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I Belong

Review: Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer

Title: Arcadia Awakens

Author: Kai Meyer

Genre: YA Paranormal

Series: Arkadien Trilogy (Book 1)

Publication Date: February 14, 2012

Format: Hardcover, 451 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062006061 (Harper Teen)

ISBN-13:  978-0062006066 (Harper Teen)

Reviewed by: Emmy


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.

Quick & Dirty: Takes a while to get going, but it does have a creative story involving the mafia, mythology, and a gorgeous Sicilian setting.

Opening Sentence: “One day,” she said, “I’ll catch dreams like butterflies.”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

This book starts out slow.  I found this really weird, because the chapters are short and the heroine, Rosa, was someone I wanted to get into. But while the writing of this novel was beautiful and poetic, it did hinder my ability to get into this book right off the bat. In the first few pages you’re introduced to Rosa as a klepto with an attitude. Her kleptomania is one of her many small acts of rebellion, one of the many ways she differentiates herself from other YA heroines.  She’s snarky and more than a little rude. She’s strong, determined, and independent.  From the very beginning, I knew she was going to be a character I liked, even if I wasn’t invested initially.

Since she employs this sarcasm on the obvious love interest, there’s not head-over-heels insta-love that I loathe in YAs these days. If nothing else this sarcasm shows Rosa as smart, if only street smart. She’s an entertaining and layered character and so is Alessandro Carnevare, but somehow I wasn’t always invested in their romance. Their spark, unfortunately, was not always tended into a flame and a lot of scenes in the story lacked the romantic tension they needed.

That being said, mafia and mythology are two of my favorite reads, mix them together and you’ve created a novel that’s everything I want.  Maybe I set my expectations a little high because I’ve read Meyer’s other books.  Unfortunately the mystery in this first installment has an obvious resolution. It’s revealed pretty early on and then the rest of the novel is left to info-dumping, a tactic I despise.  While the mixture of mafia facts and mythology isn’t as seamless throughout as it maybe should be, it’s clearly very well researched and creative.  I can say I’ve definitely never read a series like this one, which is hard to say for a young adult novel. I love the shapeshifting aspect of this book and the way it’s mixed in with the rest of the supernatural. The Carnevares are shifters who change into big cats, like lions; the Alcantara morph into snakes. So in addition to the mafia rivalry, you have to very different kinds of predators fighting.

It was fascinating to see the way Meyer wove Arcadia, a part of Greek myth, into the two rival mafia families. He’s constructed an incredibly complex world, and the mixing of all these aspects will, I think, carry the series somewhere the reader isn’t expecting.  I say this because even though the mystery in the beginning was obvious, the rest of the novel is incredibly creative.

I’m trying to keep this review a little vague, because the way Meyer mixes the mafia, mythology and romantic elements together are really the only thing that carried me through the beginning of the book.  While it definitely picks up speed later on, initially it’s not a very fast read. I’ll definitely be reading the other two books, because I can’t wait to see where Meyer takes his readers in Arcadia Burns.

Notable Scene:

Rosa whispered, “ ‘The after-dream of the reveller upon opium–the bitter lapse into everyday life…’ Maybe I should go take a closer look at the facade of this place, make sure there are no cracks in it.”


“Edgar Allan Poe. the Fall of the House of Usher. The narrator compares his feelings when he first sees the Ushers’ house to the way an opium addict feels waking up.  In the end the whole place falls apart….I read it in school.  Don’t you know it, Zoe?”

Her sister’s brow wrinkled. “Well, there are no ghosts here, anyway.”

“Madeline Usher wasn’t a ghost. she seemed to be dead, so her brother buried her alive.  Then she crawled out of her coffin again.  Where’s the family vault?”

Zoe looked critically at Rosa’s black nail polish.  “Still crazy about all that horror crap, I see.”

Rosa gently touched her hand.  “Will you show me Dad’s grave?”

The Arkadien Trilogy:

1. Arcadia Awakens

2. Arcadia Burns

3. Arcadia Falls

FTC Advisory: Harper Teen provided me with a copy of Arcadia Awakens.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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