*** Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. ***
“And then the king of faeries whispered a private goodbye to his human love and disappeared into the trees. ” – Lacy Sheridan, Arcatraissa
**BE WARNED – CONTAINS SPOILERS**
Arcatraissa by Lacy Sheridan is a standalone young adult novel that demonstrates how limitations in life are directly related to the depth of one’s curiosity. Arcatraissa by Lacy Sheridan features Cassie, a quiet yet determined young woman with a love for reading. While visiting her dying estranged aunt, Cassie unearths an eccentric leather-bound book written in an indecipherable language. From her initial observations, it appears to be a well-loved fantasy novel, complete with unusual illustrations and handwritten comments. Unable to quiet her overactive imagination, Cassie questions her aunt about the distinctive manuscript; fearing it is nothing more than the ramblings of a delusional woman.
Instead, to her disbelief, Cassie’s aunt relays an extraordinary tale of Arcatraissa, an elusive underground kingdom that governs the world’s population of faeries. While the very existence of faeries has long been considered legend, only existing in children’s fairy tales, the mythological creatures that reside in Arcatraissa are not what their famous fictional counterparts would lead you to believe. Rather than embrace human kind, these faeries fear human beings for their notorious prejudice and violence towards the unknown. They avoid human contact at all costs, even forcing the human realm to be considered off-limits to all faery citizens.
However, among this frightened faery population, there lives a faery prince who does not conform to his people’s principles; a prince that believes the human population is rather intriguing, not dangerous. As an open-minded outcast among this rather close-minded society, this faery prince evades punishment by secretly visiting the human realm and its inhabitants; preferring to risk everything to admire the human world’s natural beauty rather than safely observing the unchanging scenery of his kingdom. Through these various unsanctioned trips to the human world, the faery prince and Cassie’s aunt form an unlikely friendship; a relationship of knowledge and trust that later involves the prince giving Cassie’s aunt the strange volume detailing the history of his faery kingdom.
As her aunt concludes her anecdote, Cassie is left reeling; trying to process what she has just learned. Is what she said true? Does a secret faery kingdom really exist? As she wanders her aunt’s gardens, contemplating the validity of her aunt’s words, she runs into a familiar stranger; a stranger that has only resided in her aunt’s outlandish tales until now, the faery prince himself. Unbeknownst to Cassie, this chance encounter with the faery prince will set her on the journey of a lifetime; complete with adrenaline-filled lows and heart-racing highs.
Arcatraissa by Lacy Sheridan depicts the story of two individuals; a human teenage girl named Cassie and an ancient faery prince named Tae. Both of these characters have separate fulfilling lives, but when they come together and combine their intelligence and life-experience, they are a force to be reckoned with. However, before their dynamic relationship can be analyzed, we must first understand the driving forces behind their partnership, their personalities. As our heroine of the novel, Cassie is first depicted as a shy yet eccentric young woman. As an only child with a love for fictional worlds, Cassie’s parents worry about her tendencies to daydream; worrying that her future will follow the same path as her delusional aunt.
For instance, when Cassie first discovers the ancient novel depicting tales of mythological creatures, her parents quickly warn her against it; claiming it is unsuitable reading. Despite her parent’s wishes, Cassie’s unrelenting curiosity forces her to continue exploring the book’s history. When her investigation leads her to her aunt’s bedside, Cassie interrogates her aunt regarding the books’ origin story. However, in the eyes of her parents, Cassie is simply ‘encouraging’ her aunt’s delusions, which only increases her parents’ fear for their daughter’s sanity. Worried that she is toeing the line between reality and fantasy, her parents forbid her from visiting her aunt alone. Regardless of the overwhelming opposition, Cassie continues to follow her curiosity. She stays determined to learn the truth.
In fact, Cassie’s persistence and determination are further highlighted later in the novel, when she helps Tae investigate the disappearance of his sister. Prior to their first encounter, Tae snuck his younger sister to the human realm to help her escape the kingdom’s walls. As they are playing hide-and-seek, Tae runs into Cassie. During these moments, Tae becomes distracted and loses track of his sister. As time progresses, and with his sister is still missing, Tae begins to worry that something has happened to his sister. With a recent string of disappearances in Arcatraissa, Tae is desperate; he frantically searches, looking anywhere and everywhere, and eventually employs Cassie’s help. Since Cassie is not one to turn away a friend in need, Cassie happily accepts. As she dives into the case, she begins to realize that there might be a faery hunter in their midst. And her number one suspect is one of her family’s friends.
This deceptive suspect, commonly known as her aunt’s childhood friend, first introduced himself during a surprise family dinner. Cassie’s initial impression of the man wasn’t anything noteworthy. Rather, she was discomforted by his overall unnerving demeanor. His unsettling presence and constant interrogation about Cassie’s ‘extracurricular’ activities left Cassie with a sore taste in her mouth. However, when she discovers that he is in possession of fabric eerily similar to faery silk, Cassie’s suspicions proved to be on-point. The only way this man would have faery silk was if he was in the business of trading the highly coveted item. Therefore, even if this man is not the perpetrator, then he will have inside knowledge on the trading business, which can lead them to the true mastermind behind the kidnappings.
