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 .
Hardcover, 447 pages
Expected publication: February 12th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Two Stars: The dangerous and dark side of ballet.
Vanessa hugs her parents tight as she bids them goodbye. This is it! She has achieved her dream of being a dancer at the elite New York School of Ballet. Vanessa clings to the hope that somehow she will find her missing sister, Margaret. Margaret was also an aspiring ballerina at the NYSB, who was cast as the lead in the Firebird Ballet as a freshman, only to disappear, a victim of the pressures of ballet. Yet, Vanessa does not believe, even after several years passed, that her sister just ran away without telling her, nor does she believe Margaret is dead. Vanessa will find her. Vanessa immediately catches the eye of the talented choreographer Josef as well as the handsome leading man, Zep. Vanessa soon is following in her sister's footsteps as she unexpectedly lands the role of the Firebird, the very same role her sister held before vanishing. Something sinister is happening at the school. Vanessa learns that her sister was among twenty ballerinas who suddenly disappeared from the school, all after being cast as the Firebird. Will Vanessa vanish as well?
What I Liked:
- I admit, I was shallow and immediately wanted to read this because of the amazing cover and I couldn't resist a story centered around ballet. That aspect of this book certainly didn't disappoint. The descriptions of the dancing are enchanting. I loved reading about the magic and mystery of ballet. The delicate ribboned shoes whispering across the floor as they move in a bewitching dance. Ms. Black does a tremendous job in not only bringing out the beauty of the ballet, but also the darker side as she relates the tremendous sacrifice, pressure and even pain that ballerinas must endure to be the best. I absolutely loved reading about everything that pertained to ballet.
- This book opens with the mention of Vanessa's sister's strange disappearance. From the get go, this story piles on the heavy, dark atmospheric tension. As the reader, you just know that something dark and dangerous is happening behind the scenes. Why have twenty girls over the years vanished after being cast as the lead in the Firebird Ballet? Is it really the crushing pressure of the performance or is it something more? The tension and mystery continue to build, with the promise of something paranormal, until you are on the edge of your seat wanting to uncover the sinister secrets at the NYSB.
- I enjoyed the writing in this one. Not only is there plenty of brilliant descriptions of ballet and the dancing, but there is also that perfect amount of tension and suspense that blend with engaging writing that kept me entertained.
And The Not So Much:
- While I appreciated the gorgeous descriptions of ballet and the atmospheric tension, the book faltered because it began to grow repetitious after awhile. It stalls with repeated and continued discussions about the missing ballerinas and the strange occurrences at the school. What bothered me the most about Vanessa's character was that it was clear to her from the beginning that something strange had happened with the disappearance of her sister without a trace from the school, and then once she and her friends uncover a whole line of ballerinas vanishing under similar circumstances. Despite the glaring evidence, and the sudden disappearance of a new friend, Elly, Vanessa still fails to believe that something is wrong. Either she was incredibly naive or stupid. Not only was she in danger, but she was also being warned to leave. This became a sticking point for me because she failed to act once she had all the evidence.
- The romance in this one is just a mess. Vanessa immediately attracts the attention of the enigmatic Zep, the male lead dancer. He starts leaving her notes and takes her on a few dates, but she never feels like the relationship is right. Furthermore, he is always vanishing without explanation, other than he is always with Josef. It is obvious that he is using her, but she fails to see that and continues to trust him, even though she is doubting him. On the other hand, there is Justin, another dancer who seems to know something about the occurrences at the school, but Vanessa refuses to listen to him and she is extremely rude to him throughout the book. At the end, Vanessa has this sudden change of heart that practically comes out of nowhere and it just doesn't work. Don't expect a good romance in this one, you will be disappointed.
- I struggled the most with Vanessa's parents. They were paranoid about losing Vanessa in the same way as Margaret, so why they agreed to let her go to the same school was strange. Once she is cast in the role of The Firebird, they should have been leery. Then Vanessa phones her mother on the verge of a breakdown, and her mother's response is get some rest!? Are you kidding me? They should have been in the car that minute to go get her and make sure she was okay. I just didn't buy her parents reactions. You would think they would be extremely vigilant terrified that they might lose Vanessa, and they are to a point, but their behavior just felt wrong to me.
- The entire story builds a case for one person to be the puppet master behind the disappearances, and then there is this big twist and the moment when a practically unknown character steps forward and claims responsibility. I didn't like this sudden bait and switch especially because I knew so little about the true villain.
- Finally, this book builds to a dramatic and somewhat exciting ending, only to leave you hanging. It isn't a terrible cliffhanger, but it is an open ending, one where the reader gets a few answers, but the majority of the questions are left unanswered. I can't believe I am saying this, but a big jaw dropping cliffhanger might have been better, because at this point, I was not impressed and really can't say that I feel compelled to continue the series.
Dance of Shadows was a book that started out with a lot of promise as it lured me in with the mesmerizing ballet and suspenseful story line, but the book lots its appeal with too much repetition, ridiculous behavior, unappealing romance and little resolution. While I loved the magic of the dancing, the rest fell a little flat. Perhaps, it just wasn't right for me. If you are looking for a book that blends ballet with suspense and a paranormal twist this might be a read for you. For me, it was a disappointment. Another case of beautiful cover on a not so great book.
"Her legs wove around each other with effortless grace, and her body followed, smooth and slippery, like a strip of satin gliding over the stage."
"She fell in with the wrong crowd, and the city ate her up. The pressures of ballet sometimes lead the weaker girls to drugs, and that leads to lost girls."
"Happiness was always complicated."
"On the first day of classes, the heat broke in a deluge of biblical proportions. Water sloshed down the streets, and black umbrellas bloomed along the sidewalks, making Manhattan even more anonymous."
"The better you are, the more pressure everyone puts on you to keep being good. And once you're at the top, the fall to the bottom is a lot longer and more painful."
"For us, life and dance are not separate. Dance your life."
"You're alive, angry, passionate. You're not dancing, you're living. I can see it in your eyes."
A big thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.