Kelsey and Keekee are seventeen-year-old twin girls in the city of Elura in the nation of Equatia. This is the fourth city that they've lived in, banned from the first three by Keekee's Virtual Reality Addition. If she is caught a fourth time, they will be forced to live in the Central city, the hub of all government activity, where all citizens are forced to work for the government. Forever.
Kelsey is the good-girl, shunning virtual reality for the comfort of books instead. But our story starts when Kelsey meets Xander and is handed a Tarot card, the first step into the world of the Arcana. Within the Arcana is the hope of breaking free of Equatia before it is destroyed, to live free elsewhere in the world.
I'm really conflicted about Virtual Arcana. On one hand, the concept of the personification of the Arcana, people actually being the suits, and the Minor and Major Arcana, is interesting and so-far done well. Unfortunately, the story overall loses me in the dreams within dreams within dreams - never knowing if something that is going on is real or virtual reality. Is the real life "real" or is only the Arcana real? Just when something bad seems to happen, Kelsey can close her eyes and go back to sleep and it's different when she wakes up.. and this happens more than once in the first set of episodes. Episode Three, the last episode of the set, entering more into the subterfuge against the government, but the confusing with never knowing what is real and isn't continues throughout.
My biggest issue is the fact that Episode 2 has way too many similarities to The Matrix and causes the story to lose it's individual voice. You have Kelsey (aka Neo), who is contacted by the person she views as the leader of the Arcana (Xander, aka Morpheus), because he sees something special in her. She is taken to the High Priestess (aka The Oracle), who reads her cards and gives her a cryptic fortune, including telling her that "Sometimes one must die before they can truly live." Kelsey is even taken to a chasm where Xander tries to convince her to trust her and jump, letting her know that if she truly believes and if she seeks reality within herself, she wouldn't fall... Xander essentially gives her the choice between the red pill and the blue pill, but offering her the chance to enter the Arcana - or not - but telling her that only within the Arcana she will be free.
I honestly expected a reference to humans being used as batteries by the end of the Episode.
While there is a lot of promise in this collection, the story was lost for me in Episode 2 and I wasn't able to recover enough interest to keep reading past this set. If you don't mind the Matrix similarities and not really knowing what is real and isn't, you may love this book - it just wasn't for me.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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