This review and others are posted at Inspiring Insomnia.
Note: This review will contain spoilers from Poison Princess, the first book in the series.
The Arcana Chronicles series reads like a mystical version of The Hunger Games. That’s not a bad thing here. Usually when I compare a book to The Hunger Games, it doesn’t fare well in comparison. But Kresley Cole manages to keep the whole teenagers-out-to-slaughter-each-other thing fresh by having them embody the characters on Tarot cards.
Evie is the Empress, and she is completely transformed from the girl she was in Poison Princess. She is now in full control of her powers, and she’s not afraid to use them, whether it’s injecting foes with poison from her claws or strangling them with deadly vines. The foes continue to come at Evie from all sides as we are introduced to more of the Arcana.
Evie doesn’t only have the Arcana, people with powers to rival her own, to worry about. There are the zombie-ish “bagmen,” and a scene which exposes their peculiar eating habits is thrillingly grotesque. I think a lot of readers will be completely disgusted, as well as shocked at the level of gore in this YA book, but it all worked for me.
I haven’t even mentioned poor Jack yet. He was so charismatic in Poison Princess, but he is no match for Death, once Death gets his clutches on Evie. If you loved him in Poison Princess, you can expect to feel his absence here. Jack now knows that Evie is not quite human, and he’s more than a bit conflicted about it. Even though I liked Jack in the last book, I became bored with him rather quickly here. So I was happy to see mopey Jack get shoved to the background when Death showed up with his special blend of spice and excitement. And yes, this does mean that we’ve got a love triangle. I was OK with it here, mostly because Jack’s presence was felt mostly in Evie’s mind, and Death was intriguing enough for me to want to forget that Jack exists at time.
The cliffhanger here was somewhat…ick. The revelations and the events leading up to it were a wonderful surprise, but it was just that last scene that bothered me. Don’t worry – I won’t spoil it, but I think Cole is accustomed to writing for adults, and she should try not to forget that Evie is 16. Because, like I said, ick.
As a word of caution: there are a couple of sex scenes that are quite explicit for a book that’s considered Young Adult. They pale in comparison to Cole’s adult books, but this may not be appropriate for readers who fall more towards the Young end of the Young Adult spectrum.