Seventeen-year-old Rosa Alcantara, daughter of an influential but dead Mafia capo, flees her shattered home life with her mother and dark past in Brooklyn by flying to her father's family in Italy. Sicily, it seems, is the perfect place for a new start: She lives in a big mansion with no one but her sister Zoe and her aunt Florinda, the half-empty Sicilian landscape is eerily beautiful, the laws are hardly ever enforced.On her flight, she meets Alessandro Carnevare, a handsome stranger about her age, with whom she reunites at his father's funeral - who was a capo, too. The Carnevares and the Alcantaras have been enemies for decades, though, and no one approves of the contact. Rosa starts spending time with Alessandro, at first because she enjoys the risks that come with it, later because they form a bond of shared secrets - the most major of which is that both families are shapeshifters descended from Lykaon, the late king of Arcadia: While the Alcantaras, at least their women, transform into giant snakes, the Carnevares shift into big cats.But instead of their fire-forged friendship forming into a tender romance in the peace of reunion, Rosa and Alessandro have the world against them. Not only do their families more and more disapprove of their relationship, but Alessandro has to keep his clan from killing him, Rosa has to fight personal demons and find her place in life, a mysterios organisation kidnaps and tortures Arcadians, a secret that could change everyones lives lies at the bottom of the sea, and everyone lives in fear of the mysterious "Hungry Man", who is rumored to be Lykaon himself...The YA series Arcadia by German author Kai Meyer consists of three books:
Anticlimactic Parent: Gemma Alcantara was shown by Rosa's narrative to be an ignorant, stubborn and unloving woman. She is really just exhausted from being a single mom in Crown Heights, stumbling from job to job, having Sicily and the Mafia romanticised by her two daughters, and having been left by her husband seemingly without a good reason. Like many people in the series, she and Rosa are Not So Different.
Boyish Short Hair: Iole Dallamano, whose hair was cut short regularly because she had been a Carnevare prisoner for six years.
Bury Your Gays: Shortly after Lilia is found out to be a lesbian, she is killed. Lesbianism is also one of the reasons for Zoe's death.
Call Back: The first book's epilogue, concerning Rosa's stealing habits, and how in the beginning her iPod inexplicably only played a single song, My Death.
Cannibal Clan: Yes, that type of clan. It is Carnevare tradition to hunt and eat a human each time a new capo takes over. Cesare's chosen victim is Iole Dallamano. Michele Carnevare and his gang hunt down a couple of homeless teenagers and try to do so with Rosa, too.
Can't Have Sex, Ever: Due to their excitement and passion, Rosa and Alessandro start to change into their respective animal forms each time they try to sleep with each other.
They do so nonetheless, first through means of the serum, then when they have learned to control their shifting.
Cat Smile: Rosa has such an awesome one that it makes a Sicilian beauty pale.
Child by Rape: Nathaniel, Rosa's baby, who was aborted. He was Tano's child.
City Mouse: When Rosa (and before her, Zoe) arrived in the Sicilian countryside and her aunt's country estate, she was used to a rather humble life in Brooklyn.
Dead Guy on Display: Well, not exactly on display, but Apollonia kept Davide's corpse in a cooling storage for fourteen years.
Distressed Dude: At the end of Arcadia Awakens, Rosa has to rescue the bound and gagged Alessandro from certain death by Cesare.
The Don: The late Baron Massimo Carnevare and Salvatore Pantaleone, the capo dei capi. Alessandro is the current Carnevare Don. Cesare Carnevare also has shades of this and Florinda and Costanza Alcantara are/were rare female versions, especially the latter one.
Double Agent: Rosa, by promising Judge Quattrini information about Pantaleone in exchange for Augusto Dallamano's whereabouts and then following Pantaleone's instruction to save Alessandro and Iole while giving Judge Quattrini the runarond.
Mattia Carnevare works with Rosa because he wants to find Valerie again.
Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Fundling watched Cesare kill Gaia, so he started reporting to Judge Quattrini while still acting faithful to the Carnevares. At the same time, he is Pantaleone's spy.
Elder Abuse: While being all sugar to him at first, Danai Thanassis later blows up the Stabat Mater and thus, kills her father and his plans.
