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As I Descended

As I Descended

4.7 3
by Robin Talley

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From the acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley, comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—but one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child


From the acclaimed author of Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley, comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—but one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. But Delilah doesn’t know that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to unseat Delilah for the scholarship. After all, it would lock in Maria’s attendance at Stanford—and assure her and Lily four more years in a shared dorm room.

Together, Maria and Lily harness 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’s imagined, the girls must attempt to put a stop to the chilling series of events they’ve accidentally set in motion.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Talley (What We Left Behind) creates a dark and twisted gothic boarding school setting replete with vengeful spirits, drugs, and suicide in this Shakespeare-inspired tragedy. Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten, roommates at Virginia’s exclusive Acheron Academy, are also secretly in love. The girls plan on attending Stanford after graduation, far from disapproving parents and peers. Standing in their way is Delilah Dufrey, the school’s golden girl, who is poised to win the coveted Cawdor Kingsley Prize, which guarantees the winner full tuition to the college of their choice. Lily uses a Ouija board and Maria’s belief in the paranormal to persuade her that they should expose Deliah’s drug use, but her plans go horribly awry when the girls inadvertently release angry ghosts. Third-person narration shifts among multiple characters, revealing more to readers than they do to each other. As Talley adeptly weaves elements of horror into the narrative, she creates an ominous yet comfortable boarding school environment that lulls readers into a false sense of security while setting them up for the next chilling event. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Sept.)
“An intriguing, appropriately atmospheric take on one of Shakespeare’s most spine-tingling plays.”
VOYA, October 2016 (Vol. 39, No. 4) - Sean Rapacki
Maria and Lily are boarding school roommates who are secretly in love. Life is bliss for them, except that Maria has no chance at getting the scholarship she needs and deserves as long as nasty Delilah Duffey rules the school and takes everything for herself. After a night of summoning a spirit through an antique Ouija board, however, all that is about to change. Will the couple get everything they want, or, like that couple in “the Scottish play,” will their ambition lead to tragedy? Fans of horror will find that Talley comes up with some genuinely creepy scares, and her Shakespeare-inspired story is solid and compelling. Unfortunately, her protagonists are frustratingly inconsistent. While, at first, Lily, like Lady Macbeth, seems to be the catalyst for Maria’s evil acts, soon, the too-good-to-be-true Maria is flying off the rails on her own, leaving Lily as a nearly innocent victim of the evil unleashed. Both Lily and Maria are interesting characters, so it is a shame that what would otherwise be a quality exercise in horror is marred by the inconsistencies in their behavior. Reviewer: Sean Rapacki; Ages 15 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Something wicked comes to Virginia's elite Acheron Academy in this modern retelling of one of Shakespeare's darkest works. Overachiever and second-most-popular girl Maria, who is bisexual, and her scheming girlfriend, Lily, who is disabled and a lesbian, are determined to have Maria win the coveted Kingsley Prize, which guarantees entrance into any college and will enable the couple to stay together after high school. A séance reveals cryptic prophecies and opens the door to a plethora of spirits, leaving the girls unable to control their own action. Their cruel and manipulative plans to unseat the most popular girl are just the first of many schemes that go horribly wrong. Before long, Maria and Lily are not the only ones admitting to interacting with spirits. Students are having bad dreams, hearing phantom noises, and seeing ghosts. The couple's desire for power grows, and what looked like ruthlessness now seems like madness. As the tragedy unfolds, no one at Acheron is safe—least of all Maria and Lily. Talley's novel is ambitious but successfully so. The work address racism, classism, and homophobia, all couched in a horror retelling of Macbeth. Notably, all four of the main characters—Maria, Lily, Mateo, and Brandon—are not straight. Those familiar with the source material will not be surprised at how the story plays out, but knowing the eventual outcomes does not diminish Talley's dark tale about fate and ambition. VERDICT A highly recommended, absorbing read with wide appeal.—Amanda MacGregor, Great River Regional Library, Saint Cloud, MN
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-06-01
A group of high school students find themselves caught in a familiar spiral of vaulting ambition and direst cruelty in Talley's 21st-century spin on Shakespeare's bloody tragedy Macbeth.Maria Lyon, a Latina senior at the private Acheron Academy on an old Virginia plantation, is second in her class and the school princess—one step down in success and popularity from its white queen bee, Delilah Dufrey. Lily Boiten, Maria's white, driven girlfriend, who walks with crutches due to a childhood accident, hates that Delilah seems to receive everything Maria rightly deserves—in fact, she hates Delilah, period. The closeted couple desperately wishes to stay together when they graduate and go on to Stanford, a future that can only be assured if Maria wins the prestigious Cawdor Kingsley Award, which means eliminating Delilah. But whether through the influence of maliciously manipulative spirits—the legacy of the school grounds' dark history as a site of enslavement—or that of the students' own misguided aspirations, the fulfillment of Maria and Lily's wish will destroy more than just Delilah, as each previously unthinkable act justifies the next in a frightening and ambition-fueled descent into corruption, betrayal, and death. Talley's intense reimagining seamlessly weaves the contemporary motivations of a diverse teen cast together with classic guilt and mistrust in a devastating marriage of the stunningly unexpected with the maddeningly inevitable. This adaptation's bewitching intrigues and enthralling deceptions will whet the daggers of any reader's mind. (Thriller. 14 & up)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.30(d)
HL670L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

