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Dance of Shadows

Dance of Shadows

3.6 18
by Yelena Black, Yelana Black

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Vanessa has just enrolled in the world-renowned New York Ballet Academy-the same school from which her sister, Margaret, mysteriously disappeared.

Three years later, Vanessa follows in Margaret's footsteps to find out what happened to her. But when Vanessa lands the role most girls at NYBA would kill for, she ends up trapped in a sinister spiral of secrets that


Vanessa has just enrolled in the world-renowned New York Ballet Academy-the same school from which her sister, Margaret, mysteriously disappeared.

Three years later, Vanessa follows in Margaret's footsteps to find out what happened to her. But when Vanessa lands the role most girls at NYBA would kill for, she ends up trapped in a sinister spiral of secrets that go beyond the dance world. Because someone-or something-wants to use Vanessa for more than her talent. Is she doomed to relive her sister's strange fate?

Riveting and sexy, Dance of Shadows is a psychological thriller you won't be able to resist.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Black debuts with a paranormal twist on the hypercompetitive world of professional ballet school, first in a planned trilogy. When 15-year-old Vanessa Adler is accepted to the prestigious New York Ballet Academy, more awaits her than she expected, including a decades-long mystery of disappearing ballerinas, a hidden diary, sadistic rituals (upperclassmen demand a “blood sacrifice” from new recruits), and demonic possession. The novel swerves between thriller territory (will Vanessa discover whatever became of her vanished older sister?), coming-of-age angst (does sexy dancer Zeppelin Black consider Vanessa his girlfriend?), and customary dancer rivalries (why was Vanessa, a freshman, cast as lead in The Firebird?), with a romantic triangle, themes of dominance and submission, and a strained relationship between Vanessa and her mother also in the mix. Although the supporting cast is only superficially developed, the story gains traction as it focuses on otherworldly elements, including revelations of legends of demons called forth by means of a mysterious dance. Black pulls off an enticingly eerie conclusion, setting the stage for the next book. Ages 12–up. Agent: Michael Stearns and Ted Malawer, the Inkhouse. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

Dance of Shadows is a wild dance that leaves you breathless, yet wanting more. I couldn't put it down.” —Alex Flinn, #1 NYT bestselling author of Beastly and Diva

“This debut novel is the first in a new series and is written so dynamically that the reader quickly becomes absorbed in the world of a highly competitive ballet academy combined with an occult element... The author has cleverly combined both worlds so that this book has appeal for both teen boys and girls." --VOYA, on Dance of Shadows"The novel swerves between thriller territory . . . coming-of-age angst . . . and customary dancer rivalries . . . with a romantic triangle, themes of dominance and submission, and a strained relationship between Vanessa and her mother also in the mix. . . . Black pulls off an enticingly eerie conclusion.” —BCCB, on Dance of Shadows

