First book in a series
By Alys Arden
Available now from Skyscape (Amazon Publishing)
THE CASQUETTE GIRLS, as I understand it, was originally self-published. Alys Arden's success led to the book being picked up by Skyscape. I never read it in that original form, but I can see why it was successful.
THE CASQUETTE is set in a New Orleans that has been ripped apart by a storm. Katrina is never named, but it weighs heavy on the novel. Adele Le Moyne was sent to live with her mother in France; however, her mother shipped her off to boarding school and rarely saw her. Thus, Adele leapt at the chance to return to her father and her city.
Arden's descriptions of New Orleans and the people that populate it are powerful. It is a city full of memories that have been swept away and left to rot, and yet the traditions continue regardless. Adele and her friends show up to work in a cafe every day, and eventually the kids go back to school. Life starts picking up its expected pace. Except for the crime wave. There's a suspiciously high number of murders, and all of the victims have been drained of blood.
THE CASQUETTE GIRLS is darkly romantic, both due to love of a wild place and a romance with a boy who just might kill Adele. There is the de rigueur love triangle, plus some bonus decoy love interests thrown in. Nicco is a foreigner looking for his sister, and Isaac is a New Yorker come to give aid. Both boys are full of secrets. But Adele is starting to discover that the biggest secrets are those of her family's past, hidden in the objects she's inherited from her ancestor Adeline. She could save her city, and all it requires is a ridiculous amount of translation.
I thought that THE CASQUETTE GIRLS went on for a touch too long and that the romantic resolution was rather abrupt. It is still a thoroughly enjoyable popcorn read with a final line that will have you begging for the sequel. (No really, when is it coming out?) The book's greatest strength is its sense of community. There's New Orleans itself, as I've already covered, but there's also the people Adele surrounds herself with and those that Adeline bonded with. THE CASQUETTE GIRLS is a story of people coming together. At the same time, it posits that trust can be dangerous.
THE CASQUETTE GIRLS is a great choice for readers who like witches, vampires, and folklore with more than a seed of the truth. I hope that the sequel continues to build on the strengths Arden shows hear and that it is just as readable.