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Author: Fiona Paul
May Contain Spoilers
Love, lust, murder, mayhem and high society converge in one thrilling debut
Cassandra Caravello has everything a girl could desire: elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, invitations to the best parties, and a handsome, wealthy fiancé—yet she longs for something more. 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 the body of a murdered woman—with a bloody X carved across her heart—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a poor artist with a mischievous grin . . . and a habit of getting into trouble. Will 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, romance, and mystery weave together in a novel that’s as seductive and stunning as the city of Venice itself.
When I read that Venom is set in Renaissance Venice, I couldn’t wait to read it. I love Venice, and think that it’s a great backdrop for any story. Fiona Paul’s descriptions of the city and culture give Venom a splash of color and excitement; with her vivid descriptions, I could almost hear the water splashing from the oars of the gondoliers and the hustle and bustle of the city. With its network of twisting , turning canals, Venice is the perfect setting for murder, mystery, and the constant threat of danger. It’s also home to glamorous parties, wealthy nobles, and exquisite architecture. I loved all of the details packed into this novel, from the graveyards to Cass’s smoldering old home.
Cass is an orphan. She is being raised by her elderly Aunt Agnese, a strict matron who expects Cass to behave as her station demands. Cass, however, wants nothing to do with all of the gentle pursuits expected of her. Embroidery bores her to tears, she has no patience for timidity, and she wants to question everything around her. She longs to live. This gets her into quite a bit of trouble, and Agnese is worried that Cass will cause a scandal and get them both kicked out of her cousin’s house, where they both live until he achieves his majority. While Cass does try to rein in her wilder side, when she stumbles upon the corpse of a murdered woman she just can’t help herself. She needs to know who she was, and why she was in her friend’s family crypt, instead of her friend, Livi, who died after losing a fight against an illness.
Cass immediately sets the expectation that she is an impulsive, bold girl, and she lives up to that. She wants to live life instead of just sitting still and watching it spin by her. She is curious and wants to know what makes the world tick. Her recklessness gets her into so much trouble, and her aunt’s sternness just makes her long to do everything that is reckless and exciting. When she meets Falco, an artist, she is instantly attracted to him. He is mischievous and spirited, and completely different from her boring, studious finance, Luca. Even though there is no hope that they could ever be together because of their class differences, Cass is still drawn to Falco again and again. When the murderer sends Cass a note that she will be the next victim, she feels an even greater compulsion to be with Falco and to savor all of the forbidden attraction that she feels for him. While I completely bought into the intensity of her emotions and the undeniable charisma between the two characters, I had a hard time liking Falco. Sweet and fun-loving one moment, he could also be sarcastic and evasive the next.
There were two plot points that kept me from enjoying Venom as much as I would have liked. Both are commonly used plot devices in YA fiction that I just can’t connect with. The first was Cass’s recklessness. She is impulsive to the point that I began to wonder how she survived into her late teens. She frequently waited until dark, when all of the aging residents of the household were sound asleep, to creep out of the house and sneak into the graveyard behind the palazzo. She repeatedly engaged in this dangerous activity, so she could think or write in her journal. I don’t know about you, but hanging out in a graveyard in the wee hours of the night, alone, with a lantern to announce my presence and my location, just doesn’t seem an intelligent activity to pursue. Add in one brutal murderer, who has sent a note to you proclaiming the intention to make you the next victim and, I’m sorry, but you obviously have serious issues making a rational decision or you have a death wish.
The second plot point that made me want to rip my hair out – both Luca and Falco, Cass’s love interests, expected her to accept them at face value, to believe in them and trust them, while not trusting her enough to share potential life saving secrets with her. This drove me crazy. Cass catches Falco in a blatant lie, one that causes her to question his character and everything that he has told her, and still he won’t tell her the truth. All the while proclaiming his intense love for her. Luca does the same thing later in the book. Both young men claim to love her, and both are well acquainted with her stubbornness. She isn’t going to meekly do what they say and stop putting herself in danger. They both know this about her personality, yet they both remain silent, putting her life at risk. Whenever I run into this plot device, it just comes across as condescending to me. These guys claim to care for her, but they are keeping secrets that are going to get her killed. Trust is a two way street. I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with a guy would can’t be upfront with me. This isn’t romantic; it’s manipulative. Rant off.
While Venom left me disappointed, fans of Hush, Hush and Fallen should enjoy this suspenseful and atmospheric mystery.
Review copy provided by publicist