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Venom by Fiona Paul
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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.

**This review contains mild spoilers. Continue at your own risk.

Had to stop at 40% into the book.

No, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO, NO!

Another interesting premise down the drain...

A historical fiction YA book set in Venice during Renaissance era? C-c-combo breaker! Sadly, the execution was done at a very sub-par level.

Okay, I believe in common sense. With that in mind, there are so many things that I found as ridiculous and non-sensible about this book. I disapprove this book until I would go to the extent of pasting Nicholas Cage picture on every single page of this book if what I have is a physical copy.

Nicholas Cage should feel so lucky because I only have a digital ARC of Venom.

Venom opens with the funeral of Liviana, a close friend of our main protagonist, Cassandra or Cass. Strangely, we weren't told of how much Liviana actually meant to Cass i.e. how Liviana was a good friend to Cass, how did they spent their times, and all the good memories. The only thing we learnt about Liviana is that she is a good girl. That's all. During the funeral, Cass seems to focus more on how tight her dress is, how the priest seems to target her personally, how her aunt is falling asleep...I mean, does she really care that her best friend is dead?

It turns out Cass likes to hang out in the graveyards. How...morbidly fascinating. I read something similar in Ember but contrary to in Venom, this kind of behaviour makes sense in Ember because the protag can actually sense death. But for an elite like Cass to actually likes hanging out in graveyards, well, I don't buy it. Let alone, when she actually had the nerve to dig out Liviana's grave.

Cass had her second encounter with Falco in the graveyard just after she dug Liviana's grave out and found the body had been replaced with an unidentified courtesan. This gets the ball rolling as Cass and Falco are set for a quest to find the murderer and Liviana's missing body.

Okay, I believe Fiona Paul had this vision of a strong, brave heroine when she wrote about Cass but Cass for me, came across only as a reckless and dumb heroine. She is so trustworthy of Falco despite having an absolute zero knowledge about him. Look, he met this guy for the first time when he somehow ran into her and he jokingly admitted that he did that on purpose. Second time they met, it was in the graveyard and Falco had Cass' journal but refused to give it back. Later, he talked Cass into not telling the authority about the murder, decided to break into possibly the murderer's lair, stole Cass' aunt gondola and claimed he has some business to tend to at 2 am in the morning. And oh, Falco also somehow knows about the secret knock to a brothel house!

Falco is not your classic 'I am a mysterious and dangerous guy', he is an immoral prick. Only idiots would find him attractive.

Furthermore, he always taunts and mocks Cass into doing all those stupid acts, challenging her 'unless you're too afraid to' or 'or you can't wait to go home to your satin sheets?'. lolwut? Was it Cass' fault that she was born into a family of elites? It was as if Falco views all the rich people as spoiled little brats. How mature!

Oh, I'm not done with Cass yet
Cass characterization can also be confusing at times. I understand that she also faces a death threat from the mysterious murderer but most of the time, her primary motivation is to find Liviana's body. Remember she acted like she didn't give much shit during Liviana's funeral? Moreover, when she found out about the identity of the murdered courtesan, she feels excitement and wonder and fear? Fear is understandable but excitement and wonder? Hate to break your bubble, girl but while you've been dumb enough to undertake this so-called little mission on your own, it doesn't hurt to react appropriately according to common sense.

So...this is a YA book, you say?

During Cass and Falco little visit to the brothel house, Cass accidentally stumbled upon a room in which a couple were you know, doing it. While of course I had issues with Cass seemingly content with watching people having intercourse and even imagining herself with Falco in their places, the narrative is kind of descriptive for a YA book.

Rich and vivid writing
Is the only thing good about this book apart from the setting (hence, the 2-stars). I could totally imagine myself in Venice during Renaissance Era while reading Venom. It's obvious that Fiona Paul put a considerable amount of efforts in putting this book together and it clearly reflected in the way she built the tone and setting of Venom.

The Verdict
I did try to reconsider taking this book back from my DNF pile by browsing through other reviewers' opinions. What I can gather is, I don't think it's worth to continue with the book. So yes, it will stay in my DNF pile for good.

Two unimpressed faces
**An ARC was sent by HarperCollins Australia in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews


Hmmm, I wanted to read this, but it will have to wait a long time before I do. Great review!

Thanks, Lis! Who knows it will probably work out better for you. :)

Oh, no! I'm sorry you didn't like it, that's interesting. I love historical novels to and if you didn't like it, I'm wondering about myself. Great review, I'll keep what you said in mind!

Thank you, Alise. I would really love to hear opinions about this book. I mean, probably I'm just a black sheep. :)

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