Book Review of Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Posted January 28, 2013 by Kara in Uncategorized / 34 Comments

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children

Release Date: February 14th, 2013
Pages: 300
Genre: Young Adult-Paranormal
Source: I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads: Dancing with someone is an act of trust. Elegant and intimate; you’re close enough to kiss, close enough to feel your partner’s heartbeat. But for Vanessa, dance is deadly–and she must be very careful who she trusts . . .

Vanessa Adler attends an elite ballet school–the same one her older sister, Margaret, attended before she disappeared. Vanessa feels she can never live up to her sister’s shining reputation. But Vanessa, with her glorious red hair and fair skin, has a kind of power when she dances–she loses herself in the music, breathes different air, and the world around her turns to flames . . .

Soon she attracts the attention of three men: gorgeous Zep, mysterious Justin, and the great, enigmatic choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky. When Josef asks Vanessa to dance the lead in the Firebird, she has little idea of the danger that lies ahead–and the burning forces about to be unleashed .

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What the heck did I just read? No really. What was that? It started out great, then the pacing went awry, the writing got terrible, and I started rolling my eyes. A lot. I read books with stupid characters all the time. I read books with ridiculous metaphors and amateurish writing. But I haven’t read anything this bad in a long time. It’s weird because this book didn’t start out all this bad for me. But, like a snowball rolling downhill, it gained speed, and eventually bowled me over with its shittiness. 

Dance of Shadows had an interesting premise and one I was really looking forward to reading. Unfortunately the awesome premise was all it had, because the execution completely failed. And the main reason for the utter failure was the poor writing. I included some examples of that in my status updates on Goodreads, but I will repost those in my review for my blog readers:

“Vanessa turned, only to find her lips inches from Justin’s, so close that she breathed the scent of his skin, which smelled fresh, like the sun rising over the ocean.”
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I just found this to be really poor writing and a completely uninspired simile. We had a pretty funny discussion in my status update for this one over what exactly the sun rising over the ocean would smell like, because, uh, that doesn’t normally have a scent. 
“Their bodies fit together like two halves of a pair, and she fell into him, the taste of sweat lingering on her tongue as she let him envelop her in a warm and salty kiss.”
“She closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of his sweat.”

And that was another weird thing. This author had a strange obsession with sweat and salt. Because I edit, certain words stand out to me if they are overused. I don’t think I could have counted the number of times she used the words ‘sweat’ and ‘salt’ if I wanted to. The other thing I must mention? Sweat is not sexy. Sweaty men are not sexy. Tasting someone’s sweat when you kiss them? Vomit-worthy. WHAT THE HELL? I’m about to puke right now just thinking about that!
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The writing continued to get worse, and it never got better. There were times when I was able to look past it for the sake of the story, but then I would become disgusted by an action of a character–usually Vanessa. The author forgot to write her a brain! It is impossible for a reader to root for a stupid character who doesn’t think things through. Vanessa trusted the wrong people when the facts were staring her right in the face. It was utterly STUPID. And quite unbelievable if I may be honest. No one in real life (that I know) is THIS stupid. So suspending disbelief was a little tough for me. 

Not only were the characters stupid, but every single one of the side characters was undeveloped and just a name with a face. Steffie, Zep, Justin, Blaine, Josef, Hilda, and that other girl whose name I cannot remember–all flat with no personality, no background, and I didn’t care. There was a point in the book when one of the girls disappeared and I was highly amused because I did not even care. That’s not a good sign. 

The book pretty much lacked any imagery or sensory language. There were hardly any descriptions and I could not picture the setting at all. The only reason I had any idea of what things looked like was it because it was set in New York City and we’ve all seen pictures and movies. If I hadn’t had that background, I would have been completely lost.

Dance of Shadows was a cross between 

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with the execution of 

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In the hands of a skilled writer the exciting premise could have been something great. But unfortunately it wasn’t. And I was not a fan of this author’s writing. And that is an understatement. It was horrible. I really wanted to like this book–oh how I did–but there was just no helping it. I love dance stories. They can be campy, classy, or whatever they want to be. But for me at the very least, decent writing and character development is a requirement. You won’t find that here. So far this is the worst book I have read in 2013.
Someone please give this author a lesson in writing tension and showing instead of telling. For the love of all that is holy.

1/5 Dragons

34 responses to “Book Review of Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

  1. Definitely agree about the side characters-they were just there and it was hard to keep them straight. I also confused Vanessa and her sister a couple of times since the book is in third person. I don’t remember reading that many mentions of sweat or salt so I’m glad I don’t have an editing brain.

  2. “and eventually bowled me over with it’s shittiness” *dies laughing* Ugh I hate when a character seems as if they don’t think anything through. I am definitely one who needs to like an MC to like a book and this definitely sounds like one that wouldn’t be for me. Love the two pretty ballerinas and then the execution one, that one looks like me dancing!

