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.
Number of Pages: 448
Reviewed by Rachel, age 17
“At the instant of death,
the workings of the body
grind to a halt.
The gates of the vessels fall open,
flooding the tissues with
bile and other humors.
The eyes glaze.
The flesh turns a ghastly hue.”
~Book of the Eternal Rose
Venom by Fiona Paul is eerie. A murder mystery set in magical Venice, Italy around the Renaissance era, Venom ties death, beauty and love into one potent concoction. From page one, I was under its spell, and the novel turned out to be one of my favorite books I have read so far this year. I've always loved the darker books, and there is nothing spookier than conspiracy, murder, the Black Plague, and love becoming dangerously intertwined.
The main character, Cass, was a strong and uniquely relatable character to learn about as the story progressed. Falco, her first love, who is a talented, mysterious and sarcastic Venetian artist, changes her and as a reader, it is fun to see her transform into a more solidified version of herself. Cass becomes a more confident person, even though the uncertainty in her life triples after meeting him. The only unfortunate part of this story was that Paul gives you every reason to love and be suspicious of both Luca and Falco, Cass's suitors.
This mystery is hard to guess because I was certain that each character was a murderer many times throughout the novel. However, Venom is filled with other colorful characters that lend this book a more lighthearted undertone, such as her crazy old aunt, Agnese, who is both strict and tough loving, but free-spirited like Cass. Then there is her self-absorbed best friend, Madalena, who also genuinely cares for Cass. And lastly, Cass's lady's maid, Siena, who is the closest thing Cass has to a sister-like companion.
I can't express my love for this book, but I will say that I think both contemporary, mystery, historical and fantasy readers will adore it. There are no supernatural elements, but Venice has enough magic on its own.
This is the book that makes your heart beat fast, your jaw drop, and causes you to read during chemistry class. It's not just the revelations that cause this book to be so hooking, it's also the intensity of Cass's emotions, the stark truth about life and death, the goosebumps you get while reading, the conspiracies, and the amazing setting. Venom isn't a common young adult book, and I am certain you will love it.
Venom is sinister, creepy, deliciously seductive and absolutely enthralling. Until the very last chapters I still could not unravel the mystery and even now, I know there is so much more of a story to be told. You must read this book.
*Recommended for ages 14 and up as there is some brief sexual content.
Venom is out in stores now! Belladonna, the sequel, will be published sometime early next year!
(Pssst! If you buy Venom from our online store, you can use the online receipt to gain +25 extra entries in our next giveaway!)
Rachel, age 17