Evidence Scavenger Hunt: Rosa and Alessandro dive headfirst into one for evidence of the hugging panthera and lamia statue Ruggero Dallamano found at the bottom of the sea and what it means for the Arcadians generally, the Carnevares in particular, and TABULA, partially to save Iole from Cesare.
Foil: Salvatore Pantaleone stands for the sophisticated, civilized, modern ways of the Mafia, while the Hungry Man represents their rampant, anarchic, beastly ways.
Gloomy, sarcastic Rosa prefers black clothes and wants nothing but peace and normality, while quirky, fun-loving Iole prefers white clothes and loves to find the weird in the ordinary. Bonus for them having blonde and black hair, respectively.
Grey and Gray Morality: Neither side involved in the conflict is particularly sympathetic. One could argue the same about the protagonists. It is a recurring theme throughout the series. Rosa speaks about this when she tells Alessandro of her rape, resulting pregnancy, and the abortion.
"There is only red or black. [...] As in roulette. One isn't more right than the other. You can think about which colour will rather win as much as you want, it won't help you."
Half-Human Hybrid: Technically, most of the Arcadians are really children of an Arcadian and a human. At the same time, each of the Arcadians is half human, half animal. And then there's the literal examples...
Heel-Face Turn or Face-Heel Turn: Rosa, by going to the police and betraying Pantaleone. Depending on who you show as the "good" and "bad" side, respectively.
Also Signora Raffaela Falchi. Who would have thought that the respectable teacher was a rock musician's girlfriend and knows full well how to wield a gun?
Hide the Evidence: Gaia Carnevare hid the evidence of Cesare's betrayal in her paintings.
The secret room in the bulding that was once the Dallamano manor.
Hide Your Lesbians: That Zoe and Lilia were lovers is only revealed pages before Lilia is killed by Cesare Carnevare. Justified because the conservatively Catholic South Italians and especially Florinda would hardly have approved of one of the most important Mafia families' offspring being gay.
Idiot Ball: At the beginning of Arcadia Falls, Rosa and Alessandro take Stefania hostage and forget checking she has a cellphone on her. Which of course she does.
Our Werebeasts Are Different: In the Alcantara family, only the women shift. The transformations are driven by strong emotions and happen gradually. The shifters are aware and sentient, but are controlled by more animal-like instincts. The individual groups of shapeshifters have names regarding the animals they change into. The Alcantara shifters are called lamia, while the Carnevare ones are called panthera. The descriptions of the gradual shifting are quite unique.
Rape as Backstory and Rape as Drama: Rosa. There are many subtle hints until the truth comes out, and even her describing it is as much of a Rape Discretion Shot as a firsthand experience can be due to a date rape drug, but the execution with all its logical consequences like panic attacks at parties, being uncomfortable with too strong closeness and phantom pain in the abdomen is done realistically and tastefully. See also Child by Rape above.
Reluctant Retiree: Sigismondis, who just never actually retired. He still stumbles through the TABULA base in a tattered and dirty lab coat, lives off instant noodles, and treats and injects taxidermy animals without noticing they aren't even alive, much less Arcadians.
There is also another one which, at the same time is one to Star Wars, when Rosa quotes to Salvatore Pantaleone: "I'm not looking for a friend, I'm looking for a Jedi master.", and claims it to be a quote from Hamlet.
Alessandro being unkempt, black-haired and green-eyed might be one to Harry Potter. This is not helped by the fact that, in German fanfic, it is weirdly popular to call Harry Alexander or any variation thereof, and that Rosa jokingly calls the posh boarding school Alessandro attended in the USA "Hogwarts".
Alessandro gives Rosa a handwritten book with Aesop's fables as a gift.
In the beginning, there is a quote from Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, in which a tiger licks away the first person narrator's skin to reveal fur. Later in the book, Rosa has a dream about Alessandro, in his panther form, licking away her skin to reveal a snake's scales.
Twin Switch: Apollonio pretends to be Davide pretending to be Apollonio.
Understanding Boyfriend: The fact that Alessandro is so understanding is what makes Rosa want for him to be her boyfriend in the first place. Him understanding her shapeshifting, of course, is due to the fact that he's a shifter himself.
Unkempt Beauty: Rosa's "witch hair" is ever tangled, she doesn't wear makeup, she's pale and scrawny and her shins are full of scars due to shaving accidents, yet Alessandro evidently finds her very attractive.