Venom by Fiona Paul
Pub. Date: October 30th, 2012
Series: Secrets of the Eternal Rose
Age Level: YA
Synopsis via Goodreads
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 had been wanting to read Venom for a very, very long time. When I was able to obtain an ARC of it at BEA, I was so excited to have it. While some small things kept me from falling completely in love with it, I still found myself utterly captivated.
Cassandra is a young, somewhat sheltered, middle class girl who longs to be free of the confines of society's, and her family's, expectations of her. Take that and throw it in with a murder mystery, courtesans--and their less respectable counterparts--and a dashing-scoundrel-artist of a hunk and things are bound to get interesting. I really appreciated Cassandra as a protagonist. She could be a bit flip-floppy when it came to Falco, though it isn't like this was completely unjustified, which bugged me a tiny bit. That and, every now and again, she made some dumb choices (don't even get me started on the "girl in a horror movie mistake #4" that she made in the latter half of the book). However, her emotions felt very genuine and resonated off of the pages. I thought that, overall, she was a strong, well-rounded heroine for this story. Then we have the mysterious Falco. *drools* My goodness can I just make him real, please? He definitely had his rogue-ish qualities and he was funny, an artist, and just ermahgerd swoonworthy! He, too, annoyed me at times. Honestly, over half the books out there would have no plot line if the characters would just communicate with each other. The chemistry between Cassandra and Falco was positively combustible. Of course, then waltzes in Luca, who has to go and mess it all up. *insert love triangle here* Really, I don't hate Luca, and I could see where Cass might end up with him. With that said, Falco's my man. Madalena, Siena, Agnese, and others made up the cast of secondary characters. I would have liked to have seen more involvement from them throughout as I thought they were all intriguing characters who had something to offer. That said, they were barely a glimmer next to the shining star main characters of Cass and Falco.
This book was a harmonious balance of beauty and darkness. As I said before, with the combination of elements that this book had going on, Venom had a lot going in its favor right from the get-go. There is mystery, romance, secrets, and all set upon the historically rich and luscious backdrop of Venice, Italy, with its canals, mansions (or palazzo), and the occasional graveyard. I didn't know who the villain was until just moments before Cass did. In other words, the book was pleasantly unpredictable, and while it wasn't the most fast-paced read, I didn't mind. It is one of those books you take your time with, so you can savor every last detail.
This brings me to the writing. Oh the writing! Fiona Paul, has an exquisite writing style, with her fluid prose and masterful imagery; I just ate it up! I've never been the hugest fan of reading books in the third-person perspective, but I didn't feel like that formed any sort of gap between me and the character, as I sometimes feel with other books. Also, Paul knew just when her writing needed to be serious and when the time called to lighten things up with some snark and humor. An overall fantastic writing style!
The ending was realistic and I should have been happy with it, especially since there are more books to come. However, and this does not attest to the quality of the ending, I wanted Cass to sail off into the sunset with Falco, by golly! Have no fear, that was not a spoiler. Well, not really. The ending is basically left kind of open in that department, leaving room for, I guess, a more well thought out decision in the next book.
Characters: Well developed. Distinct. Would have liked to see secondary characters play stronger role.
Plot: Unique, dark and lovely historical fiction.
Writing: Exquisite and lush!
Ending: Liked but didn't love.
1st in Series: Great foundation.
Enjoyment/Likability: Really enjoyed.
Recommendable: Highly, especially to his-fic and YA fans.
Overall: A fantastic debut from Fiona Paul! I can't wait to see what more this series, and this author, have to offer.
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