Book review – As I Descended by Robin Talley

Caidyn's review (1)

As I Descended


CW: ableism, drug use, drugging someone, outing, and death

Macbeth is my favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies. While it’s not my absolute favorite play, I love how he wove the story and made it so entrancing even today. I’ve had this book on my radar for a while, but I never took the leap to try it until I saw it get recommended by Mackenzi Lee on her Instagram story.

It was great! Not perfect, but I thought it was very creative. Instead of medieval Scotland, we have a highly prestigious high school where everyone’s competing for the best grades and, therefore, the best college. I remember those people at my own non-prestigious high school — literally, it was one high school for two towns — so it gave me major flashbacks to my own senior year. I wasn’t in that group of overachievers, but I had classes with them.

Let me break down the characters and link them to the characters in the play, though. (And I thought what Talley did with the character names was super clever!)

  • Maria = Macbeth. She is a bi Mexican teen who is nearly at the top of her class.
  • Lily = Lady Macbeth. She is a disabled lesbian teen (not out). She also has an addiction to pain pills.
  • Delilah = Duncan. She’s the queen bee of the school. Top of the class. Famous last name. Gets everything she wants because of who she is. Also drinks and does drugs occasionally. She and Maria are competitors and on the same sports team.
  • Brandon = Banquo. He’s gay and Maria’s best friend.
  • Mateo = Malcolm. He’s gay and not out to anyone outside of school. Also created a GSA for the school.

Those are, basically, the main characters of the story. Same with the play if you’ve read it. (And, if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. If Shakespeare isn’t your jam, try an audiobook. They tend to have a full cast and you really get to experience the play.)

I absolutely loved the intersectionality in this book. You have queer characters of color. You have queerness mixed with disability. And it was so much fun.

The whole story starts off with Maria, Lily, and Brandon deciding to break out an ouija board to fuck around after drinking some. Except, they reach spirits. Spirits who have information, in Spanish, for Maria that tells her the future and what she has to do to get what she wants. Aka, Delilah’s place.

From there, the story basically follows the play. As I said, I thought it was super clever and fun to read. No, it wasn’t perfect. But it was super enjoyable. I read over half of it while waiting on my flight to Portland — seven hour fucking layover after getting up at 3am to catch my first flight — and it was just a fantastic read. It definitely kept my attention.

The diverse cast and plot were the best parts of it for me. And, I know that I’ll be checking out more of Talley’s books from here on out because this first book I read by her impressed the hell out of me.

Talk to me!
Have you read this?
What did you think?
Do you have a favorite Shakespeare retelling?

Lear: The Great Image of Authority by Harold Bloom

Lear: The Great Image of Authority


1.5/5 – DNF at 59%

Thanks to Netgalley for a review copy. This did not affect my opinion.

Last year, I read Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air, an analysis of Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare. That was the first time I had ever heard of him. Everyone calls him a renowned Shakespeare expert. It just didn’t feel like this book was his finest piece on Shakespeare. I got more out of reading the play myself (which I did in prep for this book) than reading it.

While this says the book is about Lear, it felt like it was about everyone but Lear. There was more time spent on Edgar, the legitimate son of Gloucester who was being plotted against by his half-brother, than anyone else. I expected this book to be a very close analysis of Lear’s character since he is such a unique one. The slow devolution into insanity and madness, which he already had a thin grasp of already.

The most I got out of this was that the use of “nothing” is very purposeful in the play. And that everyone else has a real role and uniqueness that Bloom focused on rather than the titular character. Even with that, the book felt jumbled and without a thesis whatsoever. It starts off with a comparison of Hamlet and Lear (which did nothing) and moved onto completely rehashing the play. There were more quotes pulled from the play than actual analysis of what was taken out.

Overall, this didn’t feel like an expert telling me about Shakespeare and giving me the hidden meaning of the play, but an overlong essay that I could have written back in my AP Lit class that earned me a barely passing grade.