Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Arcadia Awakens

Kai Meyer
Paranormal Young Adult
464 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available February 14th
Received from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
To Rosa Alcantara, the exotic world of Sicily, with its network of Mafia families and its reputation for murder and intrigue, is just that—exotic and wholly unknown. But when her life in Brooklyn begins to fall apart, she must travel there, to her family’s ancestral home, where centuries of family secrets await her.

Once there, Rosa falls head over heels for Alessandro Carnevare, the son of a Sicilian Mafia family, whose handsome looks and savage grace both fascinate and unsettle her. But their families are sworn enemies, and her aunt and sister believe Alessandro is only using Rosa to infiltrate the Alcantara clan. And when Rosa encounters a tiger one night—a tiger with very familiar eyes—she can no longer deny that neither the Carnevares nor the Alcantaras are what they seem.

Hidden caves, dangerous beasts roaming the hills, and a history of familial bloodlust mean that Rosa can’t trust anyone. Torn between loyalty to her family and love for their mortal enemy, Rosa must make the hardest decision of her life: stay in Sicily with her new love…or run as far and as fast as she can.

Arcadia Awakens is an unusual story, one where the strangeness of it is both a positive in that it stands out amidst the masses of paranormal young adult fiction, and a negative in that it leaves us a bit unsure as to exactly how we feel about what we’ve read. On the plus side we have the richly atmospheric setting of Sicily, a place where light and dark exist in equal measures and where the beauty of the landscape is in contrast with the nefarious deeds committed by the Cosa Nostra as they defend to the death their political and financial empires. We are also given a fascinating paranormal entity to pique our curiosity, however, there are so many branches to overall plot tree that it’s difficult for us to focus–our bodies so close to the trunk that we’re unable to look up and take in the entire tree as a whole, instead we're left with eyes darting side to side and up and down trying to decipher the tangle of limbs.

Rosa is a hard young woman, events of her recent past fundamentally altering the girl she used to be and transforming her into someone who relies on small acts of rebellion–whether it’s stealing small items or using her bad attitude as a defense mechanism–to win back some of the control over her life that was stripped from her the year before. Even understanding the pain and loss she experienced doesn’t entirely warm us to her, and her cold treatment of Alessandro makes it difficult for us to believe in their budding forbidden attraction. Without even the slight warmth from a romantic spark, the other prevalent dangers and family secrets are a bit overwhelming, and we find ourselves floundering alone in a world where honor has a rather dubious definition and loyalty is as much an item for sale as any product in one of the many Sicilian markets.

Though the synopsis suggests that Alessandro and Rosa’s love (though this term is used loosely when applied to their relationship) is of the epic Romeo and Juliet variety, it actually proves to be somewhat of a non-issue given that neither family seems overly bothered at the idea of them together. We then spend a good deal of our time trying to figure out if one of the other multiple conflicts is going to become the center around which the other elements revolve, but our search for one predominant issue is in vain. No single conflict is given more attention than the others to help direct our gaze, instead we’re simply readers with poor eyesight denied our prescription glasses to bring us clarity, awash in a blur of images we want so badly to blink into focus.

By the time we reach the end of this story of not inconsiderable length, a few of the aforementioned plot tree branches have been shorn, leading us to believe that perhaps the next installment might be more streamlined than this first one. Due to certain events in the concluding pages, the forbidden aspect of Rosa and Alessandro’s relationship is elevated to a whole new level, serving as the piece of flint we’ve been waiting for to help ignite this story’s tinder; the only problem is it seems we’ll have to wait to see if that spark takes hold in the second book or if it’s smothered again by an overabundance of other elements.

Rating: 3.5/5


  1. I just LOVE the cover, and i also like unusual stories!
    Thanks for the review!!

    Farah @MajiBookshelf

  2. This really sounds like a Romeo and Juliet story, which is not a bad thing of course. I liked that you said is's unusual... Unusual can work pretty damn awesome or, not so much!
    I'm still not sold on this book to be honest ...

    (Although I have to say, I loove Tigers..)

  3. Amazing and thorough review! I just received Arcadia Awakens from a blog contest today and just by reading the synopsis, you can tell that it's going to be different and unusual, like you said. And after reading your review...I'm curious whether or not I'll like the book.

