Published by: HarperTeen
Publication date: September 6, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Fiction
ABOUT AS I DESCENDED:
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.
MY RANTS AND RAVES OF AS I DESCENDED
If you are a fan of Shakespeare’s notable Macbeth, like me, then you will want to read this dark, modern-day retelling of the cursed tragedy. As I Descended takes place at a boarding school in the South, which disturbingly has a past polluted with death, murders, and hauntings. Robin Talley’s retelling is attuned to the greed for power portrayed in the original play, but adds a modern touch reminiscent of Mean Girls, Pretty Little Liars, and Supernatural.
Similar to the “Scottish play,” Talley incorporates the supernatural and preternatural as means to create a spine-chilling ambiance and foretell the characters’ tragic flaws. Of course, in this novel, something wicked this way comes, bringing with it flickering lights, sinister shadows, vengeful ghosts, and the clashing of thunder. Spirits haunt not only the buildings of the school, but also the students’ nightmares/dreams. These spirits are particularly vengeful, creepy, and whispering menaces.
As I was reading, I kept interconnecting which of Talley’s characters are associated with Shakespeare’s original cast list. The author does not stray too far from the original characters’ personalities and flaws. The characters believe themselves to be controlled by the eerie unknown, but overall free will and fate are questioned.
In As I Descended, Robin Talley adds a great spin and dark twists to Macbeth by switching the the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with the closeted couple and roommates, Maria and Lily. Duncan, Shakespeare’s beloved Scottish King, is swapped with the queen of the school, Delilah. And I love that Talley interchanges Banquo’s character with Brandon, Maria’s gay, best friend. But overall, as a personal fan of witches, folklore, and anything that goes bump in the night, I appreciated the twist that Talley creates in regards to Shakespeare’s character Hecate, the queen of the witches, who is interchanged in As I Descended with the scary, Hispanic folklore figure, La Llorono. (I dare you to Google her; she’s super creepy!)
In addition to thoughtfully changing the social constructions of Shakespeare’s characters, Talley’s writing parallels the Bard’s original work on both an emotional and psychological level. Naturally, when analyzing Macbeth, many critics analyze the gender roles of both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth; therefore, they try to define the “norms” of masculine and feminine behavior often blurred/inversed between these two characters. Talley steps outside this social division, and explores a f/f retelling of Macbeth. Instead, I found Talley’s words and her characters reflecting a social commentary on the competition and injustices that many current young adults, more importantly the LGBTQIA community, face in a world full of greed, hate, and judgment.
As I Descended is a well crafted retelling of Macbeth. and like Shakespeare, Tally has created characters that test the societal values and beliefs of their own time periods. Similar to the original tragedy, As I Descended is about empathy, ethics, ambition, and moral order. Overall, I enjoyed exploring the connections and differences between the original Tragedy and this modern-day retelling. Each chapter is threaded with intense scenes that left me anxious and too intrigued to turn away from the story.
ABOUT ROBIN TALLEY:
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.