Goodreads Summary: 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.Goodreads / Barnes and Noble
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.
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
First Line: "Man falls down before the Angel of Death like a beast before the slaughterer."
Favorite Quote: "How terrible it must be to be a member of the noble class. So many rules. Such restraint. You must feel like a caged bird, battering its wings against the sides of its golden prison."
I first picked up this book around when it was published, but I put it aside for some reason. It must have been the fact that I wasn't in the mood for historical fiction at the time, because it starts off interestingly enough. I was pretty much in love with the synopsis, but I didn't have high expectations because of lots of mixed reviews. There were definitely a few things that got under my skin, but overall I ended up really enjoying this. The actual novel itself is also gorgeous - from the font on the title to the intricate designs on every page. I loved the short passages from The Book of the Eternal Rose; I was very curious about what it really was. We never find out, not really, but it is mentioned towards the end and I can only assume that it will be more explored in the sequel. Sadly, they did a redesign with this series, and it's another I wish they hadn't touched.
The absolute best thing about Venom is the writing; Paul beautifully describes Venice and the people in it. I normally dislike long descriptions when it comes to surroundings and clothes, but I don't mind so much in stories like these simply because I picture everything being so pretty and it really adds to the atmosphere. I was simply enchanted by the author's way with words, so that was definitely what caught my attention at first. Of course, that can only carry everything so far, so I was eager to get to know the characters. I have to admit, Cass was not my favorite protagonist. I did feel pretty sorry for her in the beginning, because she felt like her entire life and been planned for her and there was no way out of it, short of being thrown out into the street. So I could not begrudge her for her affair with Falco.
I did, however, question their meeting. Cass runs right into him after discovering a dead girl that has been horribly mutilated after paying a visit to the cemetery behind her house. She's flustered, as she should be, but she converses with him way too easily after what she saw. Did I forget to mention that she lives on a small island, and she meets him in the middle of the night? I'm pretty sure that if I just saw a dead girl and immediately ran into some guy hanging around at two a.m. or so, I'd be one hundred percent certain that I was meeting the murderer (and no, I would not be distracted by how good-looking he is, unlike Cass). She then goes back to the graveyard (again, at a late hour) later in the book, which frankly I thought was the most stupid decision ever. It was like she wanted to be attacked.
I have very mixed feelings about Falco as a character. On one hand, I found him charming. I liked how carefree he seemed; he was a way for Cass to escape from her "cage". He was an interesting character, and I was very intrigued about the secrets he was keeping; I enjoyed his passionate opinions and his love of art. On the other hand, he was sometimes fairly manipulative of Cass when it came to getting what he wanted. He also leaves her alone several times in places she didn't know at all and could have easily been hurt in his absence. And at one point in the novel he accidentally gives her wine that causes her to hallucinate and when Cass asks him about it, he basically just shrugs and says he forgot it sometimes affected people like that. His actions baffled and sometimes angered me, but I would be lying if I said I didn't feel the chemistry at times between the couple.
I was interested in meeting Luca, whose upcoming arrival in an ominous cloud hanging over the first three quarters of the book. By the time he showed up, I was all set to meet a wicked warlock or something. But he actually turned out to be a pretty sweet guy, nothing at all like Cass expected. As you might imagine, this kind of develops into a love triangle. At this point, I'm not sure which guy I like better between my unsure opinion of Falco and the fact that Luca simply has not been around long enough for me to truly feel one way or another about him. I have to say, I was more than little surprised by the decision Cass made in the last few chapters. It wasn't how I expected the book to end. It wasn't exactly traditional, which I can appreciate, but again, I'm not sure it's what I wanted her to do. I can see why it was the best choice, but . . . I don't know.
I really liked all the side characters; the relationship between Cass and her aunt Agnese was well-developed. It starts off very rocky, but by the end there is more understanding between them. Sienna, Cass' ladies maid, was also great. I loved the mystery aspect. I didn't figure out who the murderer was; honestly, there were probably a lot of clues I could have picked up on scattered throughout the plot, but I didn't bother putting it altogether in my head because I wanted to be surprised. Overall, Venom is definitely not without faults (mostly due to the annoying habits of some of the characters), but otherwise it is a fabulously well-written story. I'm anxious to read Belladonna, because I'm sure several elements that were just touched on here will be added to. I've also heard that this series takes a paranormal turn, so I want to see how that all plays out.
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