Release Date: November 17th, 2015
Synopsis: 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.
Seven girls tied by time.
Five powers that bind.
One curse to lock the horror away.
One attic to keep the monsters at bay.
I’ve got one word: WOW! Okay. There’s also gorgeous, breathtaking, thought-provoking, imaginative, and perfect. The Casquette Girls was first written on Wattpad by Alys Arden a couple of years ago, and after reading it my only question is why it took so long to be scooped up by a publisher.
The story takes place in New Orleans after it’s been decimated by a hurricane referred to as “The Storm”. Adele, who was sent to France to live with her mother until her father decided it was safe to come back, returns now to help rebuild. There’s obviously something much more wrong in Adele’s beloved city besides the post-storm destruction. Adele discovers she has magical powers, and accidentally releases something ancient and evil from the attic of the local Ursuline Convent and she has to figure out how to put it back before any more people are killed.
Just as the story is not your average YA paranormal read, neither is Adele. While immature in some regards, she also stands up well under pressure, is fiercely loyal to her friends and family, and loves New Orleans with a passion. There is a love triangle, but even that was so well written that it never became annoying. She’s a sixteen-year-old girl whose mother seemingly abandoned her and her father, and has never gotten over that hurt. Her relationship with her father provides many touching and amusing moments throughout the book. Not only is Adele dealing with all sorts of family issues, but then she discovers that she’s one of a few that can put a stop to the evil that is further decimating her beloved city. While she struggles at first with her new talents and her magical legacy, once Adele truly comes into her powers it’s immediately obvious that she’s not someone to trifle with.
The plot is based on the true story of la filles a la cassette, who were orphans sent to La Nouvelle-Orleans in the early 1700s to marry some of the colonists. The name was given to these girls because of the small chests, known as casquettes in which they carried their belongings. They’re also the inspiration behind Victor Herbert’s operetta “Naughty Marietta”. Seamlessly interwoven with Adele’s present day perspective is that of her ancestor Adeline, who’s set sail for New Orleans at the behest of her father to oversee some property he’s established. Striking up a friendship with three of the Casquette Girls, Adeline stumbles across a supernatural world filled with new possibilities as well as danger. Alys Arden masterfully combines the historical and paranormal elements to create a magical tale filled with witches, voodoo, and vampires. The secondary characters stand out just as much, but especially compelling are three mysterious brothers.
Gabriel is flirtatious, charming, yet completely immoral. He has no problem doing whatever it takes to protect his self-interests, even if it’s committing murder.
Nicco is torn between his loyalty to his family and doing what’s right. Complicating things further are his growing feelings for Adele.
And finally, Emile, who’s suave and debonair but is completely devoid of a conscience.
There’s nothing more I love than a well told vampire tale, and this novel does not disappoint. Seamlessly blending historical themes with magic and other paranormal elements, the end result is a completely unique story. Publisher’s Weekly has called The Casquette Girls “a Southern Gothic love letter”, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a lavishly detailed and moving tribute to New Orleans and the resilience of its residents. It’s left me itching to get my hands on the sequel, “The Romeo Catchers” which unfortunately has no release date at the moment. In a year where there’s been some truly outstanding YA Fiction, Alys Arden has set a new standard for writers. She’s proven that you can have a diverse cast of compelling characters, and exquisite world-building all in the same book. If you love the paranormal I recommend The Casquette Girls even if you don’t ordinarily read YA books. It’s a story you’ll fall in love with and it’s one you won’t soon forget.