Annotation: After tragedy strikes, seventeen-year-old Rosa Alcantara leaves her home in New York City and moves to Sicily to live with her aunt and sister. The Alcantaras are one of the most powerful Mafia families in Italy, and Rosa doesn’t know what to expect by moving to Palazzo Alcantara. When she happens to meet Alessandro Carnevare, the heir to a rival family, however, the quiet life she was hoping to begin in Sicily is turned upside down.
Personal thoughts: This was one of those books that really left me stumped on what to expect. I knew it was about the Mafia, I had a pretty good guess that it had to do with shapeshifting of some kind, and I knew it was by a German author. What I didn’t know, and was pleasantly surprised to find out, was that it was one of the most unique books I’ve read for the young adult audience this year. The Mafia isn’t something you find too often in books for teens, and I really enjoyed the way the author dove headfirst into creating a very Godfather-y tale. The mythological and paranormal aspects of the story kind of took a backseat for me as I was reading the book, but I am hoping they will be expanded upon in the second and third installments because I think they hold loads of potential. One minor (and annoying) detail that I felt compelled to mention, was the frequent use of the word “supple” in the novel. I don’t have a problem with this word and maybe it had something to do with the book being translated from German to English, but it seemed like everything in the novel was “supple.” A little strange. There is also a decent amount of swearing, violence and gore in the book, which would make it hard for me to recommend to middle school-ers. For older teens, however, I would definitely suggest Arcadia Awakens as a unique and enjoyable read, chock full of romance and adventure.
Plot summary: Life for seventeen-year-old Rosa Alcantara has never been simple. Part of one of the most powerful Mafia families in Italy, Rosa’s parents moved her and her sister Zoe to New York City to escape the crime and murder that is part of everyday life for the Alcantaras. After tragedy strikes, however, Rosa decides to move to Sicily, and join Zoe, who already left New York to live with Florinda in the Palazzo Alcantara. As head of the Alcantaras, Florinda is far from warm and fuzzy, but Rosa hopes that a new life in Sicily will be what she needs. Everything changes, however, when Rosa happens to meet handsome and charming Alessandro Carnevare. As the son and heir of the Carnevare family, Alessandro is an enemy of Rosa’s, but the two are instantly attracted to one another. Alessandro’s father has recently died, and he is set to become the next head of the Carnevare family. Alessandro informs Rosa, however, that he believes his father’s advisor and right-hand-man, Cesare , wants to overthrow him and becoming the new leader of the Carnevares. Rosa wants to help Alessandro, much to the distress of Florinda and Zoe who don’t want her anywhere near members of a rival family. Things are further complicated when, one evening, Rosa encounters a massive, powerful tiger in the forest surrounding the Palazzo, a tiger with very human-like eyes who seems to know who she is.
Review: Originally published in Germany, this novel from renowned author Kai Meyer is the first installment in the Arcadia Awakens trilogy. Part Godfather part paranormal romance, Arcadia Awakens is a truly unique book for teens. While there are paranormal elements to the story, the bulk of the novel is made up of the conflict between the Alcantaras and Carnevares, two rival Mafia families and members of Cosa Nostra. Readers who are unfamiliar with the Mafia might be slightly confused by many of the terms and references, although the novel could be incentive to learn more about one of pop culture’s most commonly depicted organized crime groups. For those who aren’t as interested in the Mafia aspects of the story, the very Romeo and Juliet romance between Rosa and Alessandro, as well as the paranormal elements, will be intriguing enough on their own. The author does a good job of creating a story that appeals to a broad audience, and one that definitely has enough potential to warrant a trilogy. The second book in the trilogy, Arcadia Burns, has been released in Germany and will be released in the United States in the near future.
Reading level: Grade 9+
Similar titles: Tiger’s Curse series by Colleen Houck, Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs, Starcrossed series by Josephine Angelini.
Themes: The Mafia, Sicily, Italy, shapeshifting, Greek mythology, Atlantis, loyalty, murder, rape.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books and VOYA.
Series Information: First novel in Arcadia Awakens trilogy. Second and third novels, Arcadia Burns and Arcadia Falls, have been released in Germany, will be released in USA in the future.
Discussion questions:- What is the significance of the song ”My Death” in the novel?
- Explain why Rosa moved to Sicily. Do you think it was the right decision?
- Why do you think Rosa is so drawn to Alessandro? Why is Alessandro so drawn to Rosa?
- Would you describe Zoe as a protagonist or antagonist in the novel? Florinda? Fundling? Pantaleone?
- Who is your favorite character in the novel? Why?
- What would you like to see happen in the sequel?