Sunday, 11 March 2012

Arcadia Awakens (Arkadien #1)

Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer
Hardback, 332 pages

Published March 1st 2012 by Templar
(First Published November 1st 2009)
My shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, cover-appeal, fantasy, lgbt-characters, mythology, read-in-2012, series-or-companions, shapeshifters, templar, translated, young-adult, 

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
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.

My thanks go to Templar for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Unlike most other readers, the premise of this book did nothing for me, simply because I've never had any sort of interest in the mafia which is a big theme in this book. I was a little unsure about the shapeshifter element, another big theme, as I've not yet read any books about shapeshifters that I've really enjoyed. Why did I read this then? I'm not all that sure - I guess I just wanted to see if this was any different to other young adult books at the moment and I'd read some great reviews. I'm very glad that I did decide to read this one as it was a surprisingly engrossing read!

I'll start with the main thing that bugged me and that was the writing style. This book was actually written in German, so I'm not sure what was lost in translation and I can't blame the author for that. I just felt as though a lot of the sentences didn't flow well - note that I did read an ARC of this book though, so this may be slightly different in the final version.

Apart from the sometimes awkward writing, I found Arcadia Awakens to be a very enthralling read. This is a quite loosely based modern day Romeo and Juliet, set on the alluring island of Sicily, Italy. The backdrop to the story wasn't overly described but Meyer gave us a very good sense of the setting. Our two main characters, Rosa Alcantara and Alessandro Carnevare, are from opposing sides of the Sicilian mafia and they form a forbidden bond, falling in love with each other. Thankfully the love wasn't instant and instead, they gradually grew to trust each other. I actually did find myself wishing that there was slightly more chemistry between them, but I think that it was enjoyable enough as it was - it felt natural and unforced. There was potential for conflict between them and I thought that could've been explored more - especially because of the feud between the two families. Of course, there is certainly room for a lot more exploration in the next books in the series.

I really did begin to care for both Rosa and Alessandro, they were both very likeable and strong characters. I thought that Rosa was particularly fascinating. From the beginning, we see that she is quite head-strong and confident - however, she does have a somewhat fragile layer underneath which we can see from her recollections of what's happened to her in the past. Rosa clearly has a history outside Italy and the Mafia, which I would love to learn more about. I think that Alessandro and the mafia history were equally as interesting - something that I never thought I'd say! I did find it slightly confusing at points as parts of the clans, the history and hierarchy were explained but it wasn't overly heavy or difficult which I was thankful for - I am glad that it was explained to help me understand the story as it was quite intricate. Arcadia is a part of Greek mythology and it was interesting to see how this was interwoven into the clans lives.

As well as unexpectedly enjoying the mafia aspect of the story, I also really liked reading about the shape shifters. The Carnevares turn into different species of big cats (i.e. tigers, lions and panthers) and the Alacantaras morph into snakes. I thought that the transformation was very well described and I didn't find it 'creepy' like I have in other novels - although it's fantasy, it didn't actually seem that bizarre, it was almost mesmerising to see how the humans changed and how their animal sides acted.

I thoroughly enjoyed Arcadia Awakens and would love to see how the rest of the trilogy turns out. It's quite a unique, complex story which certainly brings something original to the young adult genre. I'd recommend this to anyone who simply wants a different fantasy read. If you're a little apprehensive of the subject matter like I was, I'd also urge you to give it a go - you'll probably be very pleasantly surprised!


9 comments:

  1. Wow, this sounds really good! Thanks for the recommendation. I'm not much on mob books, but I do love shapeshifters, esp ones that don't turn into wolves!

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  2. This book sounds freaking AH-MAZING. I must find it when it comes out! I'll be putting it on my list of "to look out fors." Hell! It might even be my WOW this week!

    Admittedly though, I hate snakes so the cover kind of scares me. :/

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  3. Ancient myths and dangerous beasts sound good, not so the mafia. Not too sure I'd enjoy this one but thanks for a great review anyway.

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  4. I'm sorry the writing didn't flow as well, that's why I usually don't like to read translations and learned to read in English.

    But I'm glad you liked the book otherwise :D

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  5. Three cheers for the originality of the story! =D

    Generally I don't like snakes but this cover is so gorgeous it made it to my Cover Crazy post and I have been looking forward to reading it ever since. I am more excited after reading your review!

    Sana @ artsy musings of a bibliophile

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  6. This sounds so intriguing! A must read! Thanks for the review and revealing this amazing book to me! :)

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  7. Great Review,
    I just finished this one and I have to say it was just ok for me. I hated Rosa in parts of the book and it got off to such a slow start I nearly gave up on it! Glad I carried on though.

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  8. I love the cover and it sounds really interesting. Will be adding it to my list of books to read.

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  9. Sounds really cool, and I LOVE the cover!

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