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Bright Ruined Things

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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...

352 pages, Hardcover

First published February 15, 2022

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About the author

Samantha Cohoe

2 books281 followers
Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 517 reviews
Profile Image for jessica.
2,509 reviews31k followers
October 24, 2021
ive never read shakespeares ‘the tempest,’ so i cant comment on how this stands as a reimagining. but as a standalone fantasy novel, this is pretty good.

to start, the title is perfect. this story starts off bright with mysterious islands filled with magic and spirits, a historic family, and a glamorous night no one will forget. but then, as the night goes on, things begin to fall to ruin. the wonderful magic has its secrets exposed and the close-knit family shows its scars. the world-building isnt the strongest and the characters arent the deepest, but everything happening is intriguing enough that i could overlook these things.

im also a little on the fence about the ending. as i said, and as the title implies, everything is ruined. its suits the tone and overall vibe of the story, but i cant help but wonder ‘well, what was the point of everything, then?’ i suppose one could argue character growth, but the plot still feels a bit unfulfilling.

but i still enjoyed the gatsby-esque family, world and magic. a fine sophomore novel for SC.

thanks so much st. martins press/wednesday books for the ARC!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,132 reviews39.3k followers
March 22, 2022
Happy pub day🥳🥂
Imagine yourself at the era of 20s, trapped in an island where the magic controls the entire area and poor spirits who serve for the best benefits of their master are in danger as the notorious family members scheming against each other and keeping so many deadly secrets.

Tempest is one of the last and underrated, unknown plays of Shakespeare play centered on an island and a deadly power and revenge game of sorcerer Prospero lives with his daughter Miranda( like our MC Mae: but she’s not the daughter of the master, she’s just an orphan who wants to learn magic and be part of the family she strongly connected with, having long time crush in Miles: family’s bastard son) and two servants Ariel ( as like Aeris in this book) and Caliban.

At the beginning of play shipwrecked crew find themselves confused and strangled at the strange island in the midst of the storm and at second act we learn Prospero conjured the storm for his great scheme avenge King of Maples Alanso, and his brother Antonio.

After reading the entire plot line: only similarities with the play seem like events centered on island, the servants are reluctant spirits with name similarities. But that’s all. Rest of it reminds you of juicy soap opera about inglorious self centered, power thirsty family members including Lord Prosper and his son and Ivo are powerful magicians.

Mae was born on this island and her deceased father was loyal servant of the family. Now she’s about to become 18, living in the charity of the family, never left the island and she yearns to become a member of family because of her intense feelings to Miles and she also forms a unique friendship with Coco.

The eldest son Ivo was once upon a time her close friend but when she’s caught as she was secretly stealing one of his sorcerer books, they had a big fight and their friendship were over. Now she’s intimidated by him and the worst part is the family pushes her to marry with him unless she wants to find another place to stay and leave the island urgently.

Things I enjoyed about my reading : Shakespearean intriguing web of lies around the family: everybody has secret agenda, acting behind back of each other.

Action packed last third and the rational conclusions about each character’s stories are well wrapped up.

World building,the chaotic mechanism of Magic’s working were interesting and well developed.

I hate nearly all of the characters including Mae. At the second half I started to tolerate her because finally she stopped acting like spineless doormat and started taking action, standing for herself but she still tried to make a deal with wrong partner which proved how naive, impulsive she was but it was normal because she never left the island, broadening her horizons and she was still 18.

Ivo was so far my favorite character and his emphasis on the entire storyline was so strong but I wish I could read more about him instead of army of spoiled brats, narcissistic douchebag, one dimensional characters! I hated the entire Prosper clan.

I also enjoyed the presence of Sebastian and I wished he would be part of the story at the beginning.

I never supported team Maeles ( Mae-Miles): Mae was so in love with her at the risk of losing her dignity and Miles was using him to replace Ivo’s place from the beginning.

Poor Ivo was the only mature one who carries the burden of big secret but there’s a possibility he must be a wanker (it’s implied he has a long time crush for Mae. He is 7 years older than her which is normal but Mae just recently became 18! WTH dude, you were the only one I supported as the most layered character of the book)

Overall: the conclusion of the book and the world building was great but I didn’t connect with any of the characters and I wished all of them death instead of Ivo so you may guess my wishes didn’t come true!

I’m still rounding up 3.5 stars to 4 because of the strong potential, gothic atmosphere, the creative construction of spirits!

Normally I gave three stars when I read a book with worst kind of characters but the conclusion was truly satisfying and I have to admit this book was better than the debut book of the author.

Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press/ Wednesday Books for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.
Profile Image for aly ☆彡 (sick).
346 reviews972 followers
September 18, 2022
Based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, Bright Ruined Things told the story of Mae who lives on the mysterious island ruled over by Lord Prosper and his descendants. Left as an orphan with no means of financial aid, this book is filled with all the social politics and class struggles as Mae is suddenly thrown into the intrigue and maneuvering of the Prosper family, falling into a marriage plan with the oldest grandchild, Ivo.

Frankly speaking, I have not read The Tempest so I could not compare — though I kind of get the gist from the summary I read online. So, take whatever I'm about to say with grains and salts as I'm judging it purely by my enjoyment and based on the book independently.

To start, I love the setting and the vibes it presents despite it being a bit vague. What was supposed to take over during the 1920s, was given a bit of modern touch, taking me on a trip down memory lane with the Great Gatsby. The mystery and magic surrounding the book are rather enchanting. However, the entire premise of the book that was supposed to intellectually engage the reader to try to "get the answer" to the conflict was put down the drain with the unlikeable characters and dilettante writing.

As a character-driven person, character growth is one of the favorite things I love to discover but I could not seem to find myself staying longer to witness that. I admitted guilty for a lot of skipping paragraphs and chapters after the 40% mark. Aside from the antipathy characters of the Prosper family, who tend to be vain and selfish, Mae's character was also hard to get into. Even though it only seems fitting considering that she never left the island; the naivety, and the underdeveloped thought processes rub me the wrong way. After all, unreliable narrators have never been in my good grace.

Not to say, despite the effort to apport all the side characters into having equal screen time — given the essence of standalone, Bright Ruined Things suffered from a vast cast consequently, delivering a poor world-building as everything was squeezed in at once. I did love the magic system, and the book is mostly straightforward and scanty in terms of its plot but a lot of thought was put into the family drama, leaving only a fragment of what was supposed to be a magical world.

Despite the attempt at romance, it gets bogged down and heavy-handed; the story would have been better served without it. The author seems to not know where to go with the book for most of it, by shifting all the love interests from time to time, it just doesn't seem appealing anymore.

Well, with all the flaws, things could have been saved if we have above decent writing for this one. I know authors will always have room to grow in the future, which I hope will ensue in Cohoe's next few works as I find this one lethargic. There was no flow from one scene to another and it always felt suspended to a degree. Reading this feels like you're baked because everything just got so disconcerting.

While I like that this book is original and unprecedented, it still does not shield the utter disappointment I had. There are no repercussions for actions that are morally reprehensible, the minimal character development feels unearned and implausible, and we were not even permitted to unfold what is more to the story. I hate that the cover is too beautiful to be true, I want my refund back!
Profile Image for Danielle.
791 reviews387 followers
October 6, 2022
Note: I received a free copy of this book. In exchange here is my honest review:

Set in the 20’s on a island where magic and secrets run rapid. 🤗 Sounds intriguing, right?! The concept and general storyline are okay. But I was incredibly bored throughout and found myself just indifferent to what would happen next. 😬 It’s not the worst thing I’ve read-but not sure who I’d recommend this one to.

Thank you @goodreads @samanthacohoe and @stmartinspress #goodreadsgiveaway
Profile Image for Chloe Gong.
Author 15 books18.8k followers
January 16, 2021
A deftly-plotted tale about ambition and belonging, Bright Ruined Things takes Shakespeare’s The Tempest and brilliantly reimagines themes of family and love. Cohoe writes with a magic that both dazzles and cuts right to the core.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,092 reviews1,509 followers
February 13, 2022
Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe is a standalone young adult historical fantasy novel. The story in Bright Ruined Things is a retelling of Shakespeare’s classic play of The Tempest set in a magical world.

Mae has grown up an orphan living on the isolated private island of the wealthy Prosper family. Surrounded by magic Mae doesn’t have any of her own and is worried of her future when she turns eighteen.

Mae doesn’t want to leave the island when she’s of age being the only place she knows and where her best friend and her long time crush live too. When spirits start dying on the island Mae finds herself caught up in the mystery of what is happening around her.

First, I’ll note that I am not familiar with The Tempest and cannot say how close to the original Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe actually turned out to be. I picked this one up having read the author before and enjoying her book, A Golden Fury. While I did enjoy this one I felt I found myself wishing for a faster pace as I often do in fantasies. I did enjoy the character and the magical island so this one was just alright for me in the end but others seem to enjoy it more so I’d say give it a try for yourself if it sounds interesting to you.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Eva B..
1,155 reviews313 followers
October 11, 2021
I won an advanced reader's copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway, but that in no way impacts how I feel.