Children's Literature - Mary Thompson
Vanessa applies to the New York Ballet Academy in order to discover what happened to her sister Margaret who disappeared from the school after being cast in the lead role of The Firebird during her freshman year. It will come as no surprise that Vanessa is also chosen for the lead role by the overbearing, perfectionist choreographer, Josef. The male role is given to the gorgeous and charming Zeppelin. He takes a keen interest in Vanessa despite his relationship with senior queenbee Anna. Although another classmate, Justin, advises Vanessa to avoid Zep, his secretive and standoffish manner keeps her from heeding his words. Along with the usual struggles (initiation rites, grueling schedules and senior cliques), Vanessa and her friends are trying to solve the mystery of Margaret's disappearance. When one of her friends inexplicably drops out and the school seems oddly unconcerned, the girls' research leads them to some frightening information about the school's bizarre reputation for student disappearances; they find each missing person is cast in the lead role to perform Josef's tailor-made "Danse du Feu." Black's portrayal of the rehearsal room with its eerie blackened wall, white dancing silhouettes, demonic summoning, and ritualistic dancing take this teen romance to the next level. The story starts slow but picks up pace with the added supernatural element. The descriptions of the ballet steps and routines are realistic and add to the believability of the plot. This debut balances teen romance, mystery, and the occult. Its cliffhanger ending leaves the reader anxious for more. Reviewer: Mary Thompson
VOYA - Margaret Capobianco
As fifteen-year-old Vanessa begins her first year of studies at an elite ballet academy in New York City, she is determined to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her older sister Margaret’s disappearance from the school three years earlier. Immediately, Vanessa gets the feeling there is something more sinister going on in the school than ballet. While she does meet a new group of supportive friends, the upperclassmen and instructors at the school appear to be hiding something about Margaret. Suddenly, one of Vanessa’s friends goes missing, causing Vanessa to delve deeper into the school’s past. It seems there is a pattern of missing ballerinas, all of whom had been chosen as the lead for the school’s main production. Eerie reality sets in when Vanessa sees the shadows of the vanished ballerinas. What she discovers is a pattern of disturbing coincidences regarding all the ballerinas chosen for the lead role in the school’s winter production. Vanessa is unsure who she can trust, but she will never give up until she finds the truth about what happened to her sister. This debut novel is the first in a new series and is written so dynamically that the reader quickly becomes absorbed in the world of a highly competitive ballet academy combined with an occult element. This twist into the paranormal causes the reader to cheer Vanessa on in hopes that she will solve her sister’s disappearance and get to the bottom of the disturbing pattern of evil that has existed at the school. The author has cleverly combined both worlds so that this book has appeal for both teen boys and girls. Ages 12 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—An ending that can't gracefully suspend disbelief follows a middle that drags on far too long in this paranormal ballet melodrama. The novel begins with sinister initiations, ravishing lead male dancers, and instant BFFs at the New York Ballet Academy, where Vanessa studies just three years after her sister disappeared during her tenure there. Ballet is a family tradition, but Vanessa's passion for dancing is not her deepest motivation for attending the school. She wants to find her sister, or at least learn what happened to her. Joseph, the school's temperamental, perfectionistic choreographer, has decided to try, once again, to stage Stravinsky's The Firebird, the same ballet that was canceled after Margaret vanished. Vanessa is distracted by gorgeous senior Zep, already cast as Prince Ivan, who seems to have eyes for her even though he is involved with senior queen-bee Anna. It seems a foregone conclusion that newcomer Vanessa will be his Firebird, despite her freshman status, but she remains unsettled by bizarre happenings, like dorm-friend Elly suddenly and untraceably leaving school. The strange basement practice room at adjacent Lincoln Center with burn marks on the floor and white outlines of dancers surrounded by ash on the walls creeps Vanessa out. Cryptic warnings from Justin, the third side of a love triangle, about the dangers of the school accompany plot developments that spin things from improbable to impossible. Secret conspiracies seeking dark power through dance and an ancient secret society to combat them finally pirouette the plot right off the stage. Not likely to receive standing ovations from any but the least demanding readers.—Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA
Kirkus Reviews
An overheated debut mixes high-stakes ballet education with the occult. Fifteen-year-old Vanessa, though astonishingly gifted, didn't apply to the ultraprestigious New York Ballet Academy because she wants a career in dance--she did it in the hope of finding her older sister, Margaret, who disappeared from the school after being cast as the Firebird as a freshman three years ago. Once at NYBA, she draws the attention of choreographer Josef and two senior boys, the obnoxious Justin and the lustrous-eyed Zeppelin (a name so hilariously unballetic it could only have been meant ironically--except it seems not to be). It will surprise no one except the catty senior girls that Vanessa is cast as the Firebird, just as her sister was before….Vanessa's investigation proceeds in fits and starts; irritatingly, an early mystical warning she receives during a hazing incident is dropped. That she does not recall this while rehearsing the mysterious "Danse du Feu" in an underground studio whose charred walls are interrupted only by the white silhouettes of dancers, one of whom resembles Margaret and that sometimes seem to dance with her, will have readers grinding their teeth. A lengthy midsection devolves into a rushed and chaotic conclusion that turns out to be little more than a setup for a sequel. Care and attention to details of the ballet cannot compensate for slipshod plotting; both balletomanes and urban-fantasy fans should look elsewhere. (Urban fantasy. 13-16)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Dance of Shadows Series
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Yelena Black is a recent MFA graduate of Columbia University. She currently resides in New York City and is a full-time writer. She has a keen interest in dance and all things devilish.

