Book Review: Arcana Rising by Kresley Cole

When the battle is done . . .
The Emperor unleashes hell and annihilates an army, jeopardizing the future of mankind–but Circe strikes back. The epic clash between them devastates the Arcana world and nearly kills Evie, separating her from her allies.

And all hope is lost . . .
With Aric missing and no sign that Jack and Selena escaped Richter’s reach, Evie turns more and more to the darkness lurking inside her. Two Arcana emerge as game changers: one who could be her salvation, the other her worst nightmare.

Vengeance becomes everything.
To take on Richter, Evie must reunite with Death and mend their broken bond. But as she learns more about her role in the future–and her chilling past–will she become a monster like the Emperor? Or can Evie and her allies rise up from Richter’s ashes, stronger than ever before?

If you want to check out my reviews of the first three (and a half) installments of the Arcana Chronicles, you can find them by clicking on their titles: Poison Princess, Endless Knight, Dead of Winter, Day Zero

Arcana Rising picks up immediately after the end of Dead of Winter, with the Emperor and Circe battling.  We find out almost immediately that two main characters have died, and Evie is then separated from Aric and goes, well, a bit bat-shit.

She ends up somewhere in Indiana, far from where any of her allies were, and literally runs herself practically into the ground trying to get back to her other Arcana.  I did make the mistake of reading this installment before reading arcanarisingthe 3.5 story, Day Zero, so upon meeting all the new Arcana in this narrative, I was a bit lost about what to expect. (I’ve since read Day Zero and feel like I have a much more well-rounded picture of these new characters)

Side Note: Kudos to Cole for including a polyamorous relationship in this story, and while it isn’t dwelled upon as a major plot point, it is mentioned as a heartfelt and meaningful part of a character’s past.

This is the first installment of The Arcana Chronicles to deviate from Evie’s sole point of view, as it switches to Matthew (the Fool), and another *spoilery* point of view that I won’t explain.  I’m not sure I can say that it adds or detracts from the story as a whole, as the narrative was still dominated by Evie, but it makes me wander if The Dark Calling will start to use her point of view less.

Evie has really grown as a character, minus her weird need to focus her life and mind mostly on the love triangle between herself, Jack, and Aric.  She’s become more vicious and powerful, although I speculate that by not embracing her Arcana persona, The Empress, she will become the weak link in the game, rather than one of the more commanding players.  Sure, she has the most formidable player on her side permanently, Death, but they can only accomplish so much with him compensating for her.

The love triangle is basically solved in this story, and Evie makes the choice I personally wanted her to, although both of her choices were always a bit misogynistic as characters over the course of the books.  I acknowledge that this was a problem for me as a reader, but I was still able to cheer for Evie and pick which character I found to be less problematic as a match for her.  Cole is first and foremost a romance writer, so the focus on the love triangle is to be expected.

I still count this as one of my favorite young adult series to date, because the originality of the story just blows my mind and I just adore the post-apocalypic game being heralded by the Gods through their Arcana game pieces. Plus, every time a new installment comes out, I devour the story within hours and there’s no bigger compliment.

4 Bards (Finally the smutty goodness I needed with Evie and Aric!)

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Book Review: Day Zero by Kresley Cole

Ashes to ashes . . .
Evie Greene’s story of the Flash is just one of many. All over the world, those connected in some way to the lethal Arcana game—like Death, Jack, and Fortune—must first survive a horrifying night of blood and screams.

We all fall down.
Some will have to grapple with new powers; all will be damned to a hellish new existence of plague, brutality, desolation, and cannibalism. Find out who they lost, why they endure, and what they sacrificed in order to live past Day Zero. . . .

This novella/short story collection is set up a bit differently from most, and Cole acknowledges that at the beginning with a small forward explaining the original intention of this collection.  Originally, this was going to serve as a guide for the possible television series that was proposed for this story, so each card in the major arcana, all 22, are given names, descriptions, information on their Arcana powers and traits, and those that are still alive during the game are given their own short story about where they were and what was happening to them on “Day Zero,” or the day the Flash occured.

Readers are treated to a bonus story featuring Death toward the beginning, showing him as he prepares for the new games, each of the icons fading from his skin.

This is a kind-of spoiler-y review, but since all but maybe one or two of these characters have shown up in the main novels, I don’t really find it too pressing.

We pretty much just get to see where each of the cards, including a rehash of Evie, were on the night of/day of (depending on where in the world they were at the time), and it gives small glimpses into who they were prior to their participation in the game.

The Sun is with his two romantic partners, their polyamorous relationship is going so well he was planning to propose to them on the day that the Flash happened.  You know, after they throw a bitchin’ rave in an abandoned insane asylum.  He also *Spoiler Alert* wakes up to them attempting to suck his blood, having been turned into bagmen (Queue The Princess Bride gif).  But he pulls a Michonne and keeps them around by chaining them together and dragging them along.

Fortune is a gun cartel leader’s daughter in Brazil with a wicked desire for revenge and her ability to steal luck from others pretty much causes her father’s death, although I’m not sure if she is aware of that, or if it is just something that the reader realizes.

The Hanging Man is still the inactivated card, and a lot of fandom members speculate that Jack is actually the inactivated card, but considering the entire entry in the book is blacked out (clever), Cole keeps us in the dark on this.  I assume that in the fifth installment the Hanging Man will come into play, as all players in the game must be either killed or participate, so it seems unlikely that we’d continue to not know who this card is. To be honest, I’d be a bit disappointed if Jack turns out to be the inactive card, because it just seems to predictable to put Evie in the middle of a love triangle with two major cards.  Not only do we already have to deal with the triangle as it is, but if it’s between two cards? It just seems too…obvious?

You get a glimpse into the life of Tess, The World, and how she can apparate to her crush’s house, where she finds him masturbating to her yearbook photo.  So romantic.  She also almost takes herself out of the game by simply attempting to save her parents’ lives, which is really sad.

Poor Circe, though.  She’s my little ocean queen. She not only lost the love of her life, but also ended up leaving him at the alter during the Flash because the ocean called her to her watery temple. She’s probably my new favorite addition to the canon of characters, and I’ve liked her since she showed up at the end of Dead of Winter.

Overall, I give this book a solid 3 bards.  It doesn’t really give us that much insight into things other than the character backgrounds.  These backgrounds are limited, and I’d consider this really just a collection of information that benefits the author to help keep her canon in order rather than something readers absolutely had to know.

My review of Arcana Rising will be up Thursday, September 8.

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