Poison Princess: The Arcana Chronicles
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My favorite romance author by far is Kresley Cole. I love her Immortals After Dark series and secretly daydream about being a powerful, beautiful, witty Valkyrie. Cole is simply the best in the business, in my opinion, so I was excited to hear she was coming out with The Arcana Chronicles, a new series which is centered around the Tarot. The skeptic in me tends to think Tarot cards are superstitious hokum, right up there with Ouija boards--but then I've had a couple of readings in my life that were eerily uncanny (especially the time the reader guessed I was pregnant and told me I was going to have a girl...fast forward four months and imagine my surprise when the ultrasound technician told me to stock up on pink clothes). To make a long story short, I was very interested in this series and downloaded it to my Kindle as soon as I could. As it turns out, The Arcana Chronicles are classified as Young Adult literature, and when I found that out I had to pause for a second. Visions of Twilight were dancing in my head--but luckily the book turned out to be closer to The Hunger Games than Stephenie Meyer's drivel.

The book opens on Day 246 A.F. We learn pretty quickly that A.F. stands for After Flash. Apparently, there was an apocalypse which wiped out the majority of mankind, leaving those remaining to try to survive any way they could. We meet Evangeline, a teenage girl who has unwittingly put herself in grave danger by accepting a stranger's offer of food and drink. The novel then goes into flashback mode, showing life a week prior to the Flash. Evangeline--or Evie, as shes more commonly known--returns to her small hometown in Louisiana after a whole summer away. Everyone has been told she was attending charm school, when in reality she was in a mental institution. What Evie and her mother think are schizophrenia-induced delusions are actually visions of the future. Once school starts again, she meets Jackson Deveaux, a poor boy from the bayou with a delicious Cajun accent. (Seriously, I know he's supposed to only be around eighteen years old--but damn, that accent. Total panty-dropping material.) The two instantly clash; Jackson assumes Evie feels she's above him, while Evie finds Jackson insufferably arrogant. Naturally, since they initially hate each other, they wind up fighting a growing attraction.

The characters from the Tarot cards are woven in and out of the story effortlessly--we learn that Evie embodies one of the Major Arcana trump cards and has visions of, and even clairvoyant communication with, other cards (some good, some bad). All in all, I found the book fascinating, and it didn't read at all like a young adult novel--there are even a few steamy scenes, although they are positively G-rated compared to Cole's other books. I also found the dialogue funny, with the same dry humor and pop-culture references that we see in the Immortals After Dark books. It is also deeply moving and quite scary, as communities and society as a whole devolve into chaos, violence, and sickness. Oh, and did I mention there are zombies? Because there are zombies, too. Despite its deeply complex nature, the book is easy to read and I had no problem keeping track of all the characters. Poison Princess could easily have landed in my "never again" pile, if not for the genius and prowess of Kresley Cole's writing.

I most definitely recommend Poison Princess to anyone. It seems more like an action/sci-fi book than straight-up romance, so I'd wager some guys might even enjoy it, especially if they love apocalypse writing. I am slightly annoyed though, because now I have TWO series in which I have to wait for new books: Immortals After Dark and The Arcana Chronicles. C'mon Kresly: write, write, write! Your fans are waiting!

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