Released: March 1st 2012
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Find it on 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. (from Goodreads)
Arcadia Awakens was a book with an interesting premise and great mix of crime and mythology. However, while I did enjoy it, I felt it didn’t live up to its potential and was lacking in certain areas.
One of the things I liked most about the book was the fact the characters were really different from those in your usual YA series. Our main character Rose was sarcastic, bratty, short-tempered and cold, and to be honest, I didn’t really like her to begin with. However, I could empathise with her. She’d been born into a life of crime and deception, where topics such as robbery and even murder were discussed almost casually as if they were talking about paying the phone bill. Her family emphasised the importance of loyalty and blood being thicker than water – but they were never really there for her. Rosa had to go through such horrific things and her family just wanted to brush it all off. They didn’t really support her or understand how she was feeling at all; it’s no wonder she was so damaged and closed off from people. She felt alone, and couldn’t trust anybody, not even herself. Her character gave a lot of insight into the kind of world she was born into and how much it could affect a person.
Another thing I really liked was the mythology. Though I think it could have been explained a little better, I liked learning about each family and their history, and how it tied in with the snakes and tigers/panthers that Rosa had been seeing. I was drawn in by these mysterious creatures, and how Rosa seemed to be connected with them. I was most intrigued, however, by the photograph discovered halfway through that basically changed Rosa’s perception of everything. This photograph meant that everything she’d ever been told had to be questioned – and I’m looking forward to finding more about it and the issue it concerns in the future books in the series.
One character I really liked was Iole. She was just an innocent fifteen year old girl, immature for her age and trapped with nowhere to go. She seemed to connect with Rosa instantly, and though she seemed to act so young, she often said wise things you’d never expect to hear. I enjoyed her character and hope to see more of her.
However, I did have a few issues with this book. The first problem I had was with the romance. Rosa was part of the Alcantara family, who were supposedly bitter rivals of the Carnevare family, which her love interest Alessandro belonged to. The whole synopsis gives off “Romeo and Juliet” vibes, but if that’s what you’re expecting, be prepared to be disappointed. There wasn’t really any huge secret or deception going on so the two could be together. They never really risked much by going to see each other and were generally never punished for being together (of course, there were objections, and there was violence too, but it didn’t seem to matter that the two never listened). It all seemed a bit half-hearted to me, like there was supposed to be this great controversy that two rival clan members were seeing each other, but really, it appeared that neither family was really too concerned with the issue. I didn’t really believe the danger that apparently came with Rosa and Alessandro being together. I also felt the romance developed really quickly. Though the two didn’t like each other at first, Alessandra declared his love for Rosa before he’d even kissed her. It just seemed unrealistic, as did the fact that Alessandro was supposedly this kind, caring guy with a conscience, yet he was prepared to take over as head of a family involved with hundreds of murders and other serious crimes.
Another problem I had was with the writing itself. There were a few really beautiful descriptions that I loved reading, but overall, the novel seemed quite choppy and disjointed. I think this may be down to the translation (I’m not entirely sure), but it definitely put me off a bit and removed me from the story several times.
I did enjoy the plot and was drawn in by the unique story. I think the characters showed a little bit of development towards the end, and I’m hoping this will continue as the series progresses. The ending definitely brought up a whole set of new problems for Alessandro and Rosa, and I think the forbidden romance I craved in this book will become more prominent in future books, so I’m looking forward to that.
Overall, Arcadia Awakens was an engaging read that pulled me in from the start. I did have several issues with it, but I’m still excited for the sequel, and would recommend this to anyone interested in books about the Mafia or mythology.