ARC Review: BRIGHT RUINED THINGS by Samantha Cohoe

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on blue background next to blurred face
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 2 stars
Series: Standalone


Book cover for BRIGHT RUINED THINGS: title in gold on navy background with woman looking out

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

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. 

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I was rather looking forwards to this book. I enjoyed the author’s debut, and this is a Tempest inspired book where the Prospero of the book is quite clearly the villain (I really don’t like the character in the play!) However, what I got wasn’t really a historical fantasy, or what I wanted (or entirely what the blurb promised) and it was rather disappointing in the end.

It’s more a book about tangled love lives and messy family dynamics due to money, with the occasional remembrance that, oh yes, this is technically a fantasy – let’s cram in the magic spirits again. It did really feel like the fantasy was a second thought, existing in the little spaces left by the rest of the book, tacked on a bit awkwardly to give a dramatic finale. It didn’t feel well integrated.

The Tempest is clearly more of a springing off point, and then the author swam a fair way through the water away from the original play inspiration. I probably wouldn’t have been so disappointed by that if the fantasy element clearly inspired by the book hadn’t felt so tacked on, because I do like to see where an idea can be taken. But it was just another reminder that this wasn’t the book I was expecting and wanted.

This is a book set on a fictional island off the coast of 1920s England. It’s also a book that uses American English. This means the grammar is wrong (British past participles are often different!) and the dialect too. A 1920s British girl “stepping out of her pants for a swim” is something different from what the author means!

It really jerked me out the book every time the characters used obvious Americanisms, because it undermined to world for me. I couldn’t believe it was set in the UK because they were speaking like Americans. The book didn’t need to be set in the UK – it has literally no affect on the plot – so it could have been set in a fictional US island and then there would be no dialectal jarring.

Read my reviews of other books by Samantha Cohoe:


2 thoughts on “ARC Review: BRIGHT RUINED THINGS by Samantha Cohoe

  1. I understand where you’re coming from. I feel like it didn’t matter that it was set in the 1920s, and it didn’t matter that it was set in a fictional island off the coast of England. It could have been nearly any time and any were. Maybe the time and location was really just for the whole Gatsby feel of the party?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I probably wouldn’t have been quite so bothered about the seeming lack of work put into the setting (though the Americanism from supposedly British characters in a supposedly British setting will always irritate me) if the rest of the book hadn’t disappointed me so much

      Liked by 1 person

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