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Dance of Shadows 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
OtotheD More than 1 year ago
Vanessa Adler is a superb ballerina, so it’s only natural that she would be selected to attend the prestigious New York Ballet Academy. Though dancing is a huge part of Vanessa’s life, her main goal is to figure out what happened to her sister Margaret who attended the academy a few years ago, then went missing. It’s no surprise that Vanessa is cast as the lead in The Firebird as she is the best dancer at the school. The problem? Margaret was also cast as the lead right before she disappeared, and even more disturbing, several other girls also disappeared not long after getting the same role. Now Vanessa must put together the pieces of the puzzle before she is the next to go missing. While I wasn’t a fan of the overall book (more on why later), I thought the world building was very strong. Ms. Black knows her dance terms, and it’s obvious she knows what it’s like to be in a ballet academy. She also captured New York City very well, and the infusion of the paranormal was a nice touch. My first, and biggest problem with the book, were the characters. Vanessa was incredibly one-dimensional and very shallow. I never connected with her, and since she is the protagonist, it’s really hard to get into a book if you can’t root for the MC. The rest of the characters were very bland as well. Zeb was very predictable in an almost Edward Cullen sort of way, and Vanessa’s friends all seemed to be nothing more than cardboard cutouts. Not one of them stood out to me, and after a while I just got used to reading their names in a passage without trying to remember who was who. While the story is interesting and at times intense, I felt it could have been so much more if the writing were stronger. It didn’t flow well, and some of the dialogue was cringe-worthy. The pacing was also off, and there were times when I found myself skimming passages to get to a good part. I had REALLY high hopes for this one. The minute I saw the cover, I knew I had to have it. Unfortunately for me, it just didn’t hit the mark. The idea is great, and the story interesting, but the execution just wasn’t there for me. With that said, I think this one will appeal to fans of paranormal romances. I can definitely see it hitting the mark with Twilight fans, or people who don’t read nearly as many books as I do in a year. I had a lot to compare it to, and that may have been part of the reason why I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.
Sarah_UK1 More than 1 year ago
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) and Netgalley.) 15-year-old Vanessa is starting at NYBA (New York Ballet Academy), and her mother is going nuts because Vanessa’s older sister Margaret disappeared from there 3 years ago, and they haven’t heard from her since. Vanessa is determined to do well, ballet is what she loves, and she intends to make it her life, but sometimes when she dances really well, walls blur and things look odd, and she doesn’t know what this means. When Vanessa is then given the lead in the December production of ‘The Firebird’, she is overwhelmed; the position was supposed to go to a senior, not a freshman, and even more worryingly; Margaret was also cast for the lead in the same production 3 years ago. Other things are going on at NYBA though, several girls have gone missing, other than Margaret, and now one of Vanessa’s new friends – Elly has also disappeared. Why do girls keep disappearing? Does this have something to do with ‘The Firebird’? And is Vanessa destined to follow in her sister Margaret’s footsteps? This book started off really slowly, at 25% of the way in it felt like it was really dragging, and it didn’t really pick up until the 60% mark. Vanessa obviously loved ballet, and wanted to be a dancer more than anything, even enough to go to the school that her sister had gone missing from. Her secret that dancing sometimes made things seem unreal was a little odd, and I did wonder why it hadn’t stopped her from dancing altogether. She just seemed to think that if she ignored it, it would go away, which is a valid plan of action I suppose. I found the fact that one of the girls – Elly, had left under mysterious circumstances wasn’t given enough attention, as it seemed that for a while the girls were happy to just assume that she had gone home. I kind-of expected the realisation that she hadn’t gone home to come sooner, but this actually took a while. As I said, the pace in this book was really slow in the beginning, and I had difficulty with it right up to the 60% mark, where things started to happen, and the pace picked up. It was around this point that the mysteries in this book became more interesting, and I began to really want to know what was going on, and who Vanessa could and couldn’t trust. And of course, no book would be complete without a blinking love triangle would it? Vanessa pursues a relationship with Zep (the male lead in the production), whilst another boy Justin seems to be stalking her. There seems to be reason’s for Vanessa to mistrust both of them, although her infatuation with Zep does seem a bit OTT for the amount of attention he actually pays her. I personally did not trust Zep at all, but then Justin was a bit odd as well if you ask me. I had kind-of guessed what was going on overall, but I didn’t guess the details, and there were some aspects that I hadn’t guessed at all. The last 12% of the book was very gripping, and definitely the best part. Some things were tied up nicely, but there was still enough to keep me interested in the second instalment. At the beginning of this book I was thinking that this was going to be a disappointment, but I’m so glad that I persevered with this, because I ended up really enjoying it. Overall; This started slowly, but built up to a great finish. 8 out of 10.
