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Review: Dance of Shadows

Dance of Shadows cover

DANCE OF SHADOWS by Yelena Black will be released in the U.S. on February 12, 2013 in hardcover and eBook formats. It is currently available to pre-order online in both formats at AMAZON and BARNES & NOBLE.

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, the print edition is 384 pages.

DANCE OF SHADOWS is the first book in author Yelena Black’s Dance of Shadows trilogy.

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Goodreads description…

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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DANCE OF SHADOWS is a fast-paced, exciting and addictive read. With an easy flow, an intriguing mystery and a dark undertone, this story will be tough to put down before its climactic conclusion.

When Vanessa Adler enrolls in the New York Ballet Academy she knows that finding answers to her sister’s disappearance will be a long shot. But she has to try. Because she knows Margaret wouldn’t just disappear without a word. And when another girl goes missing without a trace, Vanessa is certain it can’t be a coincidence.

But solving the mystery won’t be easy with nothing but a hunch to go on. And with days and nights spent trying to master a complex dance, one that challenges her both physically and mentally, and one that when she gets it right seems to alter her surroundings and blur reality, finding the time and energy to search for the truth isn’t easy. Especially with the elusive and mysterious Zeppelin Black occupying so many of her thoughts.

And when a piece to the puzzle is finally revealed, it will lead Vanessa down a path to the truth that is even darker and more sinister than she could have imagined and to secrets that could prove lethal. To the dancers. To her friends. To her.

Author Yelena Black has penned an incredibly engaging story of dark powers, dark motives and deadly consequences in this first book in her series. Blending together a contemporary story with that of a paranormal mystery, DANCE OF SHADOWS brings something a little bit different to its audience. And with a plot and setting that revolve around dance and a main character whose skill lies in the movement of her body, this story sets itself apart.

While there were a few scenes that felt a bit unnecessary to the plot and the story could have benefited from more character development for some of the secondary characters,  they didn’t detract significantly from the overall enjoyment of the story. The pacing was fairly consistent throughout, building as the story neared its conclusion, which made for a very quick and easy one-sit read.

And while the main character, Vanessa Adler, wasn’t a particularly strong heroine, her character felt very realistic. She was a ballerina. She was a student. She was sometimes fragile. Sometimes silly. Sometimes brave. And she was a girl who put her feelings for her sister above all else.

As this is the first book in a series, more of the backstory is likely to be included in the subsequent books in the series along with further development of those characters that remain. And while the story doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, there are a number of questions left unanswered and loose ends to be tied up in future books.

DANCE OF SHADOWS offers readers a wonderful distraction from reality as the story brings them into this dark and deadly world of dance and its malevolent power.

Reviewer gives this book…

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On a personal note…

I was initially drawn to DANCE OF SHADOWS because of its stunning cover. But from the moment I started reading it I was drawn in by the story and the author’s writing. Both the writing and the story had an easy flow that made getting caught up in it effortless.

And because I was very familiar with the setting I was able to insert myself into the world with ease. I was able to visualize Vanessa walking down Broadway. I was able to picture her as she ran past the fountain in Lincoln Center. I was able to connect with the story in a way that was more real because the world wasn’t built solely from my imagination.

I loved the premise of this story. I loved the mystery. I loved not knowing until the very end which boy was trustworthy and which boy wasn’t.

And I loved the way the author described the dancers movements. She managed to capture both the beauty and the enormous effort that go into their performances. And she did it in a way that was exciting to read about.

But it was the darkness in this story that I found most captivating. From the outset I just knew something bad had happened… was still happening. I knew that all wasn’t as it seemed. And while the main character was often clueless about just what was going on around her, I liked being in the know.

I would have loved there to be a bit more backstory as regards certain of the characters, as the part they played would have been that much more interesting had I known a bit more about them, about their past. And I thought that other parts to the story, especially toward the end, could have been tightened up a bit. A few scenes felt a bit repetitive and I thought Vanessa was a little too slow to reach the “aha” moment.

I would also have loved there to be a few more sweet kisses and a few less salty ones. While a sweaty embrace can be sexy, having a majority of those moments be of the sweat-covered variety seemed a bit too much.

I was definitely not Vanessa’s biggest fan. She was at times arrogant, at times purposefully obtuse, at times foolish and at times incredibly frustrating. But I did love that she was so dedicated to finding out what happened to her sister and that she was such a powerful dancer. My favorite scenes in the book were the ones in which she was dancing.

Throughout the read I couldn’t decide who I liked more – Zep or Justin. I couldn’t figure out which one of them was the “bad boy.” And I wasn’t able to trust either of them. Until the end, that is. They were both swoon-worthy and equally frustrating. They both were keeping secrets. But they both made the story that much more thrilling to read.

I loved the build up to the end. It had me racing through the pages to find out exactly how things would end. To find out who were the “bad guys” and who weren’t. And to see just what role Vanessa would play in the outcome.

DANCE OF SHADOWS is the first in a series. I thought it would have made a strong standalone. But there were a few questions left unanswered at the story’s end. And while I’m not entirely convinced of just how believable the reasoning is for certain characters to get involved in just what comes next, I am definitely eager to continue this series.

Favorite passage…

There were a few passages I counted among my favorites. But the one I chose is one that totally captures my feelings about reading, even though for the character it’s about dance.

When Vanessa was dancing, she wasn’t thinking about her missing sister or her overbearing mother. Do the steps. Dance the dance. There was something comforting in that simplicity. She could dance things she couldn’t find words to say. Feel emotion she didn’t know how to show in everyday life. She could defeat the villain, seduce the prince, enchant the nymphs of the forest, find her true love, and live happily forever after, just like that.

This review is based on an eARC I received from the publisher via NetGalley and contains my honest thoughts about the book.

5 Responses to “Review: Dance of Shadows”

  1. I too fell in love with this book because of the cover. It is completely captivating! It is on my TBR and it definitely sounds like it will be a different story. Love your review and it makes me want to read it that much more. I love not being able to tell which guy is the true bad guy until the end! There is something to be said for that level of suspense.

    Can’t wait to read it!

  2. Carmen B. says:

    I just finished it less than an hour ago and I had some of the same thoughts! I wish I could have cut out some parts in the middle and given the ending more space. Vanessa was really frustrating sometimes, though I also understood her to an extent.
    But I loved the writing. Period. The description of the dances were so vivid, I could picture and almost feel the movements in my mind! Even though I don’t know all that much about Ballet. I also enjoyed Vanessa’s relationships with her friends, especially Blaine :)
    Great and balanced review, Rachel!

  3. I’ve had a copy of this for a while and I’ve been meaning to get to it. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it. Makes me much more eager. I’m glad you pointed out that she isn’t a particularly strong heroine, but she’s realistic. I’m interested to see how I feel about that. I’m also a huge fan of the cover, so gorgeous.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. I have been so curious about his book. I love the cover to, but I have definitely been convinced that it is something I want to read after seeing your review.

  5. Megan says:

    I absolutely love the cover of this one! And I really enjoy when a book reads like a contemporary, but has little bits of paranormal mixed in.

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