With Cassie’s relentless investigation and determination to right this wrong, Cassie was able to discover the truth behind the missing fae. Overall, Cassie is a great character that effortlessly demonstrates that there is more to a person that what their initial impression will lead you to believe. From the beginning, Cassie is introduced as an introverted individual who prefers reading than the company of others. However, as the story progresses and as Cassie portrays her true identity, it is evident that Cassie may be shy, but she is also courageous, intelligent, and resourceful. Without her, the story would have been bland.
Another important character in Arcatraissa is Tae, the faery prince. Upon the audience’s first introduction, Tae is portrayed as the restless prince; awaiting his coronation to commence in order to be free to initiate change in the kingdom. Tae is also depicted as rebellious through his indifference towards the kingdom’s laws; constantly breaking them to escape to his human realm sanctuary. Once his mistakes have been revealed, losing his sister while in the human realm, his mother, the queen, relinquishes his right to inherit the crown. In other words, his punishment for his irresponsible behavior is losing the thing he has been training for his whole life. While this particular development would be upsetting to anyone, Tae handles it exceptionally well. He understands his mistakes and is devoted to righting his wrongs.
Granted, he does have some hostile thoughts towards his mother but in all, he remains calm. His composure and resolve during this sequence of events greatly demonstrates Tae’s character. His determination to fix his mistakes without escalating to violence or emotional silence is commendable for a faery in their teenage years. His actions just further prove how fit he is to be king. Another aspect of Tae’s personality is his compassion. He genuinely cares for other people, his fellow faery citizens and more. One instance where his compassion is highlighted is when Cassie and Tae formulate a plan to rescue his sister. The plan involves Cassie being bait; luring the suspect into a false sense of comfort so that he will reveal where the faeries are hidden.
With no previous experience, Cassie is nervous; can she really lure this person into believing her? Tae, seeing her hesitation and not wanting to inconvenience her, gives Cassie an out. He communicates with Cassie that if she is uncomfortable with her role, then she can walk away; with no consequences and without his perception of her changing. In other words, he senses her anxiety and does not want to force her into a situation where it would cause her discomfort or place her in harm’s way. Tae’s amplified regard for other people and their feelings is a great personality trait for a soon-to-be-king. He sees the importance of others creatures and their overall wellbeing. However, Tae also knows when punishment is due. In the same situation, where Tae and Cassie are saving the kidnapped faeries, Tae punishes the perpetrator once they discover the cages of faeries in his basement. He loses control once he sees his fellow faeries in such deplorable circumstances. While his affinity for violence in this situation is questionable, his sense of justice is sensible. In all, Tae is an inspiring character with many qualities fit for a king, compassion, strength, bravery, and justice.
Throughout the events of Arcatraissa, Cassie and Tae individually evolve into stronger characters. The same can also be said of their relationship; as time progresses, their relationship takes on different forms and, eventually, mean something more to both. In the beginning, their relationship was just a partnership. They both were interested in learning more about the other and their world. Essentially, their curiosity was driving their relationship. Then, when Cassie and Tae were caught up in investigating the case of the missing fae, their relationship took a different meaning. While solving this mystery, they began to depend on each other; they found comfort in the other’s presence due to their shared experiences.
During this phase, they also developed feelings for the other; they realized that they genuinely cared for each other, physically and mentally. This is evident when Tae puts aside his desire to rescue his sister to protect Cassie’s emotional wellbeing. On the flip side, it is also evident when Cassie puts aside her discomfort for her impending situation in order to help Tae release his sister. Then, when Cassie and Tae are in the middle of the faery power upheaval, their relationship turned into something more. When Cassie realizes that Tae is out fighting alone, she escapes her safe zone and looks for him. She cannot stand not knowing what is happening to him. She is frantic with worry over his wellbeing. On the other side, once Tae realizes that Cassie is out in the middle of the fighting, he loses focus. His attention quickly turns to ensuring she stays safe. Finally, at the end of the novel, once the fighting and crime-solving has ended, Tae and Cassie get a well-deserved break.
This moment of peace allows for them to come to terms with their feelings. Once they realize that there may be something more serious to the feelings brewing between them, they face each other and share a rather romantic moment. Unfortunately, due to the numerous differences between the two, their romance will never reach past the beginning stages. In other words, essentially, both Cassie and Tae experience the joy of finding love and the pain of losing it within the span of a summer.
Overall, Arcatraissa was a fabulous read; I was hooked from page one. The characters were expertly portrayed; the plot, while a tab predictable, was suspenseful nonetheless. I still find myself flabbergasted by the series of events that lead to (SPOILERS) the queen’s death. After constant hatred towards the humans and her quick dismissal of Cassie, it was heartwarming yet devastating to see the queen sacrifice herself to save Cassie from the thug cornering her. Also, I genuinely wish there was a different outcome for Tae and Cassie; their relationship would have been interesting to see play out. Reading the last line of the novel broke my heart; the promise of ‘what could have been’ leaving behind a lingering sadness. In all, if you are looking for a fun, quick, and gripping read, be sure to check out Arcatraissa by Lacy Sheridan.
Arcatraissa by Lacy Sheridan was published on September 14, 2018. To discover this magical world of fantasies and faeries, follow the links below:
Visit Lacy Sheridan’s website here.