  4. I ran into that type of storytelling not to long ago. I got frustrated because you keep waiting, see a glimpse, and then it is covered again by something else.

    Great Review Jeny!

  5. Maji - It's gorgeous isn't it? Definitely fits the feel of the story as well:)

    Danny - It does sound like a Romeo and Juliet story but it wasn't really. Not until the end anyway. Neither family seemed overly worried about them fraternizing, so that element was lost a bit on me.

    Momo - It's definitely a different read, I just wish there hadn't been quite so many different elements going on in the one story. It was hard to really settle in because I kept trying to figure out which element was going to be the primary conflict.

    Felicia - Exactly. I'd think for a minute I'd finally been shown the main issue I was going to have to deal with and then it would turn out not to be a big issue at all and something else would take it's place.

  6. While I do love the idea that the story stands on its own in the paranormal genre, the writing would frustrate me. I don't mind not getting all of the answers but you have to give me something to hold on to and keep me interested in reading/caring for it. I think I'll pass on this one. Thanks for the review, Jenny!

  7. Lovely review, Jenny. I'm not too sure what to expect from this book but I do like that you mentioned it was slightly unusual. I think something a bit different would be a good reading experience. I have a copy on its way to me so I can't wait to see what I make of it! :)

  8. Ok I hate snakes!! And I can handle a little snake on covers, but to me that looks freaky...

    Ill probably have to pass this one, but I do love an unusual story..;)

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book Jenny! This is actually the first review I've read for it so far. I've been super curious for it for a while now. :)

  10. This sounds rather disappointing. I read one other review of it that was blase. I like the Sicily setting - unique. The dud Romeo and Juliet story is too bad. I am not a fan of the cover. The snake is cool but I don't like how the rest of it is dark.

  11. I received a copy of this one for review, but I hadn't really heard much about it until now. I liked the sound of the Sicilian setting and also thought this one sounded a little different from a lot of paranormal YA's out there. Looking forward to giving it a try soon.

    I'm not really a fan of the cover either. I think we have a different cover for this one over here. My ARC is a blank cover though, so I can't remember what it is for sure now.

  12. The cover freaks me out! *hides*
    But the rest, ohh, I like the mafia! yes please to that

  13. Rummanah - I haven't read anything quite like it which was a good thing, but like you said, I need something to grab hold of and there were just so many moving pieces I couldn't get my hands around any of them.

    Sam - The fact that it was kind of strange and dark saved it a bit, it was refreshing even though I was often confused and scrambling for purchase.

    Tina - I know you do. This is not the book for you:)

    Christy - You're welcome! It's strange and different, I just wish there had been less going on - maybe one or two less conflicts to help me focus.

    Alison - It was a little in terms of the romance. I expected that to be the main issue, this forbidden love, but it really wasn't an issue at all. Though the ending seems to suggest it will be a big issue in the next book.

    Leanna - I'll be interested to see what you think! I liked this one well enough, the setting was fabulous and there was a good story in there, I just thought it got buried a bit in some crazy side conflicts.

    Linda - It's a creepy cover, but I really like it. It's fitting:)

  14. Hi Jenny -

    This is Kai, thanks for the review! As you might know English is not my first language (the book was translated by Anthea Bell), so I hope this makes sense ...
    What I always try to do is establish all the major conflicts for the whole series in the first novel. I´m not a big fan of giving the reader a new antagonist with each book - obviously there WILL be new characters, but they belong to parties already involved in the conflict laid out in the first installment.
    By the end of "Arcadia Awakens" several plot threads are resolved or have developed to the next level and - as you know - more than one antagonist dies in the end. So there should be a sense of closure to the first chapter. The plot of the warring families and the love story, though, are developed much further in the second and third book, so I hope you will enjoy those.
    Best wishes,

  15. What? Falsely advertising the romance is not a way to win me over! LOL

    But yeah, I would expect a kind of strange story to match the strange cover. Something about this book doesn't really appeal to me, but this is the first review I read for it and I'm glad to know more about it. Thanks Jenny.

