Audiobook Review: Arca by G.R. Macallister
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Five Queendoms
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (March 7, 2023)
Length: 18 hrs and 55 mins
Author Information: Website
Narrator: Shiromi Arserio
Scorpica was a surprising gem I found in 2022 which is why I picked up its sequel Arca with no small amount of excitement. Unfortunately, the dreaded second book syndrome rears its ugly head.
In the first book, readers were introduced to a phenomenon known as the Drought of Girls. It’s exactly what it sounds like: every year, fewer girls are being born. No one knows why it’s happening, but it’s wreaking havoc on the world of The Five Queendoms. We have the queendom of Scorpica, known for its fierce warrior women; Arca, famed for its magic users; Bastion, known for its dedication to academics and scholarly arts; Sestia, a fertile land giving way to naturalists and agricultural experts; and Paxim, a large trading port and diplomatic hub. For centuries, peace has existed between the five realms, balancing precariously on a system built upon reciprocity and a mutual understanding between the Queens that they all need each other to survive. However, all bets are off when a whole decade passes in this matriarchal society without a single girl being born.
At the beginning of Arca, the Drought of Girls appears to have come to an end, to the relief of all five Queendoms. But alas, the reprieve came too late, the damage has already been done and now it’s impossible to take back certain words or actions. Paxim’s Queen Heliane had already announced—and is resolutely standing by—her decree that her son Paulus would succeed her as the nation’s first ruling King, sending shockwaves through her government. Meanwhile, Eminel is the young and untried new Queen of Arca who has suddenly found herself ruler of realm that prizes magical ability while having little to no knowledge of using magic herself. Finding herself at odds with her court, she must nevertheless find a solution to the problem at the border where Queen Tamura of Scorpica has amassed a great army, threatening invasion.
In the interest of full honesty, I went into Scorpica knowing next to nothing about the book and ended up positively surprised and amazed. In contrast, I went into Arca with high hopes and expectations—too high, perhaps—which may explain the nagging disappointment when I finished. This wasn’t a bad sequel, but the storyline paled in comparison to the first book and the ideas and conflicts in it felt like too much of the same. While the multi-POV narrative has returned with some of the characters we first met in Scorpica, it felt like we were dealing with a clean slate, which might explain why I had a tougher time engaging with the plot.
A long time too has passed since the series first started, and Arca picks up immediately after Scorpica with the expectation that the reader can remember everything that happened. I also didn’t feel that connected to some of the new characters, plus there were a few sections that dragged on for too long so that pacing suffered.
That said, I still think the overall world-building and political intrigue that the author has established is exceptional, even if those elements felt weaker here in Arca compared to Scorpica. I’ve heard that there are three more books in the series which would make sense if the current pattern continues with each installment named for one realm of the five Queendoms. Currently, I do plan to keep reading. The world here is brimming with potential with lots more to explore, and perhaps the next book will feature characters I find more appealing.
I also switched to audio for this sequel, and to tell the truth, the format change likely made the experience better than if I’d stayed with print. When not a lot is happening on the page, audiobooks have a way of holding my attention and helping me push through longer books especially during the slower parts. And while I may have mixed feelings about Arca as a novel, I have nothing bad to say about the narration and quite enjoyed Shiromi Arserio’s performance.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Scorpica (Book 1)
I hate that second book syndrom 😔
Yes, it’s such a bummer!
A fair-minded and thorough review – thank you! I like the sound of the premise and although this one didn’t meet up with your expectations, I’m heartened that you intend to stick with the series.
Yep, I’ll give it at least another book to decide – I think there should be five books altogether if the plan is to name each book after one of the five queendoms!
Expectations can be dangerous, lol. I didn’t read the first book, and most likely won’t now.
They really can be! Sometimes that’s the danger of loving the first book, I expect so much from the second!
it’s always difficult when not a lot happens
Yeah, it feels as if we’re just playing for time
Middle book syndrome is real! Shame that it dipped a bit for No.2 – hopefully the next one will bounce back.
Thanks! Unfortunately this one just reeked of middle book syndrome, and as there are three more books left in this series, I just hope it doesn’t become a trend!
I hope book 2 is back to Fantastic
Book 3 – and me too!
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Audio saves the day. 🙂 I haven’t tried this series yet but I remember you speaking highly of Scorpio.
Yep, I like audio because it just keeps going and forces me to pay attention. If I had been reading the print book, I would have been tempted to put it down during the slower parts.