AshleyiSee More than 1 year ago
Vanessa Alder has been haunted since her older sister Margaret’s disappearance. Three years later she finds herself in Margaret’s place as a standout freshman at the New York Ballet Academy. As the handsome Zeppelin Grey catches her eye and head choreographer Josef hints Vanessa could be up for the lead in the winter ballet, she’s easily caught up in the movements. However, Vanessa isn’t there to dance. Her main goal is to find her sister. Reported as a runaway, Vanessa is positive that Margaret is lurking somewhere in New York. Yet as the pressures of dance begin to overwhelm her, Vanessa wonders if she is starting to hear and see things. There are secrets hidden within the NYBA and Vanessa will do whatever it takes to discover what happened to her sister. This book was a real letdown. The cover? Fantastic! The blurb on the back? I need to read this now! The verdict? BOOOOOOO. Let’s go over the reasons why. 1. The romance not only doesn’t make sense, but it makes the plot clunky and derails from an interested plot. Zeppelin Grey? The name annoyed me so much I hated every scene he was in. 2. It wasn’t executed well. 3. The ending is blurry, and there are bits and characters that are completed forgotten about. This is a first in the series, but there was no alluding to there’s more that lies ahead until the last page. 4. Vanessa as a whole is one-dimensional and her heart and soul for finding her sister isn’t followed throughout the book. It’s a mistake that could have changed the outcome of the book.   I really wanted to like this book; it had such promise. I was excited from the prologue and cover, but this was not carried through with each chapter. I loved the idea of a dark mystery surrounding an elite dance school in New York. The beauty and grace of ballet flitting through the pages. Perhaps someone else can give it a go. I won’t be continuing the series. There isn’t enough intrigue for me to want to know what happens, but kudos to the Bloomsbury marketing team! They did a standout job! I just wish someone had held the author to the same standard as the cover design. It really could have been a perfect match. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She is an amazing writer! The book was full of mystrey and I loved that it had to do with ballet can't wait for the next book
BethanyL More than 1 year ago
While I did end up enjoying Dance of Shadows, it took a long time for me to enjoy it. About three quarters of this book is a big, frustrating, seemingly-going-nowhere mystery. In fact, I thought that I’d get to the last page and it would say FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IN BOOK 2! Luckily, that did not happen. But I did spend a lot of time thinking, “WHY WON’T VANESSA JUST TALK TO PEOPLE?” Because, as it tends to happen in mysteries, talking to people often solves problems. But, I guess if people got over their pride and concerns that they’d look completely insane early on, most mysteries would be more novellas than books. Anyway. Once the game is set and we finally finally finally get clued in to what exactly the hell is happening, this book is all of a sudden a little Whedony. Obviously that made me squeal with glee on the train home, which in turn made people look at me weird, but I don’t care. But seriously, Dance of Shadows feels like it could be one of those off-A-plot episodes of Angel in which Fred infiltrates a ballet company to figure out what exactly is going on on the inside. And there would OBVS be a hilariously awkward scene in which Angel has to put on tights and dance while Cordelia looks smugly on from the wings. Oh, wishful thinking. For those of you who are really into ballet and get upset when a book promises to be about ballet and then only uses one or two terms that end up being plié and arabesque, this book will not disappoint. Ms. Black clearly knows ballet, is comfortable with the terms and vocabulary, and isn’t concerned if those terms are polarizing. Which made me a happy little ballet nerd. Though I found a lot of this book to be highly frustrating while reading it, I thoroughly enjoyed it in hindsight. Once you have the pieces and understand what all is happening, the clues are just GLARING at you from the page and it all makes fun, dancey, demony sense. So if you’re in the mood for a dance-centered mystery that you don’t want to try and solve while you’re reading it, Dance of