(Book 1 of the Arelia LaRue series)
by Kira Sato
YA Paranormal Romance
Reviewed by Willa K. Danes, author at Penumbra Publishing
$0.99 Kindle ebook
When I first heard about this book through an author interview talking about voodoo, I was excited to read the book. I liked the cover and was curious to find out more about the mysterious topic of voodoo and to read about budding New Orleans voodoo queen, Arelia LaRue. On the topic of voodoo, the author did explain the basics through her main character Arelia, who does not want to be a voodoo queen but was blessed by a powerful spirit and so cannot really avoid it.
Everything else about the book just sort of fell away like rotting flesh from a zombie. It's not that the book was bad so much as it required some TLC to lift it from confusing and annoying to something special and memorable. The story line and the execution just weren't enough to perform that needed magic to make this book good.
Arelia as a main character was understandably not perfect, but by the end of the story, she hadn't seemed to grow very much from the rude and inconsistent sixteen-year-old that she started out as. And her friend Sabrina was just plain vacuous and annoying. She didn't get any better by the end of the book either. I seriously wondered why Arelia would want to be friends with her, except that she didn't appear to have any other friends.
The real puzzler was Lucas LaPlante, son of the owners of the plantation where Sabrina and Arelia are invited to work for the summer. Genteel and oddly out of touch with everything contemporary, Lucas nevertheless seems smitten by Arelia despite her often scathing attitude. Rich and pampered Sabrina certainly doesn't need a job, but she accepts the summer position strictly to fulfill her mission to attract a wealthy husband - and she has set her sights on Lucas. Arelia, on the other hand, desperately needs the money, but finds out the job is not what it seems, nor is the reason for her being invited to the plantation as a tourist assistant.
Sadly I was disappointed by the shallow inconsistencies of all the characters and the lack of believability in the story line and a lot of the behavior of the various characters. That could be expected and excused where minor background characters were concerned, but the unevenness of the main characters was quite disturbing at times, especially when Arelia could't seem to make up her mind from one second to the next whether or not she wanted to acknowledge the spirits who visited her and whether or not she liked or didn't like 'Shirtless Guy' - Lucas, her boss of sorts. And then there was very strange and confusing Ivan, whose bizarre knowlege about Arelia and her gift was never explained in the book at all.
I realize that this story is designed to be part of an ongoing series, but rules of fiction dictate that each story should be a complete story within itself. The problem is, this story stops abruptly, leaving too many unanswered loose ends. One of the main loose ends is how Lucas LaPlante could possibly be attracted to waffling and recalcitrant Arelia LaRue, whose character seems weak and cowardly most of the time, despite the persistent reminders of everyone around her, telling her how strong and important she is. But ultimately, pretty just isn't enough to make her rise from inconsistent unbelievability to achieve the strength a real heroine needs to carry a series. Add to that a serious lack of consistent and correct punctuation in the story mechanics, and you have a simmering cauldron of mediocre reading.
I really was looking forward to reading this story and tried very hard to like it, but that was difficult, given what was there to work with. Sadly I cannot recommend this book except as a brief introduction to the voodoo arts. As for the romance and the story delivery, I've read better and will keep looking for more of that elsewhere.