Well that was disappointing.
I knew two things about BRIGHT RUINED THINGS going into it:
- It was at least inspired by THE TEMPEST
- It took place in the 1920s
It failed to deliver on both of these fronts.

So first, the Tempest aspect. If you squint, BRT is a Tempest-inspired story. There's a girl who grew up on an island, there's an old magician man, there's magical island spirits. Ivo and Aeris were clear analogues for Ariel and Caliban. It stuck to the 24 hour time period of The Tempest. There's a boat, I guess.
When I think of The Tempest, I think of a story complex enough to not fit firmly as a comedy or a tragedy. A story of forgiveness and letting go of resentment. A story of the thrill of first love, the bond between parent and child, the complicated relationship between Antonio and Prospero. The weird magic of the island, of Prospero, of Ariel, of Caliban. I felt the same sense of disappointment reading this as I did reading the Tempest-inspired story in THAT WAY MADNESS LIES, only moreso since I have now seen The Tempest performed live. Mae has Miranda's naivety, but lacks her compassion. And since Mae is 18 and Miranda is 14 (and Mae has had considerably more human interaction), Mae's characterization is far more irritating. She felt like a pawn at times and made stupid decisions because it would drive the plot forward. Ivo was...alright. I didn't feel the same love for him that other reviewers seem to have. Not sure how I feel about him as an Ariel analogue, and was it really necessary for him to be 25 to Mae's newly-18?
Coco, Miles, Apollonia, and Alasdair were a mixed bag. Miles grew on me, but initially was annoying. Coco was by far my favorite, although as I detailed in my updates, the way her coming out was handled felt clumsy to be. Apollonia...had potential. She felt like a worse version of Rosalind from THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS, except without the charm and without the promise of a second book that may characterize her further. She was pretty much just the gold digging mean girl trope. Alasdair was awful yet entertaining, like a much less well-written Lord Henry Wotton.

As for the 1920s aspect...it was lacking, to say the least. Had I not known going into the book that it was set in the 1920s, I wouldn't have known. As I said in my updates, maybe I've just been spoiled by Libba Bray as far as 1920s worldbuilding goes, but no one talked like they were from the 20s. There wasn't 20s slang or anything, and a lot of times the words and phrasing felt jarringly modern. I couldn't tell you where this book was even supposed to take place besides "on an island". Was it in America? The UK? Who knows! It was so generic. I was promised a lush atmosphere and instead got a tiny little spritz of "bobbed hair! high-waisted pants and white shirts! the mob is mentioned a few times!"

This book wasn't without its highlights. The ending was solid, and I liked Coco a lot. Alasdair was entertaining. It didn't drag. But that's about all I've got to say as far as compliments go :(
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,084 reviews215 followers
April 22, 2021
I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Bright Ruined Things was an okay book. It honestly started off on a good note with me and I was really intrigued in this world. Yet, I found myself getting bored, frustrated, and annoyed quite easily when it came to the characters and the actual storyline.

Now the island that everyone lived on definitely intrigued me. As did the spirits, sprites and all the magical elements I could see. Unfortunately, the characters went from likable to okay to really freaking frustrating to read about. I couldn't connect to anyone and I was highly suspicious throughout the entire book as well.

I'll admit that Mae and Ivo had some moments where I would get a glimpse and I would like where thing were heading. Then something else will happen and I was back to being annoyed all over again. It also felt like not a lot was happening for most of this book. Once the action finally picked up, I was just there for the ride and waiting for the book to be done.

The romance felt a bit forced in some places. So I wasn't really shipping Mae with anyone and I just sat back and watched everything happen. The good and the bad. I'm also not sure how I feel about that ending but I'm glad that I got the chance to read this.
Profile Image for ☾.
214 reviews1 follower
February 26, 2022
3.2 stars?

i can’t tell if i should rate this 2 stars or 4. there were a lot of unique additions- which was great. this is definitely a memorable book (in the way that you don’t remember anything except those very specific details that made the story). but i legitimately don’t know what i just read. it’s been hours since i put the book down and i still don’t know.

recommend: an apologetic no. note that if you’re looking for a 1920s read or a strong main character with an opinion of their own, you won’t find it here. i kind of appreciated how absolutely spineless mae was (fresh content, if you will), but to each their own.
Profile Image for Fanna.
987 reviews498 followers
June 4, 2022
It’s no surprise that young adult characters are sometimes judged from a mature, experienced lens for decisions that are very much based on their ‘young’ age. So I always set a reminder for myself while reading YA books: don’t judge the protagonist too much for their choices and simply comment on them from the story’s purpose. Reading Bright Ruined Things forced me to go back to this reminder again and again. Mae has lived all her life on magician Lord Prosper’s private island—in a mansion where spirits serve the rich family. Her presence, as the daughter of a passed-away mansion’s steward, is an orphan barely tolerated and will be in exile on her eighteenth birthday.

