A simmering supernatural romance set in the crumbling Italian city of Castello, where mafia clans make the rules, dark magic pulses the streets and the sins of the past threaten to consume the present. . .
When sixteen-year-old Lilly arrives in Castello, she isn’t impressed.
A secluded town in the Italian mountains is not where she saw her last years of high school playing out.
Divided for generations by a brutal clan-family war, the two halves of Castello are kept from destroying each other by the mysterious General, a leader determined to maintain order and ‘purity’. . . whatever the cost.
Lilly falls in with the rebellious Liza, brooding Nico and sensitive Christian, and sparks begin to fly. But in a city where love can lead to ruin, Lilly isn’t sure she can trust anyone — not even herself.
And then she accidentally breaks Castello’s most important rule: when the General’s men come to test your blood, you’d better not be anything more than human…
The city of Castello seems to be falling apart and far removed from civilised society – almost like a dystopian Brigadoon (although not appearing every 100 years) through the clouds. It’s to Castello that our protagonist Lilly arrives, relocated with her father from Maine, and she immediately senses something very strange is lurking in the city. Graffiti sprawls on the city walls ‘All witches burn’ and ‘The Saints Live’ but without any Wi-Fi Lilly feels isolated. The opening pages bombard the reader with mysteries and questions and seemingly shifts the setting into the past. It’s clear Lilly’s life has already been challenging and her arrival in Castello looks set to be a rocky ride.
After arriving at school Lilly meets an eclectic bunch of students, from the over enthusiastic, to the withdrawn and the openly hostile. She learns quickly that The General is in control and dictatorship rules. The Sign sprawled on the wall at the school from Dante’s Inferno is a big alarm bell: Abandon all hope, you who enter here’.
This is a YA fantasy read, so you have all the usual threads and angst you’d expect. I did find myself drifting on several occasions – I’m not of a YA age, but I do read and review many YA books. For me, the characters seemed so adrift and Lilly was very irritating at times, particularly how she was drawn to several people at once, and seemed to be easily swayed – maybe she’s just an open relationship kind of girl. I liked the character of Nico, although he was kept to the sidelines, but I assume he’ll play a key part in the next in series.
Overall, this book creates a great fantasy setting, where control, fear and manipulation rule. There’s an undertone of Romeo & Juliet in terms of the warring families.
Do check it out if you enjoy angst ridden drama, with multiple love interests, in a supernatural fantasy setting with a mystery at its core.
Kat Delacorte was eleven years old when her family moved from the United States to a small town in central Italy. She soon began writing stories about her new friends developing superpowers, and she hasn’t looked back since. She graduated with a BA in History from Columbia University, and lives in Venice, Italy.
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