Single Sundays: Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Bright Ruined Things (from Goodreads):
The only life Mae has ever known is on the island, living on the charity of the wealthy Prosper family who control the magic on the island and the spirits who inhabit it. Mae longs for magic of her own and to have a place among the Prosper family, where her best friend, Coco, will see her as an equal, and her crush, Miles, will finally see her. Now that she’s eighteen, Mae knows her time with the Prospers may soon come to an end.

But tonight is First Night, when the Prospers and their high-society friends return to the island to celebrate the night Lord Prosper first harnessed the island’s magic and started producing aether – a magical fuel source that has revolutionized the world. With everyone returning to the island, Mae finally has the chance to go after what she’s always wanted.

When the spirits start inexplicably dying, Mae starts to realize that things aren’t what they seem. And Ivo, the reclusive, mysterious heir to the Prosper magic, may hold all the answers – including a secret about Mae’s past that she doesn’t remember. As Mae and her friends begin to unravel the mysteries of the island, and the Prospers’ magic, Mae starts to question the truth of what her world was built on.

Forbidden magic, a family secret, and a night to reveal it all…


Author: Samantha Cohoe
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 15, 2022
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook


Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I stumbled upon this book when I was browsing new audiobook additions at my library and loved the cover. The concept seemed cool enough but when I read reviews on Goodreads that said it was a Tempest retelling, I was sold. I think it’s such an underrated Shakespeare play — but I promptly forgot that fact when I finally got to read it!

The Concept / The World:

So I definitely forgot it was inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest when I started reading. I would say it is a very loose retelling but the core of it is the same: a magically-naive girl stranded on a magic island is tempted for more when visitors appear on the magical island.

The Tempest as a play is about suffering, endurance, love and betrayal and I feel like there are elements of that here as well but with a shift of “who” is experiencing those emotions. To me, the broader message of this story was the cost of privilege and how much people are willing to pay (physically and emotionally) to maintain it.

I actually felt like this story was more the love child of Caraval (magic) and We Were Liars (family drama).

The Plot:

It took me a bit to figure out what was the actual plot of the story. The story moves a little slowly at the start as you learn about all the characters, the island and how the magic works. For me, the pacing was just off a bit with it all and I never got fully invested in the story or the plot.

The Characters:

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda (Prospero’s daughter) is extremely naive and oblivious to a lot of what is going on around her (besides her love interest). And while Mae does have a crush on Miles, her naivety doesn’t stop her from learning more about the island. But boy, is she a hard character to connect to. She was just all over the place for me with her actions and feelings. I understand that her world is literally crumbling around her but one minute she’d be brave in fighting for something, the next she would be a naive shell once more. There is something to be said about picking battles but I just got the impression she didn’t know what was happening more often then not.

There are a lot of side characters and some seem like they are haphazardly thrown in. I do wish Ivo had more screen time. He was very intriguing and I feel like we missed an opportunity.

The Romance:

It’s not often that I say a book should exclude the romance but I think this one might have been stronger without it. Again, it was wish-washy. Mae finds herself in a love triangle of sorts but it didn’t really add to the story in any way. I suppose it helped show her naivety? I dunno, I just really wish it was more or way less.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobook production was great. I really enjoyed listening to it and how all the various characters had distinct voices.

My Rating: 3/5


I just felt like this book was a little too all over the place. Like it couldn’t make up its mind about how or what it wanted to do. It’s not a good sign when you end a book and go, what was the point?

Read if You Like: Tempest Retellings, magic
Avoid if You: want a stronger plot and heroine


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