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What: As I Descended by Robin Talley

Who: HarperTeen

When: September 6th 2016

How: A copy of this novel was provided by HarperCollins for review via Edelweiss.

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.

3cats2I really, really wanted to love As I Descended, and even though I enjoyed it there was essentially something missing that didn’t tip it over into the ‘omg I love this everyone READ IT NOW’ area.

There are three main things that I really liked about As I Descended, which I will tell you about right now:


Caps completely necessary. The Macbeth/Lady Macbeth couple in this is f/f. Maria’s (Macbeth) best friend is gay, and also has a boyfriend. These four characters are the POV characters in As I Descended. Which means that there is an abundance of diversity in As I Descended, and it made me INCREDIBLY HAPPY to see queer characters around and friends with other queer characters. Because this happens. This is real. This is life.


Again: caps necessary. Maria is BISEXUAL. And she says she is BISEXUAL. And she has a FEMALE PARTNER. But does not somehow discredit her previous attraction/relationships/whatever with guys just because she’s with a girl right now. BISEXUALITY IS A SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND BLESS As I Descended FOR ACKNOWLEDGING THIS.

3) The storyline.

It was really quite interesting, and I was never bored. There were some pretty creepy aspects, and these were probably my favourite parts. Like when Lily (Lady Macbeth) was all: yeah, let’s drug her so you can be captain of the soccer team. A+ Lady Macbeth channelling right there. I also really liked the shadow people/things because they were creepy AF and I could have done with a whole lot more of them because they were definitely the most creepy things in As I Descended.

Unfortunately, there were also some things that I didn’t love about As I Descended:

1) I wanted more.

Yes, there were some creepy things, but I wanted more of that. I wanted to be on the edge of my seat (or couch, really, because that’s where I do most of my reading) with wanting to know what happened next. I never felt that sense of urgency to the plot, which was a tad disappointing.

2) I didn’t really care.

My favourite character was probably Mateo, but even then I never felt that ‘I love them, my preciouses’ feeling that I REALLY like to feel when I’m reading a book. So when all the shit went down, my main feeling was ‘okay’ *shrug*, which is 100% not what you really want when reading a book.

3) The motivation.

I feel like Maria’s motivation to forcefully drug Delilah (the competition for the prestigious scholarship) and kill a certain character and want to kill another certain character was … really quite stupid. A scholarship to go to whatever school you want? I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel high stakes-y enough for murder and drugging people and whatnot. I mean, I related to Maria because I was always second at school, and yes that sucks a whole bag of bananas, but I never would have drugged someone or killed someone over it, so hey. I guess I just felt like the actions did not fit the desire.


Overall, I would recommend As I Descended because it’s a completely queer retelling of Macbeth, and lord knows we need both queer retellings and whole casts of queer characters. And maybe for someone who doesn’t really love Macbeth it might turn out to be more enjoyable.

© 2016, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning: homophobia, ableism, murder, forced drug use, self harm, suicide, and bullying in this novel

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Posted on: September 2, 2016 • By: Chiara

15 Responses to The Good and the Not-So-Good in As I Descended by Robin Talley

  1. Thanks for sharing your likes and dislikes. I do want to read this one, because I’m curious about the premise and I AM glad you liked that aspect. YES to no bi erasure either. That’s fantastic to hear. I’m sorry you wanted more creepiness and characters you could really feel something for, which I get! I’ll probably feel the same. haha I do love Robin’s books though so I have to check this one out.


    • Chiara says:

      No problem! I wish there had been more that I liked, overall, but it was still definitely worth the read. And yes! The lack of bi erasure made me really, really happy because it’s something that I see far too often. If you like Robin Talley’s books then i think this will be a good one for you, Lauren!

  2. Jackie B. says:

    YES. Embrace bisexuality in literature! I am so excited to see this. I’m a bit surprised to see a MacBeth retelling in YA, however. There is a lot of death in MacBeth! Did people actually die? Intentionally? That’s dark…

    • Chiara says:

      I know! It was one of my favourite things in this book. There are quite a lot of deaths in this novel, and some of them were quite creepy because it was all about ambition, just like in Macbeth!

  3. Valerie says:

    READING THIS RIGHT NOW MORE THAN 60% IN. I will be back to comment.

