Thursday, July 25, 2013

Poison Princess - Kresley Cole (Arcana Chronicles #1)

Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1)
In a post-apocalyptic world, a guy named Arthur lures a girl named Evie into his home, promising food, drink, and safe rest in exchange for the story of how she got to his little crossroad.  Of course, Evie doesn't know that other girls have been lured here and have met gruesome deaths in Arthur's basement.  She wants the food, and the rest, and to have a shoulder to cry on, so she tells him her story.

Evie thinks she's crazy.  In fact, before the apocalypse (called "the Flash") left the planet barren, Evie had just gotten out of an asylum, where her mother placed her for her "hallucinations."  Actually, though, they're not hallucinations; they're visions of the future, and only Evie seems to know what's coming.

Okay, so, this was part high school drama, and part post-apocalyptic story.  The high school drama occupies the first 30% of the book, and it almost drove me crazy.  Evie struggles to fit in with the other kids at her school, even though she still hallucinates and has visions of the "red witch," whose design has essentially been lifted straight from Batman's Poison Ivy, though the witch's MO is different.  Kind of.  Considering Evie is supposed to be the Empress of the tarot deck, I don't really see where this came from.  See, this

does not bear a lot of resemblance to this

Evie deals with her issues by drawing, and not just any old stick-figure drawings.  She paints murals on her bedroom walls and has a whole sketchbook full of beautifully disturbing images.  This means that she is not only a Popular Cheerleader, but also an Artiste.  She is "friends with everyone," and also apparently thinks she knows better than everyone else.  For example, at one point, she says that "no girl walked the hall with a wardrobe malfunction under my watch," which she's trying to use as an example of how friendly she is, but really just comes across as her trying to force people into a form that she likes.  She is totally into slut-shaming, thinking Clotile is a slut because she wears short skirts and cutoff t-shirts and is "readily available for sex," and that other girls are "slores" because they are attracted to Evie's boyfriend Brandon.  Now, considering that Brandon is supposedly the most eligible guy ever, I'm pretty sure I would be attracted to him, too.  However, when Evie practically hooks up with another guy and wears clothes just like Clotile's, she is considered to be...practically Amish.  Not only that, but her teachers are "bitches" because they won't let her retake quizzes she failed--there is no mention of her ever giving a valid reason for wanting to retake it, other than she didn't know she would have a pop quiz, and she certainly doesn't explain her rather unique mental condition.

As for the other characters, there is the Sweet Boyfriend, Brandon; the Sassy Best Friend, Mel; the Overbearing Mother, Karen; and the Possessive Love Interest, Jack.  Who, by the way, Evie does not like because he is from the Wrong Side of Town and checked her out while she was in her boyfriend's car.  She got mad that he was checking her out when she stuck her butt up in the air in a moving convertible while wearing a skirt. Granted, some of the comments made after this incident were unnecessary, but really, she chose to do that.  He didn't touch her.  He didn't make any rude comments; those were made by one of his friends.

Anyway, the long and short of this is, if the entire story had been like the first part of the book, it would have driven me crazy.  Luckily, though, Cole started out with the creepy post-apocalyptic introduction starring Arthur, and that was intriguing enough for me to go on.  And while I'm not sure the PA part actually redeemed the first part (that would be hard to do) it was very, very good.  It shows what a brutal world earth is after the Flash, with no vegetation, no water, few animals, and even fewer women who survived.  Evie's struggle with her powers and identity was well-done.  I didn't really like how she was hating on Selena for being so secretive when Evie herself wouldn't tell anyone the truth, but Selena was kind of annoying... Actually, she was annoying in a cliche way, obviously intended to sway sympathies even more toward Evie.  However, I did understand Selena's secretive motives, while Evie's secret-keeping was only detrimental to all of her goals.  Finn and Matthew, though, I liked.

Now, about Jack... I like Jack, as a character.  I think his Cajun background was an interesting addition to the story and it will be interesting to see how his Catholic beliefs play with the supernatural happenings of Evie's new world.  The thing is, I don't like him as a love interest.  He's supposed to be Dark, because girls like Bad Boys, but it's just not...good.  I mean, sure, there should be some conflict; I don't expect it all to be sunshine and daisies.  But Jack is a violent alcoholic who wants to possess Evie to the point that she can't make her own decisions regarding her own life. Not cool.  Hopefully Jack will see some serious character growth in future books, because if he doesn't, I'm ashamed of Cole for putting him forth as a desirable boyfriend.

Obviously I had a lot of thoughts about this book; the long and short of it is that I liked the latter two-thirds quite a bit, and I'm interested to see where the series goes.  I'm not sure if I'll actually keep reading it, but that's primarily because I'm terrible about keeping up with series that aren't fully published by the time I get to it.  Still, this has enormous potential, and once you get past the infuriating high-school beginning, the new world and its inhabitants are a great read.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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