Monday 3 February 2014

#CBR6 Book 11: "Poison Princess" by Kresley Cole

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 2.5 stars

Sixteen year old Evangeline "Evie" Greene tells her story of woe and confusion to a creepy madman bent on chaining her in his basement dungeon. Before the apocalyptic Flash that destroyed the world as we know it, Evie was a rich and popular Southern Belle, with a dark secret. All summer, while her friends were off travelling the world, she was in an asylum, trying to suppress the horrific hallucinations and visions she suffered. Then the Flash hit and it turns out that all her horrible visions were just premonitions of what was to come.

In a world where most of the surface water evaporated in the course of one catastrophic event, after which most of the women in the world fell sick and died, Evie is one of very few females, and after her mother dies, she needs help and protection to get to her grandmother's, whom she is convinced must still be alive. She turns to her former classmate, the Cajun badboy Jackson "Jack" Deveaux, one of the few people from her past who seems to have survived the apocalypse. He agrees to assist her, and as Evie can't shoot, hunt or defend herself worth a damn, she needs all the help she can get.

Through her visions, and faintly remembering her grandmother's ramblings about how Evie is the "Empress" and has special powers, it becomes clear that Evie is one of twenty-two teenagers embodied with powers from the Major Arcana of the Tarot. These teens all have different and unusual powers, and the Flash seems to have been the beginning of a new era, where the various Arcana battle it out to the death.

This book was the alt book when the Vaginal Fantasy bookclub was doing their Kresley Cole month back in May 2012. The paranormal romance author, famed for her over the top supernatural pairings and frequent ThunderSex (tm) is trying her hand at young adult fiction here, which means that there are no actual smexy times, but there is a fairly steamy kiss.

Things I liked:

  • The framing device was interesting, creepy and really gave you a sense of tension, really bringing you into the story. Of course, then Evie starts telling her story in WAY to much detail (more on that later).
  • A fantasy world based on the Tarot is cool and a fairly unusual premise. No vampire, werewolves or angels here. So far only a handful of the characters based on the Major Arcana are introduced, but it's a promising concept.
  • The dystopia after the Flash hits is really very disturbing and creates a very tense atmosphere for the story. 
  • Evie turning out to be somewhat of an unreliable narrator. I don't want to say too much about it, as it could be quite spoilery to the story. She does warn us in the prologue that not everything she says is necessarily the truth, though.
  • The final chapters, where everything suddenly turned around rather abruptly and I went from being super bored to being quite intrigued and suddenly interested in reading the sequel after all.
Things I didn't like:
  • The first third of the book, after the exciting prologue is way too long. It drags massively, and there is far too much detail about Evie's life as a mix between a Plastic and Scarlett O'Hara. I understand that it's important to show just how much Evie lost and why she would think that she was completely insane because of the visions, but we really didn't in any way need a day to day, in painful detail, recap of the week before the Flash happened.
  • Evie was a dreadful protagonist. She's spoiled, condescending, judgemental and spends far too much of the book being whiny, useless, wishy-washy and occasionally TSTL. I understand that she's just 16, and the entire world as she knows it has now been destroyed, but she could have tried to learn some new skills and adapt better, rather than hole up in her mansion until the food ran out, and then depending wholly on some guy to rescue her.
  • Speaking of the guy. I get that after the apocalypse, most men apparently turn into either some sort of zombie, cannibals or apparently crazy rapists, so compared to them Jack is a saint and a paragon of virtue. But really, he's not much of a hero. He's arrogant, rude, pushy and creepily focused on Evie long before the apocalypse happens. He seems to be constantly swigging Jack Daniels, his Cajun accent drove me up the wall. A member on the Vaginal Fantasy Goodreads forum described him as an 18-year-old Darryl Dixon with Gambit's accent, and that's pretty much spot on. Most of the time, he treats Evie like property. He's overly possessive, yet constantly puts her down, frankly encouraging her helplessness so she's got no choice but to stay dependent on him. 
  • There's all sorts of ways the world building doesn't make any sense, but I compared to my other complaints, that wasn't a big deal. 
Thanks to the final few chapters, where it turns out that Evie's story to the creep who's planning to make her his latest torture victim in his basement dungeon hasn't been entirely truthful, where she seems to finally embrace her new powers, and basically turns into Poison Ivy, I've upgraded the rating of the book from 2 stars to 2,5. I hope that she may have made herself seem extra pathetic and useless in order to lull the psycho into a false sense of security. The sequel also got rave reviews all over the internet when it came out last year (although this book is bafflingly rated 4.16 on Goodreads, there's no accounting for taste, I guess) and promises to have more of the character who embodies the Death card in it. I like what we've seen of him so far, and desperately hope that he's going to be the final third in the fairly inevitable YA love triangle, because Evie and Jackson make an awful couple.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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