My turn on the Blog-Tour for As I Descended by Robin Talley. Her previous novel Lies We Tell Ourselves was a phenomenal success, and it was one of my favourite reads of 2014. I was intrigued to hear the premise, especially because I am a wee bit of a Shakespeare fan.
About the author:
Robin Talley grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, writing terrible teen poetry and riding a desegregation bus to the school across town. Robin lives in Washington, D.C., with her fiancée, plus an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. When Robin’s not writing, she’s often planning communication strategies at organizations fighting for equal rights and social justice.
To be perfectly frank you will have to freshen up on your Shakespeare’s Macbeth to fully get the gist of this story. Without that reference and prior knowledge, this is just another YA urban fantasy, but with it you see the story in an entirely different light.
Obviously you can’t make a literal direct comparison of the bard’s work and As I Descended, as Talley has taken a fair bit of artistic license. Saying that, there are quite a few interesting adaptations, starting with the gender and sexuality of the characters.
The author has infused the story with the complexities of sexuality, with a particular focus on same gender relationships. Insecurity is one of the pivotal motivators for Lily. I think her control and influence over Maria is probably underestimated throughout the entire book. Whereas Maria is motivated and controlled by the nefarious ouija summoned presence.
The two girls are driven by different reasons, but both are willing to cross boundaries to get what they want. Manipulation, betrayal and even death. Nothing is off-limits even if it is unintentional.
The common thread between Macbeth and this story is the power of suggestion and whether or not Maria would have made the same choices without it. Lily is perhaps a less assertive choice for the figure of Lady Macbeth. and her character goes from controlling and manipulative to strangely docile.
The stroke of genius was the Macduff of the story, I won’t tell you who that is you can work that out for yourself. I really liked the way Talley drew the parallels between Macduff being stripped of his family and the intentional malicious outing causing the alienation of the family.
Again I have to say that this may be more of a treat for readers who like their Shakespeare, and I will spare you any further comparison of the two lest I give away too much. It is a fascinating combination of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy, an en vogue genre and important social justice issues.
I can’t wait to see what Talley comes up with next. She isn’t afraid of writing about controversial subjects or trying something fresh and innovative.