    (I don’t even know why I initially comment. Just to show that you are loved. And remind myself I need to come back)

    • I AM BACK says:

      HEY I AM BACK. And wow your review reflected all of my thoughts perfectly. And I feel you about Maria. At first, I thought I related to her really well because in the past I would try really hard but someone always outshined me. But then I’m like “wait, I wouldn’t kill someone over it”. Also I thought Maria had enough money for college. I didn’t think the Kingsley Prize automatically secured a spot for you in any college. BUT YEAH. Not enough motivation to kill someone over!

      Awesome review Chiara!

      • Chiara says:

        YAY! Ohmygosh, I know! I was like: this stuff was so important to me in school, but there’s no way in hell that I would have done anything like the things Maria did. And totally! She wasn’t even a scholarship student or anything :/

        Thanks, lovely! <3

    • Chiara says:

      I LOVE that you comment that you’re going to come back again. It’s lovely <3

  4. Clara Cheng says:

    Thank you for this honest review, the cover is beautiful and looks promising though.

  5. Rebecca @ Reading Wishes says:

    This sounds…interesting. I was not a fan of What We Left Behind and that was due to the fact I thought the author handled the diversity horribly and the representation made me cringe. I’m very glad to hear the diversity in As I Descended is well-written! I’m not familiar with Macbeth, but the lengths the characters go in the story do seem a bit over the top. I’m not sure if I’ll give this a go and tbh, I’m still wary after her book I read last year. I do like the sound of her next novel, Our Own Private Universe, so hopefully I’ll have the courage to pick her up again.

    • Chiara says:

      I didn’t really like What We Left Behind at all, so I was actually a little wary going into this one, but I couldn’t resist a Macbeth retelling! Especially a queer one. Whilst I didn’t LOVE it, I’m still glad I read it because it was pretty entertaining, and I did like seeing so many LGBTQIA+ characters in one book (although some of them died, which wasn’t so great). I’m interested in her next release, too! But I don’t think that this author is one I love, sadly.

      • Rebecca says:

        I’m glad she writes diversely and that this book had great rep, I am! I didn’t love her debut, it felt a little flat to me and historical fic isn’t my fave, but I can see why people loved it, you know? But I’ve never been so upset + angry with a book as I was with WWLB. It’s like that discussion post Cait posted recently – how many times do you give authors another chance? I’ve already given her two and now I just feel too burnt to return. Yep, I think me and this author just aren’t meant to be, sadly.

  6. Romi says:

    I’m going to quickly sumarise your review in my favourite, favourite part: “There were some pretty creepy aspects, and these were probably my favourite parts.” Gotta say, that sounds ~pretty~ accurate to me.

    I do think this sounds like an amazing, potentially glorious idea (and an idea I WANT TO SEE FOR ALL THE BOOKS. Pride and Prejudice with an all queer cast. Chiara. I am trusting you to make it happen please and thank you.), but I don’t feel like it really ended up being so amazing as it could have been. I think the concept of a completely queer Macbeth is amazing, and for that alone I’d want to read it, but there are elements… I just am not keen on. Like, killing someone so they don’t beat you to the scholarship. *widens eyes* I agree with you that the stakes aren’t high enough there, because I just can’t imagine someone caring enough to do something as unthinkable as murder someone just so they can win and get into a school they want to.

    I can definitely feel you on the ~didn’t really care~ front, which is just how I felt with Three Dark Crowns (and many other books besides). When you’re investing time and effort and thought into a story, you want it to at least become important, for there to be something that keeps you reading and keen-ish, but when there isn’t it never really becomes anything more than an okay-ish read. AND ALL THE BOOKS MUST BE GRAND READS. That would be kinda nice, even though it’s unlikely ever to happen. Knowing you woudl love something in every book you read? Y-E-S. (Although, now I’m thinking of it, potentially tiring.)

    Anyhow, I’m sorry this didn’t end up being the book it could have been. I hope your next completely queer retelling is glory to behold. xx

  7. kaylee says:

    I get that some people are saying that that a scholarship isn’t enough to kill for (which I agree with) but keep in mind that Maria only thought that she was giving Delilah oxy for her to show up positive on the drug tests. She never wanted to kill her, she just wanted her to get what was coming for her. As for Brandon’s death, Maria didn’t realize that she was asking Altagracia to kill him. She simply thought that his memory would be erased or something like that.

    NOTE: I’m only 250 pages into the book at the moment, so I might have missed something plot wise.

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