes a person of interest in the story later on which I wasn't expecting because he appeared to not give a damn about Brandon at all at first. I honestly didn't think their relationship was all that serious.In fact I was sure he was going to dump Brandon because he was becoming clingy. Delilah was the overachieving mean girl and she played the part well. Though she is missing for the majority of the book she was the most interesting. You wanted to find out what made her tick and why she was a superstar during the day and so destructive at night.

The overall plot of the book was insubstantial to say the least. I don't feel that the ends justify the means here. Maria didn't act like she wanted to win this award and therefore her motivation lacked conviction. I felt that this book dragged on unnecessarily. It was filled with chapters about stupid ghost and spirits attacking the other characters for no real purpose. It was all just unnecessary. I garnered nothing from any of those interactions between the spirits and the other students. It was particularly infuriating when ghostly things would happen to the group as a whole and only some people would acknowledge it while other people would write it off as a weird coincidence even though they have clearly been other indications of paranormal activity that has happened to them individually as well.

In the end I found that this book was not really for me and I really didn't care for anybody in the book which would've helped propel it from a one star to a three star. The lack lustre plot, the bland characters coupled with their unbelievable relationships and the pure illogical use of the spirits haunting other characters just for a shock and awe campaign really turned me off from this book and that's why I will probably never pick it up ever again.
Profile Image for Irene ➰.
355 reviews76 followers
February 5, 2018

“’Tis time, ’tis time.
Round about the talking board,
Candles burn, the charm’s own chord.
Open, locks, whoever knocks.
We, the living, offer you the Vox.”

First book of the year picked up with my new random system, and let’s be honest I’m LOVING picking up books that I already own at random, it might turn into a surprise or a disappointment.
This is definitely a surprise!
I jumped into it without knowing much, and I even thought it was a contemporary… ups.
Even the short synopsis on the back doesn’t explain much, but I seriously thought it was a high school drama contemporary, INSTEAD in was a horror book whaaat

That’s actually the genre of horror that I generally love, teen ghost stories set in schools. That’s all I ask from horror stuff usually and this was not a disappointment either!
I discovered lately that it is a MacBeth retelling too and that’s even cooler.

We follow a group of school friends and after a night spent using the Ouija board, creepy things start to happen especially to Maria. With the help of Lily things get even more complicated once they try to knock off the lead competitor for the Kingsley Prize, Delilah, but this is just the beginning. A lot more “incidents” are on the way…

I basically liked everything, the first sentence immediately got my attention.
The set of characters is very good, their interactions are great and the story is pretty creepy too.
It was a very fun and fast read and I loved all the spooky parts.
The plot is very easy to follow and very easy to understand, it was in fact a “simple” read.

As I said this was for me a very good ghost/possession story and even if pretty predictable I found myself glued to its pages.

Profile Image for Whitley Birks.
294 reviews355 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
November 6, 2016
I DNF-ed this book about 2/3rds through, mostly because I had a huge problem with Lily.

Not with the core idea of her character, mind you. In fact, she was AWESOME at the idea level and I wanted to love her. As a still-closeted lesbian with a disability that limited her mobility, she resented people who overlooked her very real achievements and was willing to take somewhat extreme measures, in part because she was used to a harsh outlook of 'gotta look after me and my own because fuck the world sure isn't.' She was ruthless and I loved it, really. But...but damn this book cannot write her disability. All effects from it happened off-page, told to us through ruminating soliloquies, never actually on the page. On the page, Lily might as well not have been disabled. She has chronic pain and (insert mysterious details here that the book forgot) wrong with her legs, the result of a childhood car accident, that leaves her dependent on crutches to get around. Only crutches, mind you. There's no backup wheelchair for bad days, no canes, no alternate set of crutches, she has one and only one mobility aide. She notes that the pain levels vary from day to day, but heaven forbid she have any options that match that variety. Her pain levels never feature in her priorities or decisions; the most we get about pain is "doing this thing hurts" as Lily goes ahead and does the thing anyway. Right before I quit, she walks across the house for a bandaide. How much it will hurt, and the cost/benefit of that pain vs *a papercut* is apparently not an issue. Along the way she's scared, so she JUMPS and SPINS AROUND. No comment on pain levels. Afterwards she GOES FOR A WALK AROUND CAMPUS saying "it'll hurt her legs but clear her head." Pain levels are not a concern for this girl, despite a two-page soliloquy about how she's in constant pain. Lily, in short, is moved around the story just the same as the author moves any other able-bodied character. I almost got the sense that the book thought actually limiting Lily's movement would be...idk, treating her badly? Saying she was lesser for having limited mobility? But chronic pain like Lily's is a big part of the affected person's daily life, and to have that affect all but erased on page is...well, it's not empowering. It's just erasing part of someone's reality.

