Book two of the Arcana Chronicles picks up right where “Poison Princess” leaves off, with Evie finally coming fully into her powers while dispatching Arthur, the sadistic Alchemist , in an all too satisfying root-rending manner. As a reader I couldn’t help but do a mental fist-bump with Evie over this one as she gained his glyphs and another mental “Oh damn girl!” when I realized Jack witnessed the entire event in stunned silence.
This is one of the things I love about Ms. Cole’s writing, she elicits emotions from me. I both sympathize and empathize with Evie and Jack. Can you imagine what it must be like to see your average teenage girl suddenly turn into a ruthless killer right before your eyes…then back into the mild-mannered smart-mouthed, French-speaking, cheerleader you thought you knew? Well that’s what I felt for Jack, and for Evie I had that sinking like a rock feeling in my heart when she realized Jack would never see her the same again. Can these two survive this way?
Evie quickly finds that these Arcana cards are much more than the ornately decorated cards she learned about as a young girl from her grandmother, they are key characters in a game of life and death. A game she unwittingly finds herself in the middle of as…The Empress. Her call sign to other Arcana…”Come, touch…but you’ll pay the price.” You see, Evie has skills other average teenagers don’t have. She can make valuable crops grow in this post-apocalyptic world by using her blood. She can command armies from anything that grows, generate thorn tornadoes…and she is poisonous, deadly poisonous. What a heady combination of powers to command!
The thing is…Evie doesn’t want to fight. She wasn’t raised to fight. She just wants to build a life with Jack but the Empress inside her yearns to kill, to take the glyphs from the other Arcana in the heat of battle. Can Evie learn to restrain the Empress and alter how the game is played, the way it has been played for centuries? That’s what this young woman wants to do, she isn’t up for someone else telling her what she should do, she wants to make her own rules and that’s what makes her such a likeable character! Go Evie!
Her boyfriend Jack is definitely a diamond in the rough. He’s a good man and she loves him. He’s been there for her, protected her and trusted her when he had no real reason to do so. Sure he can be a tad bit hot-headed and say things in the heat of the moment but give this guy some time to think things over and he usually comes around. Can he deal with her as the Red Witch? I know I root for him, he’s a noble character. Flawed sure, but noble at heart so I really root for him and Evie.
When Evie and Jack do manage to steal some private moments to talk or canoodle Death comes barging in. He loves to taunt Evie, even calling dib’s on taking Evie’s life personally… threatening any other Arcana who attempt to deprive him of this pleasure. He taunts Evie at every opportunity and invades her mind at will as he stalks ever closer, invading private moments like a jealous boyfriend. Why should Death care what she does or who she does it with? Oh, there’s much more to that story…trust me!
Death remembers Evie very well, they share a past….many pasts actually. Every moment of which is etched in his brain…and here’s where you begin to even like Death! Yes, Death actually becomes a likeable character as well. True, he’s a bit of an odd duck in his old ways and cruel control tactics but once again Ms. Cole introduces a sublimely layered character and you find yourself liking him in much the same way Evie does.
Evie, to her ever growing consternation, doesn’t remember thing about Death…until one night when the pieces begin to fall in place giving Death the perfect opportunity to make a deal with her. Stay with him forever and he will move heaven and earth to save her boyfriend Jack. Yes, even I went “you son of a bitch!” on that one…but it gives a deeper glimpse into Death and his motivations and you really feel for characters because If she makes this deal she can never turn back.
Evie’s life grows ever more complicated as her past lives and present meld together in this bizarre apocalyptic world full of Baggers (zombies), Scavengers, and Cannibals. Will she play the game or change the rules forever? I don’t know about you, but I find myself itching to pick up the third book immediately….in fact, I think I will!