Set in a storm-ravaged New Orleans, this evocative paranormal romance pits teen heroine Adele against suave ghouls.
Back from Paris and home in New Orleans, high school junior Adele is glad to be away from her coldly distant mother. The city she knew, however, has been destroyed by a superstorm. Adele and her father must adjust to a water-damaged—and frequently nightmarish—reality. Exploring their house, she’s attacked and severely scratched by a crow. Then one night, near her indefinitely closed school, she finds a corpse. This chilling episode leads to an even more surreal event, in which a convent’s shuttered window explodes, showering Adele with debris. After a large metal stake rolls near her and she grabs it, a supernatural talent begins to awaken within her. Later, she reconnects with friends and meets newcomers Gabe and Niccolò Medici, who search New Orleans for missing relatives. At home, she uses her strange new control over metal to discover the hidden diary of Adeline Saint-Germaine, her 18th-century ancestor. The diary speaks of European girls traveling to America with royal dowries in wooden boxes; the girls also used witchcraft to keep vampires at bay. Gradually, Adele sees connections among New Orleans’ high murder rate, her uncanny abilities and Saint-Germaine’s tale. Debut author Arden offers readers a full plate of Southern gothic atmospherics and sparkling teen romance in a patiently crafted tale that will best reward careful readers. Adele is a strong, sensible protagonist who’s just vulnerable enough: “His hand swept my neck as he delicately picked up the thin silver chain, following the tightly woven links all the way down to the two charms dangling at my waist.” Her winning characterization is topped off with subtly drawn superpowers: “Careful not to let them clink on the glass [of the jar] and bring attention to what I was doing, I smiled as a dime did a swan-dive to join the pirouetting nickels.” Best of all, Arden’s insights regarding her fragile city color the narrative with tragic realism: “Everything we drove past—an abandoned supermarket, a dilapidated bank, a gym, a hamburger chain, a laundry mat, a pizza joint, a housing project—everything had that same distinct mark of the Storm left on it: the water line.”
Satisfying teen entertainment but also a cathartic, uncompromising tribute to New Orleans.