Shadows is the perfect choice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The world was great, and the plot would have been good if it were written by nearly anyone else. I agree with OtotheD in every way. The characters are terrible. Zep is hot. Vanessa is a Mary Sue. TJ is your typical tomboy, and there's a very stereotypical gay character whose name I can't recall. Zep, as was previously stated, is basically your predicable hot guy. What do you know? In the end (SPOILERS) Vanessa, being the quirky protagonist she is finds a boyfriend despite her previous infatuations with Zep! This may seem harsh, but I've written better characters at the age of 13 than she did after graduating college. If you were to read this book, I suggest doing so for free, at the library.
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
First off, this is a 3.5 rating for me. This started off really well. The premise is what drew me in and the cover. You have Vanessa who goes to a ballet school to find out what happened to her missing sister. And from there, it has its up and downs. The first half was interesting, then in the middle, I got bored. I kept wondering what the other characters, who honestly, I found I wanted to know more about. But the moments with Vanessa and Zep, I don't know, I just couldn't get invested in. And times where I facepalmed thinking, Vanessa are you serious? Weren't you here for a reason, etc. I did like the mystery, how she confides in her friends. Then the last half, it got a little better and the story moved forward. Sure you could kind of guess what was going to happen. But then at the same time, you're thinking, huh well I didn't see that coming. Sure it has its flaws, sure it takes some time to get through. But I'm glad I at least finished it, wanting to give it a chance. A good to okay read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Vanessa is a wonderful ballerina bjt she is neber sure if she wants it. She feels like she needs to follow in her older sister margaret's footsteps. So she goes to the NYBA the ballet academy where her sister went and dissappeared. Vanessa gets cast as the firebird and she learns that every ballerina at the academy who received this role dissapeared. Meanwhile her friend Elly went missing and her boyfriend Zan is acting aloof and mysyerious. Great read!
Dia_Pelaez More than 1 year ago
After the many contemporary romances that I've read, I was hungry for a bit of mystery-thriller combo, so I leafed through my TBR pile and found Dance of Shadows. I'm more of a singer than a dancer, but I have to admit that I like watching ballet. There's just something mesmerizing about watching the fluid and graceful movements of a ballerina that makes it hard for me to tear my eyes off. Plus, from what I know of ballet, it's a kind of craft that masks the pain to show only what's beautiful and ethereal through movements, so I was curious to read about the hardships of ballet students in Yelena Black's Dance of Shadows. It also doesn't hurt that it has a mystery vibe going on for it. First things first! Let us take a second to admire the beautiful poster! LOL. Now, we go to the review proper. Heh. Story-wise, I'd have to say that incorporating a ritual dance in ballet is something unexpected. Nonetheless, it was a great plot-device. Everything started out great, but half-way through the story, I don't know what happened. And I really think that this story had something going on for it, I just don't know why there was a downhill. As for the characters, well, let's just say they became a little too stereotypical. Vanessa, the wide-eyed freshman to an elite ballet school. Zep, the mysterious and gorgeous upperclassman, and Justin, the guy who seemed to have an agenda of his own but stalks Vanessa for some unknown reason. Oh, and I'll just have to say that the love line in this story is absolutely incorrigible. It's one thing to have a crush and be infatuated, and it's another to be in love. I really cringed at the part where Vanessa's whole world just seemed to revolve around Zep aside from ballet, even though he's always missing in action. And how can she be in love with someone she barely even knows?  All in all, this one is a lengthy story which started out great but slowly fizzled out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I couldn't put it down! I didn't find it bored and slow at all. All teenage girls should give this book a try!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a great page turner—dance, deviltry, and surprises in every chapter. I cannot wait for the second book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So mny interesting plot points that change over the course of the story. Zepplin or justin a love triangle for vanessa. At first she doesnt like justin but she doesnt realize she loves him until one night she has a dream about him. Great read couldnt put it down. Recommend ages10and up. Lots of kissing and a person gets stabbed there are demons and burning. -John Green author of the fault in our stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Idk wat to say great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago