Widower Meg Rosenthal takes a position at the private high school that specializes in art education, Arcadia Falls in upstate New York, as a teacher of fairy tales and folklore. One of the biggest draws is that not only will her teenager daughter be able to attend, but also the institution will provide housing for Meg, which she desperately needs since she was forced to sell her Great Neck mcmansion.
Upon arriving in Arcadia, Meg and Sally find the old cottage that used to belong to the school’s founders, Lily and Vera, in disrepair and quite spooky as it sits far back in the woods in a deeply secluded area. In fact, the entire campus is engulfed in a canopy of trees in which one could easily loose her way. Meg can’t help but be reminded of the old fairy tale in which a young girl was lost in a forest and was promised by a witch that her family would have riches if she switched places with a changeling.
The night before the school term begins, the students partake in an evening ceremony to say goodbye to summer and welcome the fall. During the ceremony, Isabel Cheney, who plays the fall goddess, accidentally falls over a cliff in the woods and dies. If that is not traumatic enough, Meg also discovers a secret journal hidden in the hearth of the cottage’s fireplace in which Lily, a founder of the school, writes about her life before she had met her fate in the same way as Isabel. Could these two premature deaths really be accidents?
Arcadia Falls is several stories within a story, as there is the tale of the changeling girl that keeps reappearing, the story of Lily and Vera, and Meg’s story. Therefore, it is easy to be so enraptured in the details of one story that you forget this is part of a bigger story, which I loved. Although not as cleverly crafted as it’s predecessors, Arcadia Falls is a page-turning gothic novel that should please readers who enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale and The House at Riverton.