This book is: like a sugary snack. I enjoyed eating it, but I was hungry again later.
Other elements: magic, London society, young romance, secret evil societies, family secrets,
Read it: if you want something fluffy and aren’t feeling picky. If you liked the The Selection.
Overall rating: 5.5/10
The first thing I have to say is that the cover illustration is ludicrous. Arcana is set in Edwardian London. This idiot on the cover is wearing what appears to be a contemporary wedding dress with some kind of crocheted decorative wrist cuff.
However, Arcana does fit well with the myriad other YA fantasy novels out there with cover illustrations of pretty girls wearing pretty dresses. A pretty, not very bright girl – in this case, an aristocratic young lady in Edwardian England – becomes embroiled in a situation. There is a love triangle between a sexy-but-dangerous man and a nice-but-less-sexy man. Etc, etc.
That said, Mr. Boring was boring but Mr. Sexy was sexaaaaay. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the scenes between him and the main character, Katherine (who goes by “Wren,” which I keep forgetting because it so weird to me). When Wren and Mr. Sexy got their banter on, I found myself wishing Arcana were just a romance novel so that the crackling chemistry there could have more screen time.
Because Arcana is fantasy. Our heroine isn’t just a debutante, she can do magic, because her mother was not quite human. The magic she and her half-blood siblings possess is interesting, but the relationship of the non-human world to the human world is poorly defined. It’s supposed to be extremely rare for these magical beings to leave their world, let alone sire children with a human, but for some reason the main character’s magical powers are constantly under danger of discovery by people who know exactly what she is.
Several major moments of tension in the book go like this:
1. Heroine knows she shouldn’t use her powers because she might be discovered.
2. Heroine uses powers anyway.
3. Heroine is discovered.
My main criticisms are that the heroine was just a little too dumb and the
characters plot everything lacked subtlety. And also that I hated a thing that happened near the end.
**I’m going to describe a major plot point of the book in vague terms. If you don’t want any spoilers, stop now!**
Like many dim heroines, Katherine-called-Wren grows up a bit over the course of the novel. I found myself proud and approving when, facing a rapidly devolving situation with only one way out, little Wren prepared to steel herself and do a dangerous and scary thing for the good of herself and her family.
But at the last second, her chosen man shows up. And she turns around and goes off with him to get married. I would probably have given this book another whole point in my rating if that scene had gone differently.
My thanks to Talos Press for providing me with a review copy of Arcana.
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