Dance of Shadows drew me in because it featured the New York Ballet Academy. Call me a sucker for a good dance narrative, but I have always been fascinated with the idea of being a ballerina. That being said, I can’t say that I fell as completely in love with the plot as I did with the notion of tutus and slippers.
The mystery centers on Vanessa, whose sister disappeared from the NYBA three years ago under suspicious circumstances. Vanessa, who is also a talented ballerina, gets accepted to the dance school as a way to solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance. It is clear from the beginning that Vanessa is not entirely passionate about dance, which makes it somewhat difficult to believe that she would make such effort to be accepted into an elite dance school such as NYBA just to see what happened to her sister. In sharp contrast to Vanessa’s sometimes lackluster interest in her amazing opportunity was the supporting cast of characters. I enjoyed the interaction between Vanessa and her friends, as the dialogue was quick albeit occasionally a little odd.
At times, the plot unfurled a bit too slowly for my tastes. I found myself wondering why Vanessa had not yet discovered a clue that seemed obvious from a much earlier point in the novel. In particular, the villain seemed clear from the beginning and while some intentions were not fully divulged, a big part of the later reveal is described in the prologue. This is not to say that Dance of Shadows isn’t a good story. I found Black’s descriptions of the rehearsals and the ways that ballerinas live and work to be fascinating and detailed. Furthermore, the final chapters were fast-paced, exciting and immersed the reader more fully in the paranormal aspect of the story. Without divulging any secrets, Yelena Black more fully showcases her ability to set a chilling mood in the final scene when she writes about the dimly lit basement studio, its scorched floors and the eerie dance that follows.
Despite some lackluster elements to the story, Dance of Shadows has some fascinating elements that are worth a read. In the literary world, we might say that the plot was laid out with all of the right details, but none of the suspense. In the dance world, I would imagine they might say that the footwork is in place, but the timing is off.