Book Review: Arcadia Awakens

Arcadia Awakens (Arkadien #1)
Published By: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: February 2012
Page Count: 452
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Young Adult - Urban Fantasy

Holy crow. What an amazing journey to end 2012. This was the last book I finished before the 2013 showed up to the party and I couldn't be more pleased. I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel since I was not familiar with the author, but the synopsis pulled me in immediately. Sicilian Mafia and a paranormal twist? Sign me up.

One of the things I loved most about this novel was the uniqueness of the plot. Kai Meyer manages to combine the Mafia, Greek mythology, and shapeshifters into one amazing story. I loved uncovering the secrets of the darker side of Sicily. The dynamics between the Mafia families intrigued me and the forbidden romance between Rosa and Alessandro kept me reading at a frantic pace. There are several other sources of conflict during the course of this novel, but I shall leave those a mystery for the reader to experience. The adrenaline filled plot races from chapter one. I really enjoyed the fast pace - there isn't a dull moment.

Rosa, the protagonist, needed time to grow on me, but now I see her as a strong, no nonsense type. She loves deeply and passionately, loyalty is something she strives for, and she is perhaps one of the bravest females in YA literature. She reminded me a bit of Katniss at times. She isn't afraid to get her hands dirty when people she cares about are on the line. However, Rosa is also emotionally broken at times. She has some dark moments in her past that refuse to leave her be. It takes awhile for the truth of the past to come out, but when it does, my heart was broken. I don't know if I could handle living through something so horrific, but the events make Rosa stronger in the end. I loved that she was such a complex character. My only complaint with her is that I felt she made stupid decisions at times; she often allows her emotions to drive her actions instead of her brain.

In addition to Rosa, I adored Alessandro. He is also an extremely complex character. I often found myself wondering about his true intentions. On the one hand, he seems to care about Rosa deeply, but he is also trying to convince the rest of the Carnevare clan that he is fit to be the next leader. The relationship between him and Rosa worked well for me. Their attraction is kept at bay due to emotional baggage and family responsibilities. The ending of this one sets up some interesting chemistry. I am interested to see how things will play out for him in the future books.

I also really enjoyed Kai Meyer's writing style. It has a nice balance between description, action, and romance. He does a beautiful job with the world building and lore. I also liked that I often forgot this novel was YA; Meyer writes a compelling story that happens to have teen characters. I would feel comfortable recommending this novel to both YA and adult readers. It also will appeal to both male and female readers. This is one of those books that kept me guessing and compelled me to find resolution so I kept reading into the wee hours of the night. I'm so glad I read this one over Winter Break. It would have been brutal to have to leave this one for too long. I'm anxiously awaiting book two, Arcadia Burns, which comes out in February.

One Last Gripe: I wish there had been more about the Alcantara family drama. I really enjoyed that element of the Carnevares.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: I honestly can't think of any YA book I have ever read that had Mafia connections. It was a breath of fresh air for me to read something so vastly differently.

First Sentence: "One day," she said, "I'll catch dreams like butterflies."

Favorite Character: Rosa

Least Favorite Character: Cesare

To New Yorker 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 tragedy strikes, she must travel there, to her family’s ancestral home, where her sister and aunt have built their lives and where centuries of family secrets await her. Once there, Rosa wastes no time falling head over heels for Alessandro Carnevare, the son of a Sicilian Mafia family, whose handsome looks and savage grace both intrigue 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.

Ancient myths brought to life in the Sicilian countryside, dangerous beasts roaming the hills, and a long history of familial bloodlust prove to Rosa that she can’t trust anyone—not even her own family. Torn between loyalty to her aunt and love for her family’s 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.