Also, she's prescribed Oxy, but doesn't take it because (reasons not found) and instead sells it to the resident addict. UGH, as if people with chronic pain don't have enough problems dealing with the horrible stigma associated with their life-preserving drugs, here's another book that perpetuates the ideas that make it so hard for them to get prescriptions. Bang-up job, book.

Outside of that, while it did have a really cool and creepy opening, it takes a very...uh, mild look at the Macbeth story. This review has way more to say on that subject than I ever could.

I really wanted to like this book, and the way Lily and Maria reacted to and were starting to crack under the weight of their actions had a lot of promise. But with that kind of execution...nope, I just couldn't get into it.
Profile Image for The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori).
1,150 reviews1,290 followers
March 4, 2020
Full Review on The Candid Cover

This book totally blew my mind. Since it is based off of Macbeth, I really should have seen everything coming, but Robin Talley still managed to surprise me. There is so much diversity in As I Descended, as well, and a main character who is in between a hero and a villain. This is definitely a must-read!

As I Descended is a Macbeth retelling, which I don't believe I've read before. Typically, when Shakespeare retellings are written, the story is based on Romeo and Juliet. I could definitely see the similarities between Macbeth and As I Descended, which was really satisfying. Although I am not much of a paranormal fan, I found myself enjoying this story. Basically, there are these spirits that the main character can sense, and because of them, some horrible things occur. It's hard to describe the plot without spoiling, but believe me, this is not a book to be missed.

There is so much diversity in As I Descended! There are two LGBT couples, Mexican characters, and a character with a disability. I really enjoyed how realistic the romance is between Maria and Lily. Not every couple is comfortable with coming out right away, and Maria and Lily decide to wait. I loved the way their relationship is portrayed and appreciated how believable it is.

Maria is not the most likeable of characters, yet I still enjoyed her character, if that makes sense. She is kind of a villain, but doesn't really intend to be one. At the beginning of the book, Maria is focused and determined to be the best at everything, and she'll do whatever it takes. She ends up going too far, and her personality totally changes. Maria becomes frightening, but I couldn't stop reading. She is such a complex character that isn't quite a villain, but not a hero either.

As I Descended is a Shakespeare-inspired story with so much diversity. The main character is interesting as she doesn't have the best personality, but is still likeable. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone!
Profile Image for Rose.
1,854 reviews1,046 followers
February 24, 2017
Quick review for a prolonged read (I had to recheck this book from the library several times because it kept getting holds placed on it, but I finally found a stretch to read it the whole way through). This is my second narrative experience from Robin Talley. "As I Descended" is touted as a retelling/reimaging of Macbeth, centered on two girls (Maria and Lily) at an elite school who enact upon a dastardly scheme to take a scholarship opportunity from a popular queen bee (Delilah), but their plan goes several steps too far and unleashes a downward spiral involving a haunted campus, vengeful spirits, revenge games, and overarching obsession with power. Added bonus: a diverse cast of characters including characters of color and prominent GLBT relationships at the forefront. By the summary/plot promise itself, I was definitely going to pick this up, even excited to have the opportunity to do so.

My thoughts in the aftermath of reading this are more mixed, however. I loved how darkly textured this novel was, some of the scenes are downright creepy not just in the visual aspects of the spirits and conflict involved, but actually have some well placed scenes of internal conflict among the characters, especially Maria - who starts off the novel rather naive and good at heart, but takes this downwards spiral as more events in the novel transpire and she gets more obsessed with the power in her grasp. She gets to the point where she denies reality, denies opportunities for herself to lose given what she's lost, and ultimately it's a consuming process that doesn't flinch on showing the burn. The tone and the intention of the novel were well noted.

