Author: Kai Meyer
Genre: YA, Romance, Paranormal, AWESOME
Publication Date: February 2012 (expected)
Summary: 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.
☆: 5/5 – an awesome new look at the mob and mythology!
Review: You know, you’d never think that, when putting together a story using the Italian Mafia and mythology would mix. Kai Meyer’s “Arcadia Awakens” not only makes it totally work, but literally casts a spell over his readers. This book is gorgeously written, with no stone left unturned, and makes for a very good first book in a trilogy. If you like your heroines awesome with a side of gumption, you definitely need to read “Arcadia Awakens”, ASAP.
For a first book, this part of the Arkadien trilogy is surprisingly full-bodied. Had I not already known that this had been published as a trilogy in Germany, I would have thought it a standalone. It reads like a standalone, and yet leaves lots of room for more expansion into this world of snakes, tigers, myths, and the mob. Meyer covers all of his bases so thoroughly that I was quite impressed and just a taste speechless by the end of the book. The characters feel fully-rounded and totally 3D (hell, I kind of wish I were in the Alacantara household – even if dangerous, it never seems dull!), the sensory language positively electric. All of the arcs and the sub-arcs were executed more or less flawlessly, without leaving me scratching my head in confusion or worse, throwing the book across the room in rage at lack of that sense of completion we as the reading audience look for when reading.
More impressive, Meyer has conquered cross-gender narration. This book is mainly written in 3rd close, so we get to be in Rosa’s head without her actually telling the story herself. 3rd close, if used correctly, can be completely gender-neutral, or shapeshift to fit the gender of the character it follows. Meyer does that here so well that I was completely convinced that this had been written by a woman. It’s very difficult to write characters that are not of the same gender as the writer, I’ve figured out, especially when there might be romance involved, and still manage to make it realistic. But Meyer is one of the few male writers I’ve seen in YA that’s managed to create a completely believable YA heroine and not what just might be a male mental facsimile of one. (Hey, ladies, we tend to do the mental male facsimile thing, too – especially when it comes to creating convincing/realistic guys in romantic situations – so don’t think it’s just a problem that the guys have when creating female protagonists. I bring this up because it’s a simple problem that comes up a lot when you try to write a differently-gendered protagonist, regardless of the author’s gender. Redundant? Maybe. But it needed to be said.) That being said, I think that this will be one of the few YA books with a female protagonist that will be easily relatable to both genders as an audience. It has something for everyone, whether you’re a boy, girl, or somewhere in between, and that’s hard to do, especially in YA.
But what really knocked my socks off was the part about a more obscure bit of Greek mythology: King Lycaon and Arcadia. I won’t spoil the story, but I’ll just say this – the way that Meyer rebuilt this mythology to fit his own was incredibly awesome, and I want to know more, now. Hell, I want the last two books now (since, unfortunately, I can’t speak, read, nor write in German). He gives us just enough to fill in the blanks, and doesn’t quite leave us on a cliffhanger, but doesn’t get anywhere close to answering the rest of our questions (how this Greek version of utopia migrated to the Italian Mafia, for instance), either. But as I said before, this reads as a standalone, and the way that all of these questions and answers were plugged into the main arc and sub-arcs, I’m totally cool with how the information was dealt out, both in amount and in method.
Also, my hat’s off to the translator – you did a fantastic job. This reads smoothly with no “translatese” issues that translated works so often have.
I think that this book is going to be a hit when it gets published on Valentine’s Day (the most appropriate release date for this story, to be perfectly honest) here in the States, and I sincerely hope it gets the attention and adoration it deserves. This definitely is within my top ten of 2012 so far, so you guys really have to give it a read. “Arcadia Awakens” will definitely make you want to fly off to rural Italy, stalk the mob, and hunt for tigers and snakes in the night. Highly recommended!