Jessica Leake’s “Arcana.”
Katherine “Wren” Sinclair is a young noblewoman in Edwardian England, with a talent inherited from her Sylvan mother. That means that coupled with her half-human ancestry, she is able to channel the energy of the sun as Arcana, a force like magic that allows her to heal wounds, communicate with animals and demonstrate preternatural speed and agility. But while horseback riding with her brother, she saves him from a bad fall in view of a servant. That is the last straw for her widowed father. With her brother Robert heading back to Oxford, this is the perfect moment for Wren to seek a husband in London, just as every proper young lady should. Thus, sister Lucy in tow, she is marched off to her estranged paternal grandmother’s home. With only her wits and her mother’s Arcana-embued diary, she prepares to meet her fate.
Her mother’s prophetic gift of Arcana had her prepare a very important tool for Wren, as the first Sinclair to step out and have her presentation in court. Not only does her mother warn her of displaying her skills with Arcana to others, but also tells her that there are people who hunt the wielders of Arcana. The Order of the Eternal Sun are a very real threat, and Wren must figure out who might seek to harm her and her family. When both Lord Thornewood and Lord Blackburn both show an interest in her, she worries that one or both might belong to that feared group.
While Lord Blackburn is easy-going and charming, Lord Thornewood is difficult and scathing. Wren finds it hard to keep her tongue when in contact with the insufferable Lord Thornewood, but cannot deny the attraction. And since he is the one chosen by her father to encourage and promote her coming out, she finds herself repeatedly in his company. When he warns her off of Lord Blackburn, surely it is his jealousy or his own cunning trying to sway her attentions.
London society is draining and vacuous for Wren, full of petty jealousies from other debutantes, and machinations by her grandmother to lead her toward a future wedding. Turning to her mother’s diary, Wren seeks answers to her dilemmas, and finds visions of her mother’s world, Sylvan, perhaps a path back to her world. As the intrigues mount, Wren is accosted and her Arcana used. Who can she trust? Will her heart lead her in the right direction, or should she dispassionately follow through as her grandmother directs? Suddenly, her come out is fraught with danger and she must make a choice that could devastate her.
4.5 out of 5 Whatzits. The premise in “Arcana” is set up perfectly: English countryside, Edwardian times, young noblewoman. Saving her brother with magic, she is caught doing so! Perfect! I want to know how she gets out of this, what the consequences are, and more about her powers. The use of the first person in the present tense made it a little harder to engage at first, and made me settle in for a Young Adult read (my expectations for YA Paranormal are very different from, say, Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy). But the conventions of the time, the society milieu made me engage with the book more like a Historical. With Paranormal. Oh, dayamn! I am a sucker for multi-genre if it is done well, and this turned out to be an awesome introduction to the author. I liked the references to automobiles along with barouches, the slight change of time for a lover of Regencies.
And then there were the heated exchanges between the heroine and hero (No, if you want to find out which gentleman was the one who delivered smoldering kisses all over Wren, read the actual book!). Very spicy for a YA kind of tone, but very nicely done. It set the relationship between the two, and made their attraction very real. Now I want Robert and Lucy’s stories, darn it!