ROBIN TALLEY loves Shakespeare and hates being scared. She always covers her eyes during horror movies, and she keeps trying to explain to her wife why she’s sure their house is haunted. (Her wife is not so easily convinced.) Robin’s previous books include What We Left Behind and a Lambda Literary Award finalist, Lies We Tell Ourselves. She lives with her family in Washington, DC. You can find her on the web at www.robintalley.com.

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As I Descended 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Take_Me_AwayPH 4 months ago
When I heard about another Robin Talley book I was super excited. I love that she's an #ownvoices author and the books she writes have amazing plots. I mean, really, how can you not want to read a f/f retelling of the classic Shakespeare tale Macbeth like this one?! Maria and Lily are school's power couple. But there's still something, really someone, who stands in the way of their perfection.... Delilah. She is the other campus favorite and the only one that's standing in the middle of everything. The only thing they can think of is doing away with her by letting loose the weird shapes and sounds that have plagued their school for years. Ok, the main thing that made me want this book was the fact that it was based off Macbeth. When I was in high school, the only Shakespeare I loved was Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth. So when I heard this was a thing, I knew it was something I would love. And I was so right. From the prophecy, to the creepiness, and ugh just everything! It was really interesting (and impressive) to see the story told in contemporary way. Another thing that impressed me about this book was how refreshing the diversity was. There's is a f/f relationship as well as a m/m relationship and one of those characters has a disability. It was a welcome change from the norm, especially with all that is going on centering diversity in books. This #ownvoices story has already gone to the top of my favorite of 2016 list for the diversity alone. But my favorite thing of all about this book had to be the creep factor. This book really creeped me out y'all. I remember not even wanting to read it while the husband was asleep because I was creeped out to read it alone in the dark. The human brain is so weird though, because the creepier it got and the more scared I was the more I wanted to freaking read this book lol It's so addicting and I cannot wait for the rest of the world to get their hands on a copy! The only regret that I have with this book is not reading it closer to Halloween so I could really scare myself lol Besides that, this book was wonderful and beautiful and creepy and weird lol I can find myself talking about this one for a long time.
tpolen More than 1 year ago
First, I have to say how much I enjoyed the diversity in this book - gay, straight, bi, undecided, the mixture of races and financial backgrounds. It's an exclusive boarding school, after all. And what a perfect creepy setting for a retelling of Macbeth. If you're going to mess around with Ouija boards, be careful what you wish for - because you may just get it. After Maria, Lily, and Brandon attempt to make contact with spirits using a Ouija board, their lives descend into a dark spiral of revenge, regret, distrust, and redemption. I thought the author did a wonderful job at creating believable characters who, as teenagers, don't always think about long term effects of their decisions or see much past their own goals and desires. The dialogue is exceptional and humorous at times. And the supernatural elements - fantastic! Eerie, look over your shoulder, make sure the windows and doors are locked kind of moments. I'll never look at fog over a lake in quite the same way again. Something that didn't quite ring true for me was during an investigation when police chose not to followup on information that the injured person was seen earlier that evening with someone, even though one of the students overheard them call it a 'criminal investigation'. Lily's transformation seemed a bit sudden and Maria's thinking and actions occasionally flip-flopped, which was a bit confusing. As I Descended is a captivating read that would appeal to supernatural/horror fans and one I'd recommend. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
I have always enjoyed a good Shakespeare retelling, so imagine my excitement when I learned this was Macbeth. First off, I was about 20% into the book and immediately knew I would love it and that I needed to slow down. It's so amazingly creepy that it left me feeling itchy when I was done with whatever section I was in. That creepy feeling never went away. The cast of characters is small and large, if that even makes sense. The events of the book effects several people and how things start to unravel is hypnotic to read. It's all so perfect and intricate, I struggled with trying to pace myself. Yes, this is horribly vague. Yes, I know it's not a very good review. Yes, I definitely think you need to read it. **Huge thanks to Harper Teen and Edelweiss for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**