Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe (ARC Review)


Goodreads: Bright Ruined Things
Series: None
Source: Goodreads Giveaway
Publication Date: October 26, 2021

Official Summary

Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all…

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.

In this YA fantasy, Samantha Cohoe wonderfully mixes magic and an atmospheric setting into a fantastically immersive world, with characters you won’t be able to forget.

Star Divider

Samantha Cohoe’s latest novel takes readers to a magical island, where the Prosper family has subdued the spirits and used their power to produce a fuel source that has granted them unimaginable wealth and influence. Mae, the orphan daughter of a loyal servant, longs to be taught magic, and to find a place within the family she has learned to love and envy from afar. As First Night approaches, however, the night when the Prospers flaunt their riches to the world through an extravagant party, Mae begins to question the facts her life has been based on. The Prospers, it turns out, have secrets–and some of them could be deadly. This imaginative, high-stakes thriller takes inspiration from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest to present a historical fantasy that feels wholly and wonderfully original.

Although marketed as a sort of Tempest retelling set in the 1920s, Bright Ruined Things is more properly conceived of as a mystery/thriller book, in the vein of Karen McManus’s The Cousins. Connections to The Tempest are scarce, aside from the presence of magicians on an island full of spirits. And the world of the 1920s is one largely left to the readers’ imaginations, aside from the depiction of a Gatsby-esque party. The island, after all, is largely cut off from the rest of society, so readers, like Mae, never really get to immerse themselves in the culture. Readers wanting a straightforward Shakespeare retelling will likely be disappointed. But those desiring a high-stakes plot full of Shakespearean double-crossing and intrigue, all set against the backdrop of a glitzy party, will be delighted.

The plot is truly the highlight of the book, along with the deft characterization. Readers may think they know where Bright Ruined Things is taking them, but Cohoe throws in enough red herrings and plot twists to keep her audience second guessing themselves. Watching the lies of the Prosper family finally unspool gives one that satisfying feeling that only a well-written mystery can give.

Aiding the plot are the characters, none of whom seem to be telling all they know, and all of them desperate to gain something for themselves, even at the expense of others. Mae, the protagonist, somewhat complicates things. She exists not quite in the world of the Prospers, but not quite in the world of the servants. This makes her perfectly positioned to realize that the perfect facade of the Prosper world has begun to crack. However, though others may find her mousy, Mae is not without her own secret longings. Rejecting everything she thought she knew in order to uncover the truth will cost Mae, as well–and it is a price she is not sure she wants to pay. Mae not be an entirely likable character, but she is a complex one–and it is her flaws and layers, along with everyone else’s, that makes the book so entertaining to read.

Bright Ruined Things is an engrossing mystery about the lies people will tell and the lives they will ruin in order to climb to the top. Fans of Karen M. McManus and Maureen Johnson will enjoy this new page-turner from Samantha Cohoe.

4 stars

9 thoughts on “Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe (ARC Review)

  1. Bibliosini says:

    I’m always up for some intrigue and mystery, and I’ve been eyeing this book since I first came across it! Love that you enjoyed it! Thanks for the great review!


  2. Abby @ Beyond the Read says:

    Oh gosh thank you so much for putting this on my radar!! The Tempest is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays—I’m always looking for retellings and I love the sound of this! It’s going straight onto my TBR 😍 Great review!


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