Dance of Shadows, by Yelena Black, tells about Vanessa Adler's search for her sister, Margaret. Margaret who disappeared from an elite New York Ballet Academy three years before. Vanessa follows in Margaret's footsteps to try and solve her mysterious disappearance. When Vanessa arrives, she quickly bonds with several of the other freshman. However, soon after school begins, one of Vanessa's new friends disappears. They are told she ran away, but Vanessa has her doubts. Even though she is only a freshman, Vanessa is cast as the lead role in the ballet The Firebird, just as Margaret had three years before. Vanessa and her friends discover a string of mysterious disappearances of dancers, especially the lead dancers in the annual productions. Meanwhile, Vanessa has started dating a mysterious and secretive senior who is the male lead in The Firebird. The weirdly harsh choreographer has added another dance, supposedly deemed too difficult early on, to the ballet. This strange dance is practiced in a room with ash and the outlines of dancers on the wall. Vanessa knows something very sinister is tying together the ballerinas' disapearances and the strange dance to her. Will she discover it before it is too late? Will she find her sister in time?
I didn't like this book very much. The antagonists had unclear motives, and magic was introduced partway through in a way I felt was slightly random. Foreshadowing was also overly obvious in some instances; for example, it is made obvious to the reader that Vanessa's boyfriend had ulterior motives because of how he acted in some scenes in the book, but Vanessa seems oblivious to this. However, Vanessa notices immediately that another boy clearly vying for her attention must have other reasons to get her attention. The book is seems as though it is meant to have a sequel, so not everything is answered in this one and several parts are left entirely unexplained. In particular, we learn that Margaret was still alive even though all the other missing dancers were dead. Also, I felt as though Vanessa was saved at the end instead of by her own actions or bravery. MIddle school readers who enjoy fantasy and reading about dance might enjoy this book.