Mae fears this family but also desires to belong, especially on this land she has always called home. She has a best friend, Coco, who is the Lord’s granddaughter and has a crush on Coco’s cousin, Miles, who is disaffected. Luckily, Mae is offered a chance to marry in the family: to the adopted son, Ivo, who is a grumpy heir to Lord Prosper. When a legendary First Night rolls in to celebrate the yearly commemoration of Lord Prosper’s harnessing the island’s magic, Mae is determined to capture Miles and become a magical Prosper—to not just escape the engagement with Ivo she’s suddenly thrust into but also to still belong and reap the protection that comes with this powerful island.

Consider reading this review over on my blog.

But the land is dying and the spirits are sickening, making it difficult to harness magic. As the perfect evening unravels betrayals and secrets, and Mae attempts to save the island, she is torn between the magic she has always aspired to inherit and the realisation of what it demands in exchange. Spanned over twenty-four hours, this intriguing story about social ladders and glorious worlds follows a complicated mystery with suspenseful undertones. Sadly, the marketing fails the book as it isn’t truly a retelling of The Tempest but is simply inspired by the Shakespearean tale, and the 1920s setting feels vague. The time it promises to take the readers back to, with the Gatsby vibes, seems like any random secondary period owned by rich people and magical spirits. While Chloe Gong’s debut is set in 1920s China, there’s a timeliness that These Violent Delights delivers through world-building, culture, and fashion. Not to compare but Cohoe doesn’t manage to transport us to an era that could’ve made for a great backdrop for this story. Similarly, the glamour promised through the cover also seems unpolished and a better recommendation for that particular aspect would be Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles.

Mae is a determined protagonist but isn’t a strong heroine right from the start. She is often just a victim of the magical system put in place by those high up in class hierarchy, and even those she associates with (Coco, Miles, and Ivo) drive her through the respect or commitment they command—even if unsaid—through the magical power they hold. Though, the story does give her this need to simply be a catalyst because of the confinement she has always experienced and the curiosity that has always plagued her mind. So she can be understood as a main character but can’t really be cheered for. Still, there’s a change, a development in her personality worth appreciating towards the end. Unfortunately, the slow pacing makes you choke even before you reach the changing lanes and the relationships that could have motivated a reader to push through—whether romantic options or the almost-manipulative friendship—don’t give you enough to hold onto. The quirky Ivo did pull in and the ultimate revelations did surprise but the glimmering bits were overshadowed by the rest.

Thank you, Wednesday Books, for the review copy!

➵ the revelations did surprise but this was pretty average as a whole.
Profile Image for Kelly Lyn.
217 reviews
May 18, 2021
Thanks to Netgalley gor sending me an e-arc of this amazing book. The release date for this is October 26, 2021. I was drawn to this book by this gorgeous cover and it gave me Great Gatsby vibes. Bright Ruined Things is a YA historical fiction fantasy. The historical fiction genre could be loosely interpreted by the items that are mentioned and a notable figure, Bessie Coleman.

The magic system was my favorite part of the whole story. I was intrigued, anxious, annoyed and heartbroken. Mae was annoying with her thoughts and this story was somewhat predictable because it has the obvious snobby rich family who can't think of anything but themselves. The ending was not what I expected and I kind of hope there will be a sequel or a companion because the last line could pave the way for another story.
Profile Image for Silvia C..
338 reviews3 followers
March 4, 2022
It was a blast! A lot of fun, good pacing and a lot of unexpected things. It's not the most complex, intricate or original story I've ever read. But the writing is on point, the atmosphere is really good, and the characters have a good 1920s movies vibe. Actually, if colours had not been mentioned as often, I would have definitely visualized the action as a black and white movie. It was pure escapism.

If you do pick it up, there is a variety of trigger warnings that you should be aware and check out if you wish.

