Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe #bookreview #YA #historicalfiction #fantasy

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… 

Although this is about magic on an island, the cover gave me Great Gatsby vibes (one of my favs), and I enjoy reading about that time period.

I immediately was captivated by the lush imagery in this book and intrigued by the magic. The beauty of the island and its ocean views filled my mind, and I felt as if I was running along the cliffs with Mae. The spirits who reside there add to the atmosphere – until they begin to die. There’s also a huge buildup of anticipation to the family secret reveal – I imagined all sorts of things and came up with several theories.

After Mae’s father, a servant to the family, passes away when she’s a young girl, Lord Prosper promises to let her remain on the island until she’s grown. Her best friend is Coco, Lord Prosper’s granddaughter, and she dreams of marrying Miles, his grandson. She longs to learn magic, although it’s only taught to the heir – never any outsiders. Why Mae would want to join this family or be anywhere near them is beyond my understanding. There’s not one likeable person among the clan. They’re a manipulative, spoiled bunch, and all I can conclude is since she’s never been off the island and gotten to know other people, she just doesn’t know any better. Ivo has potential, but he doesn’t get a ton of page time, and he repeatedly warns Mae away from magic. Even Mae didn’t impress me very much. She comes across as materialistic, nosy (she’s big on eavesdropping), and dim-witted. Once she figures out the lay of the land and exactly what’s going on, she becomes more tolerable, and by the epilogue I liked her much better.

This is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but it’s been years since I read it so I can’t make any comparisons. Although I had mixed feelings about most of the story, the ending is perfect and exactly what I’d hoped. Overall, Bright Ruined Things is an enjoyable story, but you may struggle to find a worthy character to root for.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

20 thoughts on “Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe #bookreview #YA #historicalfiction #fantasy

  1. It’s always interesting when none of the characters are likable. Sometimes it doesn’t matter and other times it impacts the reader’s enjoyment of the story. As I remember it, The Tempest didn’t have any likeable characters either. I’ll be reading this starting tomorrow. I’m very curious now. Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s clear pretty early on what a despicable bunch these people can be. And yet you can’t look away, lol. I can’t remember anything about The Tempest, but if those characters are unlikeable, this author certainly succeeded in mirroring them. Hope you enjoy it, Tessa!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That cover makes me think Great Gatsby too. I love the way you said the island and ocean is presented in such lush imagery. I could wallow in those scenes. I’m glad the ending delivered for you even if there were hiccups in reaching it!

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  3. The Tempest is one of the stories that I’ve thought about as a basis for a retelling. It does have likable characters though! (I was in the play decades ago, so know it well). I’m glad this book ended on a positive note since it sounds like a bit of a struggle along the way. Your descriptions of the magic intrigued me. Thanks for the review, Teri.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a different magic system, Diana, one I hadn’t come across. I did get frustrated with some of the characters, but the ending was perfect. I think I have a mental block when it comes to Shakespeare. Read plenty in high school and college, but can’t remember much, lol. I’m sure I’d appreciate it more now.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review! I agree with you about the ending. I like the realizations that Mae makes and who she seems to have become. Throughout the book, I did not like her very much and many people of the other characters except for Ivo.

    Liked by 1 person

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