  3. I’m so glad I started following your blog, otherwise I would not have read this review and had a good laugh this morning! I’ve actually read way worse writing than this! It’s amazing what gets published sometimes. Too bad, I love ballet stories, but I won’t be reading this one.

  4. Amy

    AHhhh!! I am on the blog tour for this. It doesn’t sound like I will like it. I better try to read it soon so that way if I don’t like it I can do a different post or back out of the tour if I have to. Ugh! The sweat thing is really gross. Love the gifs, they are awesome!! Great honest review Kara.

  5. True, I’m not sure I’d find sweat sexy either. I’m sorry that you didn’t find the author’s writing well executed. This book is on my to-read list, but I’ve been reading a lot of mixed reviews, along with yours, and I’m not terribly sure what to think, except that perhaps this one should be lower on the ever growing pile of TBR books. (I love your gifs!) Thanks for the honesty!

  6. Bahahaha, I love the use of gifs in here.

    For real, sweaty kiss is a no. WHAT WERE YOU DOING?

    Bleh to flat characters.

    Those ending gifs kill me every time.

  7. THANK YOU!!! lol I hate when books talk about a guy being sweaty like it’s something that’s going to make me want to jump his skin…uh no, take a fucking shower and come back to me.

    Great review hun, I have this for review from netgalley also, hopefully I’ll enjoy it a little more but…well I guess we shall see (:

    Haley @ YA-Aholic

  8. Ok, this was really funny and made me laugh. But I gotta say there’s nothing wrong with a healthy sweat on a hot guy. I’m more than ok with that, LOL. I’m not talking about BO though. If you’ve been working all day and you stink, take a shower.

  9. This book has me so curious, because the author bio says Yelena Black is a recent MFA graduate from Columbia, so you’d think she’d have some basic writing skills…but also this book is one of those package concepts from a company that hires writers to flesh out pre-existing concepts…so I have all these weird conspiracy theories that are totally ridiculous. Like, is Yelena Black actually the made up name of a group of writers? Or do these companies/publishers actually try to get the writers to “dumb down” their writing for these types of books, b/c they think that’s what the company wants? Or do they just rush rush rush everything to publication…?

    • Right. It’s packaged by the same company that did Fallen by Lauren Kate. I actually did quite a bit of research on this book and packaging company and couldn’t find a whole lot of information. I wish you luck!

  10. I know I shouldn’t be saying a review is awesome when it’s for a 1 star book, but seriously, that made my day. You just saved me from picking up a book that I totally would have read if not for you. Like you, I LOVE dance-y books and movies, and this would have been completely up my alley. Thank God for your quotes. The guy smelled like a sunrise? Who the hell copy-edited that crap?

    Thank you so much for your honesty.

  11. Hahahaha that third dancing gif!

    Oh those pretty books that suck us in with their covers and then smash our hearts – so cruel!

    So sunrises over the ocean smell like sweat? Intersting…..

  12. Yikes! That’s too bad… it looked promising. Definitely won’t be picking it up now though. Everything you mentioned would drive me to drink. Great review, Kara!

  13. Oh man. I wasn’t expecting you to LOVE it, but I also wasn’t expecting this either. It’s a shame. I love ballet stories too, plus I love horror. So when I heard people comparing this to Black Swan I was SO excited. Too bad all I’ve read are negative review so far.

    At least we get a funny review out of it!

  14. Sam

    Ha I remember wondering the same thing about the smell of the sun rising over the ocean. I really disliked this book too, though I guess I was a little prepared going in as I hadn’t heard great things beforehand. Great review!

  15. Bahahah this review had me cracking up a few times! I CAN’T stand reading about MC’s who are TSTL. I really need to at least be able to relate to what the protagonist is thinking. Anyways, I don’t know what but I hesitated about requesting this one a while back…despite the pretty cover I just wasn’t sure. After reading your review I’m really glad I didn’t! Great, honest review!!

    • I’m glad you hesitated. You saved yourself a pretty horrendous reading experience. Though the chance to write this review that is STILL getting comments is worth it, I think. 😀

  16. Hah hah hah, I had a feeling this one might go in the horribly bad direction. I’m not reading this review yet because it’s one of the very few “it looks bad but I want to read it anyway” books on my list, but your frustration practically leaps off the page. 😉

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  17. Oh man, those three GIFs at the end were hilarious. Bahahaha! Well, the last one was hilarious, but more so because of the context of the other two…

    I kind of feel like when a character is described as having “glorious red hair and fair skin,” there are going to be problems. (Why are we, as a book-reading/writing culture, so obsessed about readheads anyways? It’s weird.) And in any case, knowing this was a packaged book made me a bit iffy—I do try not to judge, because I’ve read some packaged books I did enjoy, but…generally no. Warning bells.

    But anyway, thanks for warning me off from this one officially, and for doing it in an LOL-worthy way!

    • THANK YOU!!

      I don’t know why we are. But I dye my hair red because of this. LOL. I usually don’t even know when a book is packaged but I knew about this one because I saw it on Goodreads.

      You are so welcome. I’m glad I saved you. 😀

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