The execution of this novel, on so many levels, was not good however. The problematic pacing stood out in my mind on one hand. I had to read this book in stretches and those stretches seemed more drawn out - taking me a while to get "in medias res". Part of the reason might've been the rambling musings of the characters within, many times with self-deprecating anecdotes (because, let's be real, this cast of characters is complicated and very, very flawed). The narrative moves in and out of the action, in and out of the creepiness, and that's an issue in itself. The characters also feel like they're missing an extra layer of depth. I get on some levels they're players on a stage (*cough* pun *cough*), but I kept wanting to have more than just a surface level of connection with them.

Which lends me to discuss my next point of contention in this book: while I love the fact this book FEATURES a wide range of representation (characters of color, bisexual characters, gay characters, character with a disability, etc.), the ACTUAL representation of these characters in the context of the story gives me pause, even to the point where I was really uncomfortable reading and had to put the book down in spaces. I didn't expect some of the rampant homophobic/biphobic slurs and commentaries that some of the characters in here spout. Granted, there are FEW opportunities where the characters shut this kind of language down, but it's still so prevalent that you can't separate that from the experience of the novel. I thought some characters really didn't have good representation at all, if by absence of said representation (i.e. Lily's disability in many places was masked) or representation where it was marred by very notable cliches (i.e. Maria and Mateo were very distinct caricatures of their race in places, and the fact that a group of Latino guys were essentially labeled as criminals just because of Maria's story to try to throw blame away from her...nah, dude. That didn't sit right with me at all).

It's hard to reconcile the good of this novel when there's so much of it that just didn't work well with the material it had. It's not the fact that this is a retelling/reimaging of MacBeth that's the issue, it's the way the narrative chose its focus. The focus could've been inclusive and thrilling without necessarily ceding to these cliches and problematic portrayals.

In the end, I'm willing to give credit to it having thrilling images and power plays for the horror novel it chooses to be, but at the same time I think so much of the narrative aim and presentation could've been better to make it more enthralling as well as inclusive. While it's difficult to say - with how darkly toned this novel is based on its source material - the inclusions could've been completely positive, it could've had more impact if the characters had more solid foundations and the focus was maintained on how they manipulated each other for their own goals and ends rather than using their identities in negative portrayals. Even if the intention was dark humor, dark humor does better when punctuated with characters fleshed out and situations developed enough to support it.

Overall score: 2.5/5 stars.
Profile Image for cyborgcinderella.
162 reviews22 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
March 29, 2017
DNF at around 56%

Okay so I was super excited about this. A modern retelling of Macbeth? With a super diverse cast? Awesome!

Unfortunately, this book was so BORING. I was not interested in anything that happened. There were a few things here or there that picked the story up slightly, but for the most part I was just thoroughly bored by what was happening.

I couldn't connect with any of the characters. I hated the main couple, which was so disappointing because how often do you get to read about an interracial lesbian couple where one of them is disabled? That's right, you don't. But I didn't like them. At all. Not as people and not as a couple. I didn't like any of the other characters either, despite the fountain of diversity we were given. That was kind of the only redeeming thing about this book. The diversity. Too bad it couldn't make up for such an awful story.

I also just felt like the characters and the setting were just caricatures. They felt so flat and so unrealistic and just so out there and I just couldn't believe any of it.

And truthfully, the modern setting, for me anyways, made all of the stuff that happens just feel really bizarre, far-fetched, and unrealistic too. I think people should just stick to Macbeth because this does not do it justice.
Profile Image for Bill Kupersmith.
Author 1 book196 followers
May 23, 2017
This book took me ages to read; needed an audible to carry me over the finish line. It’s also taken months to get round to writing a review & I’d probably not have bothered except a reader gave me a like on my nonexistent review so I felt guilty there was no review to accompany it. So here it is. To summarize: a Shakespearean pastiche as school story & a better pastiche than story.