Thank you to the publisher and the author for the advance reader copy.
All thoughts above are my own.
Profile Image for Kyle.
374 reviews545 followers
April 16, 2021
Whew, okay. My thoughts and emotions were all over the place with this book. Let me see if I can muster up any semblance of coherence with this review...

Cohoe takes the themes of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and runs fantastically wild with them through one night of magic, mystery, and secrets.

The story started off with me feeling slightly ambivalent, given my expectations for this book (I won’t lie, I judged it from the cover, and thought it was going to be a commonplace/overly-familiar story). I need to say this now, first and foremost: Bright Ruined Things far exceeded my expectations. I won’t get too far into describing the plot, but if you know the story of The Tempest, then you’d have a good starting off point. The plot is filled with family secrets, magical mysteries, and a longing for home and love and belonging.

If I had to make a (small) complaint, it would be that the pacing was sometimes a deterrent here. Setting a book well over 300 pages during a single day made me feel kind of choked for air. I wished for some form of a pause in the narrative—a moment to catch my breath—but there was no respite. On the other hand, the quick plotting built a continuous momentum, one where there was no time to think about what could possibly come next. So, for that I applaud the narrative. If it’s one thing I loathe in literature, it’s predictability, and the pace moves so fast in Bright Ruined Things, it was certainly unpredictable; A propulsive plot that kept me reading well into the night.

I feared that with all of this narrative happening in such quick succession, that there would be many instances of redundancy in information and world-building, but I was surprised to find no repetition (or, at the very least if there had been, the story was so well plotted that I didn’t even notice). That’s the mark of a skilled writer.

As for characters: they all came alive. It’s not easy to fully flesh out such a large cast, especially with a narrative that builds over the course of a single day, but Cohoe does it deftly. Mae’s arc in particular is fantastic! I didn’t think I’d get so invested in this story so deeply, if I’m being truthful, but by 1/3rd of the way into the book, I was fully rooting for Mae to f*ck shit up!

The romance, was a bit of a sour spot for me. The pace was breakneck, hurtling us towards a thrilling climax... and then, of course, a moment of romance had to come and halt it . It was the usual romantic tropes, too. Here’s a tip, friends: If the person you’re in love with constantly has to apologize for their behavior, they are NOT WORTH IT! The “romance” sizzles, sputters, and dies fairly quickly, but the incessant infatuation remained annoying. HOWEVER,

Lastly, I’d like to talk of the end itself. Oh, LORDY LORDY LORDY did it give me goosebumps!!! I haven’t been that riled in a good long time. Bravo, Samantha Cohoe, for making me feel things, because I like feeling things. Your novel is extraordinary, and I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for whatever you come up with next.
Profile Image for cossette.
284 reviews219 followers
February 1, 2022
content warnings: alcohol and drug abuse (mentioned), coercion (some characters try to use sexual advances as manipulation), death of multiple characters (some happened before the events of the novel), homophobia/outing (outed via rumours, mentioned, and homophobia attitudes are present via other side characters), suicide (mentioned/briefly described), suicide ideation (not pov character, but a side one considers it), supernatural possession & slavery, violence (slapping & gun shot wounds), parental abandonment

still very unsure on my rating but at the moment i have settled on 3 stars
Profile Image for gauri.
178 reviews386 followers
October 10, 2021
i don't know what to think of the book really. the concept is cool, i liked the pacing, the mysterious vibes were nice to read about but i really wished there was more the island setting which sounded beautiful. the characters fell super flat for me which was why i couldn't be as invested in the plot as much as i wanted to. i didn't care about them at all(though ivo intrigued me) and they were lowkey annoying. didn't care about the romance either. so, no thoughts head empty, an ambitious concept but could've been better.

thank you to wedneseday books and netgalley for the arc!
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,978 reviews3,297 followers
February 15, 2022
The Tempest meets the 1920's in this historical YA fantasy. Bright Ruined Things draws on elements of the Shakespearean play, but sets it in a magical version of the 20's on a private island. (Note that it feels vaguely like the 1920's, so if you're looking for a lot of era world-building, you won't find it here) Our main character is the orphaned Mae who has grown up on the island alongside the wealthy and powerful Prosper family. All she wants is to learn the magic that is forbidden to her, to be seen by her crush, and to stop feeling inferior to everyone including her best friend Coco. Tonight is First Night, a big party where people come to the island to celebrate magic and it seems the perfect opportunity to take back her life, but things are darker and more complicated than they seem...

