My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis from 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.
Arcadia Awakens is a brilliantly unique and colourful story! The writing is very beautiful and lyrical, and combined with the description of the gorgeous Sicilian countryside setting, it gives an air of exotic mysticism to the narrative.
After a trauma in New York where she has been raised, Rosa decides to return to Sicily where her family are from and where her sister has settled with her aunt. Rosa as a character is strong, determined and brilliantly quirky, not to mention a little bit of a rule-breaker!
I thought the Mafia aspect of the story would be the element that would appeal to me the least (I'm not a fan at all of mobster/ gangster movies), but as it turns out I actually got really into it! The different families and warring clans meant that there is always some new intrigue or betrayal, and you are never sure who can really be trusted- if they are just playing some power game. It also meant that the growing friendship between Rosa and Alessandro, had a kind of Romeo and Juliet feel to it. I liked the idea that both their families hated the idea of the two of them spending time together.
The book is harsh in places and full of building tension, which seems to grow as more and more secrets are revealed, and there is a constant air of danger and that something really sinister is about to happen.
The story weaves old legends from ancient Greece and Aesop's fables in together with Rosa's traumatic New York background, and lends an air of magic and mystery to a modern day setting with warring Mafia families.
I don't want to give too much away, because it is kind of magical the way the mystery unfolds itself throughout the story, but I loved the revelation of the mythology and Rosa's subsequent development as a person. I loved the growing bond of trust between Rosa and protective Alessandro, and the tension between the different families of Sicily.
With secrets, kidnappings, traitors, tragedy and love- this is a fabulous many-layered book with an unusual supernatural twist. There are still some unanswered mysteries, which makes me think that this will be an exciting and intricate series.
Recommended for fans of Cornelia Funke or any YA paranormal romance with a sinister twist to it.
Book 2- Arcadia Burns is due for release February 2013