Adaptations of Shakespeare are so in vogue these days, & generally they don’t appeal. Reworking an old plot, even Shakespeare’s, isn’t my idea of literary artistry. I’m also distracted; unable to focus on whether I’m enjoying the story or enjoying how cleverly the author has adapted the original. I very much enjoyed Exit, Pursued by a Bear, but about all that was borrowed in that one were characters’ names & a vague atmosphere of Shakespearean late romance. In As I Descended we stick very close to the movement of the plot of Macbeth, which also supplies the principal characters as well, set in a contemporary American boarding school. Which is the main reason I chose to read it - I love school stories.

Not inappropriately, there are lots of ghost story elements as well; Macbeth is famous for its theatrical curse. Here the school has the marvelous name Acheron Academy - a joke Carol Goodman has used & I intend to borrow as well. For me a good school story needs an interesting school; bad school stories tend to be written by Salinger wannabes who despise their own creations. Acheron is different in being located in the south in an old slaveholder’s mansion & sometime around 1800 something horrible happened. Tho’ the spooky stuff was well integrated with the plot, I simply didn’t find it very scary & felt like add-on special effects.

To adapt the story to a cast of schoolgirls & boys, the throne of Scotland has become a juicy scholarship to Stanford called the Cawdor (hello!) Kingsley Prize. Head girl Delilah appears to be a shoo-in till Lily urges her lover Maria to take Delilah out of the running. At which point you’re thinking: I get it, acronyms. Delilah=Duncan, Lily=Lady Macbeth, Maria=Macbeth. Unfortunately, except that Lily’s a schemer, initial is about all they have in common with their Shakespearean models. There is another pair of lovers: Brandon & Mateo, & you think, I don’t recall Banquo & Macduff as a pair. But we can guess what’ll happen to Brandon & we indeed get a version of Banquo’s ghost in As I Descended. Lily, by the way, has a bad leg & needs crutches tho’ I wasn’t sure why. Maybe like Richard III’s deformed back, it’s symbolic of her innner evil.

Tho’ not a bad book, reading it was like watching marathon dancers or contortionists - it’s remarkable that it’s done at all even though it’s not particularly attractive. None of the relationships were believable or affecting & the characters felt under-motivated (dare I admit I have this problem with Shakespeare too?). I liked it better than John Green’s Looking for Alaska (now that’s “damning with faint praise” indeed). There are just so many better school stories.
Profile Image for Lauren.
219 reviews46 followers
September 5, 2017
"What are you reading?"

"As I Descended."

"That tells me nothing."

"Lesbian boarding school Macbeth."

"That tells me everything."

It kind of does. If you like the sound of "lesbian boarding school Macbeth," you will like this; I did, and did.

Maria and Lily, roommates at Acheron, are also girlfriends. They keep their relationship a secret known only to a few, because Lily's parents are highly conservative, and she can't stand the thought of them pulling her out of school and separating her from Maria. All she wants is to ensure that graduation will mean four more years of a shared room at Stanford, which Maria can't afford on her own, not without the Cawdor Kingsley prize one student from Acheron always receives. Currently, Maria is number two on the list, just behind Delilah, the queen bee who maintains her status through means foul as well as fair, who doesn't need the money, and who also has a nasty weekend Oxy habit. Lily's plan? Find out when the next mandatory "secret" drug test will be for the soccer team and make sure Delilah still has Oxy in her system. The problem is, it doesn't stay for more than three days, and Delilah never does drugs during the week.

The obvious, awful solution, after the others are exhausted, is to slip it into her drink. After all, as Lily points out, they aren't doing anything to her she doesn't do to herself on a regular basis.

Also, the Ouija board has told Maria that the second will be first and she will get what she wants.

You can guess, from all that, that things start off bad and then get worse.

Talley's storytelling is strong. A lot of modernized takes on Shakespeare either founder on plausibility or make events plausible by watering them down, but Talley succeeds at keeping the tragedy and strangeness of the play intact in her sleepy Southern Gothic boarding school setting. Grounding the beginning in adolescent hijinks--the Ouija board--and believable adolescent crime--the drugging--helps, because it means that Lily and Maria have thoroughly committed to their actions by the time the ghosts really start getting involved. Once they've done something, they have to keep trying to cover it up, and because they're teenagers, and psychologically fracturing teenagers at that, they keep making more and more mistakes.

And, also believably, so do Brandon (Banquo) and Mateo (MacDuff), the other main couple in the story, who are also a blend of logic, love, and hormones, but who find themselves on the opposite side, horrified and angry about what seems to be happening.