I ended up really enjoying this. Mae can be a frustrating character because she's so meek and fearful in how she interacts with people, even if inside she wants to be different. That said, she does develop a backbone by the end of the book and we see that journey. I don't want to spoil the plot, but this is an interesting spin on The Tempest that feels like a mystery/thriller in some ways. Many of the characters are privileged and narcissistic, though some of them are eventually able to find more of their humanity.

The book takes place almost entirely in a single day (with the exception of the epilogue) and Cohoe did an excellent job of making the stakes feel high as we build toward the First Night party, while slowly introducing the reader to the world, the characters, and the layers of history. It is a bit of a slow burn, but I didn't end up going quite where I expected. Definitely worth a look. The audio narration is great and adds to the sense of atmosphere. I received an audio review copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Starr ❇✌❇.
1,148 reviews112 followers
Want to read
November 30, 2020
1920's retelling of The Tempest???

From the author's twitter this has-
"rich families with ~secrets~ behaving badly
Shakespearean intrigue
mysterious magical islands
badass girl pilots
grumpy magicians
enchanted gala
unlikely heroine clawing her way up from the servants’ quarters"

Yeah, sign me up.
Profile Image for Robin.
837 reviews190 followers
February 25, 2022
Thank you so much to Wednesday Books and Edelweiss+ for providing an e-arc of this. All thoughts and opinions are still my own.

This book was so much different than what I had expected. It had elements that completely hooked me and blew me away. And a couple that left me confused.

My favorite aspect of this story was the themes of colonization and enslavement. This book is magical and entirely fictional, but it really highlights the atrocities that colonization. In this, there is a magical island where spirits live. Until a man comes to claim the island and enslaves the spirits to create magic for him. Now years later, everyone assumes that island is peaceful, but there is a dark secret underneath.

This book also has lots of unlikeable character doing lots of unlikeable things. But it worked with this story and the messages it was trying to portray.

I also really loved the decision to make this entire story occur over 1 night. And the prologue was fantastic.

There were just a few minor elements, scenes, and relationships that kept this from being a perfect book. And sometimes things felt a little repetitive. But overall I thought this was a fantastic, contemporary fantasy, with timely themes. This is definitely an author I will have my eye on in the future.
Profile Image for fictitiouskayla.
62 reviews8 followers
July 14, 2021
Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe is an urban fantasy mixed with mystery set in the 1920’s.

Mae lives on the island with the Prosper family. She is neither family or a servant, she’s merely a charity case that can live on the island until she is 18, which is soon. The island is the only home Mae knows, her father who was beloved by the family, died leaving Mae in their care.
The Prospers can do magic and Mae wants nothing more than to learn magic with Miles, the unofficial Prosper that she’s been in-love with since childhood.

Strange things are happening on the island and secrets start to come out. Mae, Miles and her best friend Coco Prosper all try to unfold the mystery of the Prosper family and the island.

There’s magic, love, a love triangle, family drama, secrets, mystery, and betrayal. Everything you could want in a story.

5/5 ⭐️

I received an e-arc from the publisher on NetGalley is exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Leah.
129 reviews4 followers
January 30, 2022
Promoted as a retelling of The Tempest with a 1920s setting (either of which would have likely been enough to draw me in), I came to this book primarily for the magic, the intrigue, and a castoff getting what she's due. And while I got some of that, most of what I got was ambivalence on the horrors of slavery and admissions that if the oppressors did not have to be made aware of what extraordinary torment they were inflicting on the spirits, they would have easily chosen to allow it to continue (but that's ok because they feel bad that that is who they are). I can't get behind this one.

The instant Mae turns 18, she is flooded with anxiety that the Prospers will cut her loose from the pact they made to care for her after she was orphaned in her adolescence. After all, her father had been a very loyal servant, but in the end, he was nothing more than that to them. Instead, she finds they have been planning something even less enticing -- marrying her off to their least favorite grandson, Ivo.

Sullen, awkward, and often aggressive, Ivo is yet everything Mae wishes she could be. Chosen to be the heir only after his cousin Alasdair abdicated his rightful place, Ivo has been fully trained in all of the secrets of the Prosper magic that has gifted them all such incredible affluence. Mae has never wanted anything more but a slice of that power herself -- desperate to earn her place among these barons and to never again face the prospect of having to leave it all behind. While Ivo is offering a great deal more than she could ever hope to find with anyone else, the fact remains that he will never allow her to learn magic of her own, will never see her as an equal. And that Mae can just never abide. When she is offered the chance to have it all for herself, will she decide it's worth the price?

