Monday, 18 March 2013
Book Review: Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black
Dance of Shadows
by Yelena Black
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 . . .
A new student at New York Ballet Academy, Vanessa Adler is following in the footsteps of her older sister who disappeared over three years ago and hasn't been seen since. All of Vanessa's new friends are excited to be starting at the school and although Vanessa tries to feel the same way, her thoughts are overshadowed by worry over what may have happened to her sister.
During her investigations, Vanessa and her friends discover that there have been a spate of disappearances from the school dating back twenty years, most of them lead ballerinas who had just been cast in The Firebird. A few weeks into term, her friend Elly drops out and disappears, and Vanessa is offered the lead role in Firebird, engendering jealousy from some of the older students.
What little girl hasn't dreamt of becoming a ballerina at some stage? I used to watch ballet on television as a little girl and imagined being the one up on stage, but I'd never had a ballet lesson in my life. Ms. Black has brought the ballet school to life on the page, with the students' worries over who gets picked for each role, their aching feet and backs and all the attendant pains and blisters for dancing for hours every day.
Vanessa was an interesting character and you really got into her head, as most of the book is from her point of view. I was very pleased to see the inclusion of a gay male character, Blaine, who was one of Vanessa's new friends, as just another friend and student rather than making a big deal out of it. His orientation just came across as a natural part of him, the same way that T.J. had frizzy hair or that Elly loved pink.
I think the book worked very well at detailing life at a prestigious ballet school, but the paranormal parts left me feeling a bit flat. They seemed added on towards the end, even though you knew there was something paranormal involved because of the genre of the book. I'm not sure what could be done to improve that part though.
It's a good book, but I felt it could have been better. Reviewed by Annette Gisby