Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Bright Ruined Things

Author: Samantha Cohoe

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 2/5

Diversity: 1 queer side character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, fantasy, mystery, The Tempest retelling… kind of, set in the 1920s

Publication Date: February 15, 2022

Genre: YA Fantasy Mystery

Age Relevance: 15+ (Parental Death, Abelism, Violence, Animal Violence and Death, Parental Abandonment, Sexism, Drug Abuse, Death, Classism, Sexual Content, Coercion, Romance, Homophobia, Outing, Suicide, Suicidal Ideation)

Explanation of Above: There is parental death mentioned and parental abandonment is shown very slightly. There is one scene where an abelist comment is said in regards to mental health. There is one moment where the MC questions about an animal death and how they died, but it’s very brief. There is some sexism in the book, some homophobia and a case of outing, and classism is sprinkled throughout. There is drug abuse mentioned very briefly and, because it’s in historical terms, you wouldn’t know it’s talking about drugs unless you knew the terms. There is death shown in the book. There is some sexual content in regards to talk about sleeping together, but nothing is shown, and there are some characters who try to use coercion/sexual advances as manipulation. There is also some romance scenes with kissing and feelings. There is also some mention of suicide and suicidal ideation in the book by a character. There is also a bit of violence in the book, including fighting, guns mentioned and seen, airplane crash land (non-graphic), fire being set, slaps, and imprisonment.

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 352

Synopsis: 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.

Review: This was a so-so book. The book had an interesting premise with the arranged marriage, set in the 1920s, and I was really intrigued with the spirits and how they worked. I also liked the mystery/fantasy element and how the book was set over the course of one day. The book is also The Tempest inspired, but it’s very slight.

However, I really did not like this book. There’s not a lot of backstory to this book and I was confused throughout the text on what was going on and how we got to where we were. To my not surprise, when I was writing this review I discovered that most of the backstory is in the synopsis, which I absolutely hate in books. Books and synopses should stand alone and one shouldn’t depend on the reader having read the other for it to make sense. The beginning of the book was so cluttered and confusing I almost DNFed at 13% and sometimes I wish I did just go ahead and DNF it. There was a bit of flowery language, so maybe that’s what the cause was, but I also felt that the magic was just too unexplained and that things happened but weren’t explained. The book didn’t really explain why the story was set where it was either and there was some sort of weird love quadrilateral thing and then it went to a triangle and then to a regular romance, but it was like the author didn’t know where to go with the book for most of it. I never got a sense of who the main character was as there was no character development beyond “all of these kids are horrible and say horrible homophobic or sexist things or try to do sexual coercion, and their parents are either dead, not there, or addicted to drugs”.

Verdict: Overall, this book was not for me but you might have better luck.