  16. Kai - HI!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to read the review and leave a comment:) What you said definitely makes sense, and I understand wanting to introduce the conflicts for the entire series in the first book. I guess the blurb led me to believe the main conflict would be the forbidden romance, so I think I was probably just thrown a bit when that didn't seem to be quite as big of an issue as was suggested (though it seems like it will be a bigger issue moving forward). Despite my sometime confusion, I still enjoyed it and look forward to the next book!

    Missie - The blurb is slightly misleading in that area I think. Their romance is definitely frowned upon, but it's not quite as life-or-death as I thought it would be going in:)

  17. I haven't seen the greatest things on this one but I'm glad to know that it's alright! The love aspect of this one doesn't sound so great, either. Never less, I'll probably read this one! Thanks for the review!

  18. I was torn on this one as well. I loved the writing style, for sure. And I thought Rosa was great at first. But...I dunno, the romance didn't quite do it for me. I still enjoyed the book, though! Great review, Jenny. :)

  19. Excellent review, Jenny, but I might be skipping this one. Excessively long books in a series with too few plot lines tied up in a given book irritate the heck out of me. I appreciate when a book is part of a series but stands on its own. I feel like this monster books that do little in terms of plot are becoming too prevalent right now :(

    However, reading your reviews? Priceless.

  20. The cover gives me the creeps! Thanks for the honest review. Sounds like this book lacked a bit of direction. That can be so frustrating!

  21. Katie - I enjoyed the things that made it different and unique, those were numerous enough that I was plenty excited to keep reading and find out more. I would have just loved one or two less conflicts:)

    Lauren - Agreed. The romance didn't do it for me either, I didn't really believe it. The ending was interesting though, and I kind of want to know where their relationship will go now:)

    Linds - Thanks! There were definitely quite a few plot lines, but at least at the end many of them had been tied up, so I don't think the second book will suffer from the same problems (for me) as this one did.

    Heidi - It is creepy isn't it? But I love it, I think it's dark and beautiful and strange and that sums the book up pretty well:)

  22. Hmmm... I am very much intrigued by this story dude. It's like one of those ones I'm almost positive isn't really for me, but I still feel compelled to read it regardless!

  23. The best part of the story was the mafia part! I really loved that twist! Loved the review :)

  24. I think I would feel a bit frustrated with the first one, but maybe it would be better to read it once the second one is out (or even the third as well) so that the whole story can be read together and I wouldn't forgot most all of the plot points. Or feel an overwhelming bit of frustration. I think I'll try to hold off until closer to the release of the second book at least. It certainly has a unique kind of story line though!

  25. I so want to read this one. However, now that I've read your review, I'm going to wait for the next one or two to be published first. Then if those provide needed clarity, I will read them all at once. *evil laugh*

    See... you help me be evil! ;)

  26. The thing is, I hate being deceived. And from your review, I gather the summary wasn't very accurate, which sucks because I had high hopes for this one. I still want to read it, to get a feel for it myself. Hopefully the sequel will be more impressive :)

  27. This sounds like an interesting read. Although, it does seem like there are a few problems. Thanks for your honesty on the book! The cover is super creepy. Great review :)

  28. A story set not in the US is always a big plus but it sounds like there might just be too much going on here and not enough focus. I'd probably take this one off my wishlist based on your review, but since you gave it a 3.5, I'm going to keep it there for now, Jenny. Thanks!

  29. It sounds like a good read but not amazing enough for me to read asap. =T thnx for the honesty my dear!! I'll keep reading some other reviews just in case.

    muah!! wish u an awesome day!

    Dazzling Reads

  30. amazing review as always and maybe might read ...I don't like it when the book seems to be all over the place and no clear direction. I love the cover

  31. I just picked this one up at ALA and I really couldn't get a feel for what the book was about by the cover or summary.
    I'm not sure if it sounds like the right book for me. There seems to be a lot of misleading summaries lately - particularly when it comes to the romantic aspects. Maybe it's meant to play out over the length of the series but if it doesn't grab me by book one , it probably isn't going to.

  32. No connection to Rosa and an unbelievable forbidden romance just doesn't sell it for me. Sounds like it hit just shy of the mark. Too bad. It sounded like it had great possibility. Great review showing what did and didn't work. As always very fair!