While I was consistently annoyed by the juvenile sneaking around and listening in and wild speculating that litter this book, as well as confusing plot points that are all but abandoned later on, my problem with it runs much, much deeper. I can't get into it without some spoilers, though.

My great appreciation to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for the review.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Aguilar.
577 reviews56 followers
March 11, 2022
Bright Ruined Things is a reimagining of The Tempest by William Shakespeare set in 24 hrs (minus epilogue). I expected 1920s flapper vibes because of the cover, the book announcement, and other reviews. It wasn't that. While it did read historical but had I not known it was supposed to be set in the 1920s, I wouldn't have known.

I liked the writing. I did see most of the twists coming but I would have liked the journey had I cared more for Mae, our protagonist.

Mae is a little difficult to explain as a character. She gives off sullen, passive vibes but is surprisingly ambitious. But she doesn't truly care about what it takes to get her way. What bothered me about her is that she plays the victim, truly believing she is, in some situations that backfire on her. (e.g. I like characters who do what they have to to survive but own it.

Sadly, I didn't feel emotionally connected to any of the characters. I didn't particularly care for anyone. Ivo seemed like the most fleshed out character. Miles, Apollonia, Coco, Mae did have layers that were later explored but I wish it had been done earlier and a little deeper. This book explores a lot about their relationships and I wish I'd care more to appreciate that.

It centers this island, but I would have liked more descriptions about this island, which sounded beautiful. It was odd that despite Mae viewing it as her home, I didn't get the chance to understand why.
Profile Image for Lisa DeSelm.
Author 1 book54 followers
February 4, 2021
I was utterly captivated by the world Samantha Cohoe conjured on this mysterious island, where magic and power rule hand-in-hand with intrigue and desire. A wealthy family, a web of secrets about the past, and a cast of glittering characters who feel like they just stepped out from one of The Great Gatsby's legendary parties—what's not to love? I was swept right along with Mae as she digs in to uncover the truth behind the magic wielded by the Prosper family and wrestles with her own desire to grasp hold of power she's long been denied.

*I was sent a complimentary ARC to review.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,360 reviews185 followers
September 25, 2021
3.5/5 RTC

Thank you Netgalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Mae has only ever known life on the Prosper family's island. But her 18th birthday is approaching and with that her future on the island is uncertain. Mae would do anything to stay on the island including accidentally saying yes to marrying Ivo Prosper, the antisocial grumpy heir to the family. Mae is desperate for a way to get out of the marriage, but when sprites start dying she must get to the bottom of the Prosper secret first.

This was quite the atmospheric read. The setting of the island, all the spirits and the way everything was described was lush yet eerie. It made me feel both unsettled and at home. I liked Mae from the beginning. She's very curious but also sheltered since she's never seen life outside the island and has always been tied to the Prospers. She was easy to relate to since I also am very bad at telling people no.

There's a little bit of romance in this, but it gets pushed to the side a lot since Mae is trying to figure out what is happening to the spirits. There is a lot of Mae pining over someone I didn't like, when there was clearly a better choice. I wish we got to see more of Mae and Ivo, because the little bit that I did see of him under his grumpy exterior made me very curious.

The hardest part to read of this book was the toxic friendship and how Mae was constantly being used or strung along. I felt so bad for her. We see Mae grow a lot through the book and in the epilogue get to see just how far she's come. I really hope she gets to develop a healthy relationship with new friends.

Overall, I would recommend this. It was eerie and magical and the ending still tortures me.

Rep: female MC, lesbian female side character, alcoholic and drug addicted female side character.

CWs: Alcohol consumption, body shaming, colonisation, death, fire, gaslighting, grief, misogyny, sexism, sexual harassment, slavery, toxic friendship. Moderate: mentions of alcoholism, addiction, drug use.
Profile Image for Wren (fablesandwren).
669 reviews1,499 followers
January 2, 2022
Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for an early release peak at this book!

I am going to keep this short because I honestly don't have anything good or bad to say about this book. It was an okay read. It started out really strong, just like the author's debut. I really enjoyed the magic system and the characters at first, but I ended up skimming at lot towards the end. I wasn't really invested in the characters and the pace sometimes died off in places. I liked the idea of the spirits and loved the setting and time period. I am interested enough to read more from this author!
Profile Image for RWQuilter.
240 reviews23 followers
September 26, 2022
At various points through the book our point of view character Mae is described as slightly submissive, mousey,a slut and a little goat.
Bare in mind those descriptions are mostly from characters who have their own agendas and a bunch of secrets to hide.

