I received this book via Edelweiss. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.Arcana by Jessica Leake
Series: A Novel of the Sylvani #1
Published by Talos on 2014-11-04
Length: 288 pages
Reviewing eARC from Edelweiss
A romantic, suspenseful, genre-bending debut set in Edwardian London.
Amid the sumptuous backdrop of the London season in 1905, headstrong Katherine Sinclair must join the ranks of debutantes vying for suitors. Unfortunately for Katherine, she cannot imagine anything more loathsome—or dangerous. To help ease her entrance into society, Katherine’s family has elicited the assistance of the Earl of Thornewood, a friend and London’s most eligible bachelor, to be her constant companion at the endless fetes and balls. But upon her arrival in London, Katherine realizes there will be more to this season than just white gowns and husband hunting.
Through her late mother’s enchanted diary, Katherine receives warning to keep hidden her otherworldly ability to perform arcana, a magic fueled by the power of the sun. Any misstep could mean ruin—and not just for her family name. The Order of the Eternal Sun is everywhere—hunting for those like her, able to feed on arcana with only a touch of the hand.
But society intrigue can be just as perilous as the Order. The machinations of the fashionable elite are a constant threat, and those who covet Katherine’s arcana, seeking the power of her birthright, could be hiding behind the façade of every suitor—even the darkly handsome Earl of Thornewood.
With so much danger and suspicion, can she give her heart to the one who captivates her, or is he just another after her power?
Arcana is the debut novel of author Jessica Leake and is set in early 1900s London. Eighteen year old Katherine Sinclair is sent by her father to live with her grandmother in London for her debut and she can think of no worse punishment. You see, her mother was not human but Sylvani, making Katherine half-Sylvani. The Sylvani are a magical race (think fairies), and so Katherine inherited some of her mother’s magical abilities. After using them to save her brother from a near fatal accident and being caught, her father decides it is time for her entrance into society. To ease her debut, the earl of Thornewood an old family friend will escort her. But a diary her mother left for her warns of a secret order, the Order of the Eternal Sun, that would seek to use her power hidden amongst London society. Katherine must find a husband, keep her magic secret, and somehow avoid the Order to keep her family name from ruin and protect her siblings.
I love the characters that Leake has created. All of them are individual and have personality that just oozes off the pages. The story is told from Katherine’s point of view, and I wouldn’t want it any other way! She is headstrong, feminist before feminism, and wholly against the idea of marriage. She would be happy living as a spinster if it meant that she could be independent and still protect her family. Her magic is stronger than her brother Robert’s and sister Lily’s, making her a target for this Order of the Eternal Sun. Having never had to control her magic while living in the country with her family she finds London dangerous and she is constantly looking over her shoulder. For a girl who came from a rather good family, she is quite distrustful which the author explains why (sorry no spoilers). The progression of her character really drives the story along and it felt natural. That’s why I love her so much!
Lord Thornewood (all together now…::::swoon:::) is the handsome son of the now deceased earl Katherine’s father had planned to escort her in her debut. He is devilishly handsome, a bit contrary, and finds himself taken by Katherine’s unfiltered opinions. Think Mr. Darcy except surrounded by London’s newest debutantes and highest in society. Do I have you swooning yet? I believe the earl is my new book boyfriend as every encounter with him made my heart pitter-patter like a middle school girl.
Lily and Robert, Katherine’s siblings, were well-written and added to Katherine’s character. Robert is depicted as the typical older brother, over-protective of his little sisters, good-natured teasing, and loving. Lily is the youngest and is described as always happy with a sunny personality. She lends strength to Katherine throughout the book as she is allowed to accompany her to London for the season.
(Not-so) Magical (but Definitely) Romance
The plot of this story really revolves around Katherine’s love life and not so much the magical aspect of her being. She has been forced into London society and an early debut by her father, who believes that it is needed to calm her magical talents. Katherine’s always found marriage as something she detests. She doesn’t want to be forced into it or lose her independence. She’s also frightened that she will not find love and will not be able to share her magical abilities with her husband, which would mean a life in hiding.
Enter Lord Thornewood. He is an earl, one of the highest positions held at court, but he also takes a different look at the debutante season. Being an eligible bachelor, young women are constantly thrown at him by their over-zealous mothers. But Katherine catches his eye because unlike the other debutantes, she is not looking for a husband and doesn’t want to play the game. Her grandmother however has other plans and introduces Lord Blackburn, who holds one of the lowest positions at court. At first he seems every bit a gentleman and the complete opposite of the earl, but looks Katherine learns can be deceiving.
As Katherine learns more and more about London society, she learns dark secrets are hidden in every house. She must navigate the secrets and learn who her heart desires. But most importantly she must keep her abilities hidden so the Order doesn’t find her family.
If it’s not obvious from my rambling and swooning, I loved this book! Historical fiction holds a special place in my heart and when it is combined with fantasy as Leake does with this novel, I find I love it even more. There were times I was so engrossed with the story that hours went by without me knowing. The romance is fairly clean, though there are some sexual situations that are implied. The historical elements are fairly spot on and I felt I was in that early era London and I remembered thank God that I wasn’t and never had to go before the King and Queen and court to be introduced into society!! Also I would never have known that Leake is a debut author. The writing, the characters, and the story are complex, well thought out, and completely come to life as you read. Not at all what I expect when reading a debut novel! If you enjoy historical fiction, fantasy (a very little bit), and romance, I highly suggest you check out this debut author.