Another strong point is the genuinely spooky atmosphere. Talley piles on the ghosts, and the effect is layered and chilling rather than messy, because it gives the campus the feel of a pot just waiting to boil over. It's a necessary quality in a Macbeth retelling, and it works nicely.

I'm torn, because I want to give this three-and-a-half, but Goodreads won't let me: it's a compelling read and I liked it, but some of the writing is thin and the book is overlong and could have benefited from a little judicious trimming. I originally rated it at three and then, over the course of writing this, bumped it up to four, because the specifics I could recall were all good: the nice touch of everyone at "progressive" Acheron referring to Brandon as Mateo's "friend," the scene with Lily in the bathroom where boiling water starts pouring out of the sinks, the little details like Maria as "queen" taking the time every day to style her hair... So while this could have been sharpened up, it's still a fun, unnerving, well-told tale.

And, again, it's lesbian boarding school Macbeth, which is just cool.
Profile Image for Danika at The Lesbrary.
507 reviews1,236 followers
August 21, 2016
This was a 3.5 star read for me. It promised to be a lesbian boarding school Macbeth, and although it's not a direct retelling, it definitely brought that brooding atmosphere and theme of revenge, as well as enough nods to the story to fulfill the premise.

I enjoyed the broody beginning of the story, and how it starts off at a run (the first page has the characters contacting spirits with a ouija board). As the book continues, it gets darker, veering into horror territory. That I wasn't totally prepared for.

This seems to be "southern gothic", including many mentions of the racism that the school was built on (the land was formerly a plantation).

I enjoyed this, but it's definitely dark. I suppose it was silly of me to think a Macbeth retelling would be anything else, but I would definitely warn that it gets into horror territory, so be prepared for blood and violence.
Profile Image for vicky..
375 reviews153 followers
October 18, 2016

Queer retelling of Macbeth with a f/f ship, a m/m ship, a disable character and Hispanic folklore?
yes please!!!

I read Macbeth a couple of months ago so I could fully appreciate the parallelisms between the original and this book.
It's obvious that Talley did a lot of research, and I particularly like how she incorporated ghosts instead of witches and the tale of La Llorona.
Also, the spanish was grammatically correct. HOW RARE IS THIS? GRACIAS ROBIN TALLEY! Al fin alguien que hace bien las cosas!

The whole atmosphere of the book was super creepy and it was almost impossible to put it down. Maria and Lily's descent into madness is like watching a train-wreck (specially if you've read the original play); you know it's not going to end well and yet you can't stop reading.

You don't need to read the original story to enjoy As I Descended, though I highly recommend it to discover all the references made to Macbeth.

A boarding school. A bi girl and lesbian disabled girl willing to do anything. Ghosts.

It's scary and it's gay. What else do you need?
Profile Image for Faith Simon.
191 reviews164 followers
February 7, 2022
2.5 stars.
This was so boring lol. If I had to read this vs listen via audiobook, I think I may have eventually DNFed it.
This being said, I've never read literally anything Shakespeare. I don't care, the snippets I was forced to read for English classes I considered to be insanely boring, so I suppose it's not a terrible surprise that then, this premise didn't understandably work for me so well. I thought the modernization and queerness would help, it did enough to make me stick this story out, but this is honestly just a pretty bizarre and relatively lacking overall excitement as a premise to begin with.
I could honestly barely give a damn about any one of these characters from start to finish, the only one that is decently likeable is Mateo, and the end of this book is so damn rushed that you don't even get to sit with him for a bit at all, the most likeable character is also barely elaborated on at all. To my understanding, Maria is described as speaking Spanish and refers to family members in the Spanish terms of endearment, but the book only describes her as having dark hair, so I'm unsure if this automatically equates to her being Hispanic? There isn't really a lot of description of these characters, and any non-white culture in the book is introduced and then bulldozed over for the sake of the plot. Throughout this whole thing I got the feeling that the POC representation here was the most bare minimum, plot-serving representation I think I've ever seen.
Lilly is creepy as hell, but then she's completely innocent. I'm confused, but I also could barely care. Lilly and Maria were both severely unlikeable as characters and super unbelievable as a couple. Did these two seriously have any chemistry between them at all? We got introduced to their relationship early on in the story, before weird things start occurring, but even STILL I wasn't getting that much between them to really believe, let alone care about their respective wellbeing as a couple or as characters.
Literally no relationship at all was fleshed out enough for it to be remotely heartbreaking when somebody died. I think there is just way too much context all too condensed in this story, way too long but also too short for the story to be properly fleshed out. Like, there's hundreds of years of lore at this school they all go to, but it's barely acknowledged. There's so much outside shit going on that doesn't directly serve the plot therefore doesn't get explained. Ghosts are in here and it makes literally no sense, the story might have been better without them.
BUT the audiobook is REALLY good. Like, saved me from giving up good. This narrator brings every character to life so well that you can almost forget you don't give a rat's ass about them, her exclamations were full of emotion, her talents were so wasted on this story lmao.
And the ending sucked. It was incredibly rushed and anti-climatic. I should've just read all her other books and left this one alone.
Profile Image for Marie.
Author 19 books847 followers
September 5, 2016
 photo As-I-Descended-Robin-Talley-SweetMarie83_zps3irad7dg.png

