I discovered this book, like many others, through Instagram. I had seen the cover and thought it looked intriguing — somewhat of a gothic, vampires in a graveyard, victorian story. I remember reading the synopsis and thinking, “this could be good”. Of course, it wouldn’t be a few more months before I decided to buy a copy, but I’m so glad that I finally did.
Title: The Casquette Girls
Author: Alys Arden
Series: The Casquette Girls #1
Publication Date: September 29th 2015
Page Count: Paperback, 560 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne wants nothing more than her now silent city to return to normal. But with home resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.
As the city murder rate soars, Adele finds herself tangled in a web of magic that weaves back to her own ancestors. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, who can she trust when everyone has a secret and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless… you’re immortal.
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For anyone who loves history, vampires, pirates, mystery, hidden family secrets, witches, New Orleans, voodoo, and/or any combination of these things… this book is for you. I think that one of the best parts of reading this book was feeling like I was gaining insight into a city that has such a romantic mystique.
Reading about New Orleans through the eyes of Alys Arden is incredibly special and inspiring. She knows her city, and it is evident in the way that she builds this magical world of danger and secrets around it.
In the beginning of the book, Adele and her father, Mac, are returning home after an epic storm that took out the city of New Orleans. Hardly anyone has moved back except for a few crazy locals and those trying to help rebuild. As Adele treks through her hometown, discovering how much destruction really occurred, she begins to see that some of the destruction wasn’t due to any storm. Bodies begin disappearing and showing up drained of blood. Adele discovers that she is capable of controlling metal objects. And a secret curse becomes unearthed.
I think that one of the best parts about Alys Arden’s writing is the way that she builds relationships and introduces characters slowly. She ties everyone together beautifully and is not afraid to prolong the process. About 100 pages into the book, I was still just meeting important characters. But the pace never felt slow. She takes her time to build the image of New Orleans, a broken and abandoned city left for dead after an epic storm. She creates a beautifully detailed world around Adele, the girl who is abandoned by her Parisian mother and often left to her independence by a father trying to keep things afloat, while trying to rein in her newfound powers.
Most importantly, Arden makes sure to establish all of the realities of this world, so that as she breaks down practicality to introduce supernatural it never feels weird. Vampires and witches and voodoo are introduced in a way that only seems possible in New Orleans. I found this to be incredibly enchanting.
In the end, Arden even leaves certain story lines open for a potential follow up story, which I would gladly buy and read immediately. She opens her final acknowledgements by saying,
” I want to thank all the people who believe in magic. Most of all I want to thank the people who believe in New Orleans — the people who’ve had to eat Hurricane gruel for months, who’ve suffered the smell of Bourbon Street on a late August afternoon. To the coffee slingers, beignet fryers, and omelet beaters. To the street artists, jazz boys, and Coke-bottle-top-tap-shoed dancers. To the Cajuns, to the Creoles, and to all those who have dreamed and suffered on our rocky streets. I was to thank the drag queens who raised me to think wearing costumes is a nightly affair. I want to thank the tarot-card readers and Nosferatu-ring-wearing blood drinkers. I want to thank every person who has cleaned mold, bailed water, or seen a nutria on the neutral ground. I want to thank the people who’ve rebuilt after every fire and every flood.”
Now that is an author that I can get behind. I love writers who know their story like they know their own soul. You feel it when you read their book, and I certainly felt the passion in The Casquette Girls. As a result, I have begun planning my trip to New Orleans for the fall.
This is one of those books that I cannot recommend enough. After finishing it, I started reading the acknowledgements and – please don’t ask me to explain this – I fell even more in love with this story and the author knowing that it was her first push into the industry. There is something so magical about an author who has an idea and really commits, fleshes out the details, and is also a strong writer. It has been a very long time since I have read a vampire story that I found to be believable and thought provoking.
🗯 “I stood in my new attic bedroom with my hands on my hips, trying to figure out where to start. The afternoon sun illuminated the dust, making everything sparkle in a weird, whimsical way, and the sheeted furniture cast oddly shaped shadows on the walls, reminding me of a modern art exhibit.”
🗯 “Miss Le Moyne, if you remember only one thing I have ever taught you, let it be this: You can never please everyone. As an artist, if your work doesn’t inflame at least part of the audience, then you might as well call it quits and sell insurance. And that goes for you too, Dr. Michel. The world needs more boundary pushers, not more boundary creators.”
🗯 “If only it were that easy, bebe. Sometimes magic finds us; we don’t find it. And once it does, it’s nearly impossible to close ourselves off to it. It’d be like trying to forget how to read or speak or walk. Usually people who unlock magic within themselves don’t understand their importance in the world.”
About the Author
Alys Arden was raised by the street performers, tea leaf-readers, and glittering drag queens of the New Orleans French Quarter. She cut her teeth on the streets of New York and has worked all around the world since. She either talks too much or not at all. She obsessively documents things. Her hair ranges from eggplant to cotton-candy colored One dreary day in London, she missed home and started writing The Casquette Girls.
Find her at http://www.alysarden.com/.