REVIEW: Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

danceofshadowsDance of Shadows by Yelena Black
Bloomsbury, 2013
[Goodreads | Amazon]

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….


I was drawn to Dance of Shadows as soon as I saw the cover. I mean, how can you look at that gorgeousness and NOT want to read this book? Add to that the fact that this book is set at a ballet academy – and I adore ballet anything, even though I cannot dance to save my soul – and it was a no brainer for me to pick up this book. Then I started seeing some not-so-stellar ratings and got worried that this would be a dud; for most people, it definitely seems to be just that. But I am happy to report that I, on the other hand, really enjoyed this book a lot and am so glad I went ahead and gave it a read!

Vanessa Adler is living in her sister, Margaret’s, shadow. It was Margaret who was first accepted to the New York Ballet Academy, given the lead female role in the school’s production, and disappeared without a trace. Wanting some closure and answers regarding her sister’s disappearance, Vanessa applies and is accepted to the NYBA to follow in her sister’s footsteps. But Vanessa is an even better dancer than Margaret was, and catches the attention of the school’s director, who casts her in the same role her sister was dancing when she disappeared: the Firebird.

This book had a fabulous air of mystery to it. While Vanessa attends her classes and goes through the grueling training required to perform her role in the production, she is caught up in the history of the academy (11 girls including her sister have disappeared over the years without a trace), while also getting caught up in Zep, the best male dancer in the school and her counterpart in the ballet. I loved how the author didn’t shy away from just how difficult ballet is, and the damage it does to the dancer’s body. Vanessa was always full of aches and pains, but she was able to shove that aside when she was performing. Her dancing is literally magical: it is her gift that causes her to play the same role her sister did. Throughout the book you are constantly guessing about what’s going on at the Academy, and how things are going to turn out. Even though there were times that I wanted to shake Vanessa in my frustration, particularly when it came to Justin, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Dance of Shadows has a very Center Stage-ish feel to it, with Vanessa catching the eye of the lead dancer, and being surrounded by a wonderful cast of supporting characters (I particularly liked Steffie). While I couldn’t help but feel that something was up with Zep, I was still fascinated by their relationship and the way he kept pushing her away only to pull her closer. When they were dancing together – particularly the scene with just the two of them in the underground studio, when he was explaining the steps of the dance – I could definitely understand why people were using the word “sexy” to describe this book!

Don’t get me wrong; I can understand why this book would perhaps rub some people the wrong way. Vanessa isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, and there is a LOT of ballet in this book (all the better for me personally, but perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea). There’s also a love triangle, which usually irritates me but in this case didn’t. I dunno. I really think that, for me personally, the ballet overrode everything else that would have usually annoyed me!

All in all I very much enjoyed Dance of Shadows, and am very intrigued to see what comes next. I love that Vanessa is a strong character who just wanted answers and wasn’t afraid to face some truly terrifying things. The mystery was really well done, giving the book a very dangerous feel, and even though it took me a while to read this book, it wasn’t because it wasn’t compelling or entertaining; time just really worked against me this week. If you like ballet and don’t mind a paranormal mystery with a sort-of love triangle, do check this one out. I personally can’t wait to read book two!



An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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8 Responses to REVIEW: Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

  1. Quinn says:

    I am SOOOO glad to hear that you liked Dance of Shadows. I also was very excited about it, but when I started seeing negative reviews I got all nervous. I am going to an author event in about a week, and Yelena Black will be there. So I am definitely picking up the book. I am looking forward to all the ballet bits. LOVE BALLET too!

    • Merin says:

      I want a copy for my shelves because the cover is just THAT pretty. Now that I know I also like what’s contained in its pages, it’s even better! I hope you love it like I did, Quinn! (And lucky you about the author event!)

  2. I am glad you liked this one because I am really interested in reading it!

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  4. Thanks for putting this on my radar Merin! I actually didn’t cast a second glance at this one until I read your review but now it’s my on TBR :) It sounds like something I would really enjoy, I like to read ballet books and the synopsis sounds intriguing. Great review :)

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