by Fiona Paul
To be published by Philomel
on October 30, 2012
Source: ARC swap with another blogger
My summary: Cassandra "Cass" Caravello is sixteen years old and betrothed to a boy she barely remembers. An orphan, she lives quietly with her aunt in a villa on San Domenico, an island near Venice. Cass visits the town graveyard one night after the funeral of her friend Livi, and is drawn into both a murder mystery and a secret romance. While in the graveyard, she meets cute (or scary-cute?) with Falco, an aspiring artist. The two of them decide to investigate the death of a girl whose body Cass found in Livi's crypt, a decision that will lead Cass everywhere from artists' studios to a masked ball. When more murdered girls turn up, Cass begins to realize that while she's been hiding something from her aunt and her fiance, other people she thought she could trust have been hiding things from her too.
My take: My favorite part of Venom was -- without question -- the book's setting. I've never been to Venice, so I loved the contrast of the quiet (fictional) island of San Domenico with the all that Venetian glamour and decadence.
Decadence. This book is filled with it, as we watch a sheltered, naive girl explore Venice by night. Much of the plot involves Cass sneaking out of the house so that she and Falco can pursue the mysterious killer, chasing clues from an upscale whorehouse to a masked ball to the studio of a real Renaissance artist, Tommaso Vecellio. (This leads to an artist's model scene that's reminiscent of Jack and Rose in Titanic.)
Yes, Falco is clearly up to something and anyone who has studied any art history will probably figure out what that is. Still, it was lots of fun to wait and see if Cass would catch on or if Falco would 'fess up. And, yes, anyone who has read much historical romance will also know that a girl who is betrothed to an absentee suitor can expect a knock on the door before the book is over! But again, it was pretty fun to sit back and wait for the fireworks. Even after I finished Venom, I wasn't sure exactly where this love triangle was headed. I'm totally #TeamLuca, BTW. Falco seems kind of sketchy, and I think Luca has hidden qualities we haven't even seen yet!
While Cass and Falco think they have found the person responsible for the girls' murders, there are still plenty of unanswered questions to be tackled in Belladonna, the next book in this series.
Recommended for fans of historical fiction, readers who don't mind love triangles, and Italiophiles!
If you've already read and loved Venom, try Poison by Sara Poole while you're waiting for book two. This (non-YA) book also takes place during the Renaissance and follows Francesca Giordano, a young Roman girl whose father mixed poisons for the Borgias. She seeks to avenge his death by taking over his position. It's Venom meets Grave Mercy -- good stuff!