Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review: The Casquette Girls

If you're looking for a bit of fiction to take you away from the dreariness of winter (or the exhaustion of summer, if you're in the southern hemisphere), I recommend The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden.

I have always loved stories that combine the mythical with the mundane, the historical with the modern. The Casquette Girls delivers, in spades. New Orleans in post-hurricane devastation is the setting for this intriguing tale that weaves together the history of the city with the experiences of one young woman whose life turns upside down thanks not only to the storm damage but also to the eruption of magical forces – both benevolent and malign – in her life.

This gripping novel could easily be categorized as paranormal suspense, young adult fiction, fantasy, even thriller, but I think it transcends all those genres. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the city of New Orleans itself is the main character, in all its entrancing, charismatic timelessness. The city draws the reader in, the same way it draws Adele and her friends, twining us around the tendrils of its myths and legends, mesmerizing us with its magic. I admit, I fell under its spell as I read this story, eager not only to know what happens to each character as the story unfolds but also hungry for every new glimpse of the city in its mysterious splendor. I have only visited New Orleans once, but now I feel I have participated in many of its secrets, with Ms. Arden as my guide.

The usual compliments for a novel of this sort include ‘couldn’t put it down’ and ‘enthralling’ and words to that effect. Those are all accurate, but to me, the most striking aspect of The Casquette Girls is its ability to collapse both time and space, to hold centuries of history together in a few words, and to make magic believable in a modern-world context. The next time you want a gripping read that draws you in and holds you there, pick up The Casquette Girls. You won’t be disappointed.