Review of Venom by Fiona Page
Overview from www.goodreads.com: Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.
When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin… and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?
Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.
I was intrigued about the YA novel Venom the moment I read the description on a website that features reviews of Historical Fiction books. It takes place during the Renaissance (or should I say Rinascimento) in Venice. Just knowing that part alone made it sound intriguing but it gets better.
The story centers around a young girl from a high-born family of Venice named Cassandra Caravello. Her troubles begin when she goes to the graveyard at night to visit the body of a recently deceased friend.
When she arrives at the cemetery, she finds someone else’s body in her crypt and what’s more that someone else seems to have been brutally murdered. So where is her friends body? Who is this girl who is currently resting in her grave? These are the questions she must find the answers to with the help of her new friend Falco who has also seen the dead girl.
The stakes are raised however when she receives an anonymous note from the killer saying that she is next. Now she must find the killer before she becomes one of his or her victims while still fulfilling her social responsibilities to her fiancé, her best friend, and her aunt. Furthermore, how many times can she sneak out at night without getting caught before she gets in trouble for her investigation in a city where the authorities cannot always be trusted?
Okay so now for my two cents. The story was intriguing. I liked Venice as the backdrop of the story and felt that the mystery surrounding the city added to the mystery surrounding the story. As we see further into the plot, the dark waters of the canals at night make for the perfect place for the killer to dispose of bodies as they also make for a dangerous place for a young girl who likes to wander off on her own to survive.
Cassandra doesn’t know who she can trust, for no one is what they seem. Even her old Aunt Agnese seems to have a hidden side that she knows nothing about. I liked that aspect of the plot about people not being what they seem. Sometimes we think we know the people who are closest to us—the people that we live with or work with—but do we really? Perhaps there not all as mysterious as the killer in this novel but like Agnese and Cass’s fiancé Luca, they might not be all that we think they are. They could be a cold-blooded killer. Or maybe they just have a secret talent that we never knew about like playing a musical instrument or painting.
On the negative side, there were a few things that I didn’t like. The first was that I didn’t know that this was part of a series and that the ending wouldn’t wrap everything up. I don’t want to spoil anything but there was one big decision that I was hoping that Cassandra would make at the end and when she didn’t I was disappointed. And the mystery wasn’t completely solved at the end. We get an idea of how did it and part of the reasons why but we are not sure of all the motivations involved nor the extent of the involvement of a certain powerful person. Presumably we will have to wait for the next book for that. Too bad.
The other thing was that there was one scene that was a bit uncomfortable for me and that was the scene in the house of the courtesans (I don’t know what it is called) where some of the hanky-panky that was described was a bit more than I was expecting for a YA novel. I’m not saying it will bother everyone but it did make me a bit uncomfortable.
However, overall I liked it. As I said, I loved the backdrop, as well as the characters. The mystery was certainly entertaining. The history seemed to be mostly accurate from what I can tell and I loved how the author brought in the Venetian masked ball as a scene in the story. I think that part was probably my most favorite in the novel and I guess it will probably be enough to make me want to read the next book in the series. If any of these points sounds as fascinating to you as it was to me, I think you will like this book.