Book Review: Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Dance of Shadows (Dance of Shadows, #1)
My Rating:                   3 / 5
Format:                        Paperback, courtesy of Bloomsbury Australia
Publication Date:      12 February 2013
Extent:                         384
ISBN:                           9781408829974
Imprint:                        Bloomsbury Childrens
RRP:                           AU$15.99

The Blurb

“Dancing with someone is an act of trust. Elegant and intimate; you’re close enough to kiss, close enough to feel your partner’s heartbeat. But for Vanessa, dance is deadly – and she must be very careful who she trusts …

Vanessa Adler attends an elite ballet school – the same one her older sister, Margaret, attended before she disappeared. Vanessa feels she can never live up to her sister’s shining reputation. But Vanessa, with her glorious red hair and fair skin, has a kind of power when she dances – she loses herself in the music, breathes different air, and the world around her turns to flames …

Soon she attracts the attention of three men: gorgeous Zep, mysterious Justin, and the great, enigmatic choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky. When Josef asks Vanessa to dance the lead in the Firebird, she has little idea of the danger that lies ahead – and the burning forces about to be unleashed …”

Overview and Thoughts

I was originally drawn to this novel because of the beautiful cover art (oh yes, I’m a sucker for gorgeous covers!) but, just before picking it up, a fellow blogger and good friend of mine revealed that there were paranormal themes throughout, which made me a bit hesitant to read it. The last paranormal series I read was Twilight, after which I was all “vampired” and “werewolfed” out, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that this novel contained neither of those creatures, and in fact followed a more magical and slightly demonic theme.

With her family devastated by her disappearance, Vanessa decides to attend the same ballet school where Margaret disappeared from, not because of her aspirations to be a prima ballerina, but because she just isn’t prepared to believe that her sister could disappear without a trace.

Unbeknownst to Vanessa, she has a rare talent and effortlessly lands the same lead female part her sister would have played, had she not disappeared - that of the Firebird in the production, La Dance du Feu.

She becomes enchanted by the mysterious lead male, Zeppelin Gray, who eventually breaks up with his girlfriend in his pursuit of Vanessa’s attentions and manages to spend a little time with him in-between gruelling practices and trying to locate the elusive journal her sister kept. But Zeppelin doesn’t act the way a boyfriend should … and then there’s Justin who seems to appear out of the ether when she’s least expecting it!

While the head choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky ’s arrogance and bitterness, along with the strange, limping Hilda’s ability to almost read her thoughts raise more questions than answers in Vanessa’s mind, there are also the mysterious ash dancers on the wall of the practice room and the fact that, just as she masters the steps to her dances, it feels like an outside force is assisting her with the complicated ones, making sounds muddle and colours melt away – almost as if time is slowing down!

Could there be something sinister about this production? Could the ballet be cursed? And, what of the twenty other girls originally cast as the Firebird, who have mysteriously disappeared over the last two decades?

I’ve read some pretty mixed reviews on this novel (with some of the overseas ones quite scathing), and whilst Yelena Black’s adeptness at creating well-developed characters appears to be lacking and the plot is pretty much fantastical, with creativity and imagination, she managed to advance the story at a steady pace, thus maintaining my interest and transporting me into the world of ballet where I found myself chanting along with the choreographers during practice.

Mystery, danger and sinister forces reign supreme in this novel which is reminiscent of both the Swan Lake production as well as the movie, The Black Swan, and will appeal to both aspiring prima ballerinas as well as those of you who enjoy the darker ballet productions.

About 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 dark and spooky.

I wish to thank both the publisher, Bloomsbury Australia and The Reading Room for providing me with a hard copy for review, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

See the Book Trailer: View all my reviews


  1. I agree that the character development was fairly weak but I enjoyed the concept of the story!

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

    1. Thanks Shelleyrae - even with weak characters she maintained my interest in the book with the added mystery of the 20 dancers.


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