The Prosper family who Mae has the misfortune to be attached to are a right bunch .Don't trust any of them is my advice.

Central conflicts here are Mae's desire for magic amongst a group who have their own reasons for not sharing and Mae's aspiring love life -which turns out to be the most interesting.
Profile Image for janel.
350 reviews16 followers
January 6, 2022
Samantha Cohoe is quickly proving to me that she's an author I can rely on for a good time. This is the second book she's released, the second I've read as an ARC, and the second I've hit the twenty percent mark and simply... not been able to put the book down.

Bright Ruined Things follows Mae, a girl orphaned by her custodian father, left on the private island he worked on. Mae has never known anything else, and what a place to be isolated in: she lives on the Prosper island, where the Prosper patriarch found spirits and wells of aether and was able to amass a fortune off of the magic. She has never been to a mundane land without spirits flitting around doing tasks, and she's terrified to no longer be allowed to stay. When things start going wrong and a spirit ends up hurt, Mae is pulled in many directions by each Prosper she knows, and she has to decide just how far she's willing to go to belong.

A few chapters in, I was wondering what was so enrapturing about this book, and I settled on the dialogue. The characters felt like they were leaping off the page to bicker around me, and I couldn't get enough. I feel like if Cohoe ever wanted to write a script she'd ace it, honestly. So many of the statements people left Mae to puzzle over were wrenching my heart, and everyone's constantly changing motives and perspectives raised the stakes sufficiently even when I had no real idea what was going on with the island.

This is a retelling / re-imagining of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and so some things are predictable in that way, but a lot of the character dynamics really had me curious. Some of the roles are switched (I believe Mae would have been our Miranda but she is not related to the Prospers in this), I was beyond surprised at how much I loved Ivo, and how much I wished he could simply explain things without finding myself placing blame on him for what he withheld. I liked the time period chosen for this retelling - it feels fitting for the 20's to be dealing with this level of magical grandeur and selfishness.

The real kicker, and probably what pulls this so close to its inspiration, is how maddening the mindsets everyone has can be. This is one of those books where everyone's decision making and opinions makes you wish you could play Whack-a-mole with the lot of them and sort out their priorities - but since I read this so quickly it wasn't a grating thing, it just felt more akin to how you'd want to throw your remote at the heroine in a rom-com movie for not seeing what's right in front of her. Except, with everything, lol.

This story also takes place throughout the span of a couple of days, with the majority taking place over one night. Sometimes, a pace like that can be dizzying, threads easily lost, but here it was easy to track because the chessboard is the island and we watch Mae move around the board and learn from her interactions with the other pieces at play - it simply becomes "which of these is the danger to Mae" and "how long until she sees the truth of it". It's quick, and fun, and even when I didn't like some characters (like Miles), I was never dreading moments with any of them - just craving answers. Chloe Gong called this "deftly plotted" and I really have to agree. It feels like a book from an author with dozens of books under her belt, not two.

I don't know, given some time I can probably find more intelligible things to say about this book, but I'll leave you with this: from its absolutely fitting title to the perfect ambiguity of its ending, I was taken on a damn fun ride and I didn't once want to get off.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,859 reviews473 followers
July 31, 2021
A magical island. A storm that strands a ship's crew. A sorcerer who controls the magic. This YA fantasy novel is based thinly on Shakespeare's play The Tempest -- mostly just with names and a few setting and plot elements.

A mix of magic and drama, the story unfolds as Mae is turning 18. She's an orphan, but her father before his death served the Prospero family. Mae longs to belong and to find her place in the world, but.....it's complicated. It's like a teenage soap opera set on a fantastical, magic island. The drama did get a bit overpowering at times, but overall I enjoyed this book.

The intended audience for this book is definitely YA. It was an enjoyable read for me as well....just a bit heavy on the drama at times.

This is the first book I've read by this author. I look forward to more! The coverart is awesome! Very attractive book!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St Martin's Press. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Profile Image for Jess (oracle_of_madness).
634 reviews40 followers
July 21, 2021
Thank you Netgalley for this incredible arc!

Mae, nickname Mousy Mae, lives on an island that is just steeped in magic. The magic keeps most humans away while also keeping the islands secrets. Lord Prosper is the patriarch of this island and also a wizard and Mae would do anything to be trained by him in magic.
Coming up on First Night, a time of parties and celebration, Mae is looking forward to seeing old friends she can be comfortable around. At least that is her hope.

This story is truly magical and I definitely recommend it as a unique read!
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