‘The Casquette Girls’ – Alys Arden
After the Storm of the Century rips apart New Orleans, Adele Le Moyne and her father are among the first to return to the city following the mandatory evacuation. Adele wants nothing more than for life to return to normal, but with the silent city resembling a mold-infested war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal will have to be redefined.
Events too unnatural – even for New Orleans – lead Adele to an attic that has been sealed for three hundred years, and the chaos she unleashes threatens not only her life but everyone she knows. Mother Nature couldn’t drain the “joie de vivre” from the Big Easy, but someone or something is draining life from its residents.
Caught suddenly in a hurricane of eighteenth-century myths and monsters, Adele must quickly untangle a web of magic that links the climbing murder rate back to her own ancestors. But who can you trust in a city where everyone has a secret, and where keeping them can be a matter of life and death – unless, that is, you’re immortal.
I must admit, I found this story a bit difficult to get in to early on and found descriptions of a Hurricane Katrina-battered New Orleans just suffocating the plot development. But, as Adele starts to notice the strange happening around the French quarter of New Orleans and the mysterious way that she can manipulate certain objects, my attention was hooked.
Characterisation in ‘The Casquette Girls’ really fuels the story. As Adele befriends Desiree, Isaac and Ren, we begin to learn more about the legends that haunt the streets where Adele has returned to, in an effort to rebuild her life after the destruction of the hurricane. Mixed in with this is the diary of Adeline who made the same journey as Adele – coming from Paris to New Orleans – but three hundred years earlier. As Arden reveals more about Adeline’s experiences aboard the ship that brings her to America, readers start to make connections to the disappearances that are happening in New Orleans. I found many of the characters really surprising and I enjoyed the twists and turns that came along the way. Being unable to predict where the story was going was quite refreshing, particularly as this is a young adult vampire story.
The descriptions of New Orleans are very vivid and whilst I did find this made it more difficult for me to get in to the story, I could vividly imagine the Adele’s environment. In retrospect, it certainly added to the plot and atmosphere, but I feel that this could have been divulged to the reader more effectively.
When Adele has to return to school to continue her education instead of being sent back to Paris, she is given a place at a very exclusive school that has accepted two other students who have been displaced by the hurricane. Arden makes one of these students, Dixie, have more of a major role, particularly whilst Adele is settling in, but I had hoped the other mysterious student, Tyrelle, was more prominent. The author seems to suggest that Tyrelle has a story, but he eventually just fades into the background with little effort. I definitely think there was potential to use his character more.
The ending did seem to extend more than I expected but Arden does cleverly wrap up the curse of the Casquette girls. Their story was really enjoyable and I enjoyed how this ran parallel with Adele’s own investigations. The legend of the Casquette girls is originally introduced through Ren and once Adele begins translating Adelein’s diary, we fully start to learn what happened. As such, the ending was quite detailed and did lack pace at times. Nonetheless, I did appreciate how the ending was so neatly concluded but was surprised to learn that a sequel is expected. It definitely would be good to know how Adele, Desiree and Isaac have fared after their experiences, perhaps five years on, but I questions how much fuel there is to make this into a full-blown novel?
Magic, witches and vampire… this horror has everything and more. The depth to the characters is a credit to Arden’s writing and on this basis I would certainly recommend reading this. Persevere through the opening chapters and you will soon find the story pulling you in.
This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.