Find this and other reviews at Ramblings of a Daydreamer.

I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I started As I Descended. I knew two things: it was a retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and it featured queer characters. Honestly, that was enough to pique my interest. Within the first few pages, I realized it was a bad idea to be reading the book at night. I’m a total wuss when it comes to scary stuff, and let me tell you, As I Descended had a pretty terrifying beginning. That creep factor lasted all the way through the book, making for a dark, suspenseful, often disturbing story about revenge, jealousy, and the lengths people will go to for what they want.

It’s hard to say too much about the plot without getting into spoiler territory, but the book is set in an elite southern boarding school and starts out with what was intended as a fun, innocent game with a Ouija board between Maria, her girlfriend Lily, and Maria’s best friend Brandon. Maria grew up sensing spirits, and was aware of the school’s history of various hauntings, but had no idea that she would stir up something sinister and deadly. What started as an innocent game unraveled quickly into the entire school basically spiraling into madness with Maria and her group of friends at the forefront. This book was dark - really dark. On its own, I think I would have had some issues with it, but because it was a reimagining of Macbeth, it was obvious from the start that As I Descended wasn’t going to be sunshine and happy endings. The book’s darkness and creepiness were what made it so compelling. The events were so horrifying, it was hard to put the book down because I wanted to know what would happen next.

With a diverse cast of characters and a setting that’s so vivid it’s almost like a character itself, As I Descended is a chilling, atmospheric story. If you like horror with a side of paranormal, and enjoy creative, well-written retellings, be sure to check out As I Descended.
Profile Image for E.K. Johnston.
Author 19 books2,276 followers
April 21, 2016
AS I DESCENDED is a re-imagining of MACBETH, starring two queer girls in the Macbeth and Lady Macbeth roles. It is set at a southern boarding school, and, man, it is SUPER dark.

One of the hallmarks of Talley's works so far (I've not read her second book, but the two I have read have been consistent), is that she does not flinch when it comes to addressing the darker aspects of American history. In LIES WE TELL OURSELVES, desegregation was a lot of the plot, but in DESCENDED, Talley continues to not pull punches, addressing racism, classicism, and privilege. This ranges from a Hispanic character who can't speak the language, to all the crap you'd expect at a boarding school mostly full of entitled white kids, to acknowledgement an consequences for the slavery that was once condoned on school grounds.

I mean, it's MACBETH. There aren't a lot of outs. What Talley does, though, is make you have pretty much the same range of feelings you had when you read/saw the play. Like, I was hoping and everything, and then I'd remember.

(To address the Dead Lesbian/Bury Your Gays trope, well: Macbeth. There are four not-straight characters, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo and Macduff. Not great odds. But I feel like if you're going to kill a queer character, making them Macbeth is a great way to start. Giving every single one of them agency and motivations is a great way to continue, and Robin's done all that, and more.)

Talley is also really good at dialogue, and absolutely nails several different POVs throughout.

ANYWAY, I blurbed it, which really tells you what you need to know about my feelings. I highly recommend it.
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