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.
When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to have it. I’m a huge historical fiction buff, and this was BEGGING to be on my shelf. So I picked it up. I opened the pages. As it turns out, the historical fiction was not the only complex piece of the puzzle – the plot surprised me, the main character made me smile … and I had a weird reaction to the love triangle.
Given the reasons why I picked this book up, the setting was obviously my first concern. I’m very nit-picky when it comes to historical fiction. Renaissance Venice isn’t something I know a lot about, so I wanted to learn as much as I could–and I got a lesson.
Historical fiction novels often walk a fine line between too much and too little information, and I thought that Venom walked it beautifully. I felt like I was learning things about everything from the buildings to the literature to the art to the clothing to the language, but it never seemed to get in the way of the action. Each detail was placed exactly where it fit, nothing was shoehorned in, but no space where something could be placed was forgotten. I give this book a round of applause just for that.
I was sold on our main character, Cass, straight away. I know, I know, the “rich girl bound by constraints of society wanting to live” is a trope that’s been done to death, but I fall for them every time. Just in the opening scene, with Cass’s thoughts during the funeral and how she had to keep waking her aunt up–I fell hard. She doesn’t always know what she’s doing, but that never stops her from doing anything, and I like that. I also really liked that she was afraid when she should have been, but–again–she turned that fear into a weapon and powered through it. She never considered letting Falco lead the entire show an option.
Speaking of Falco… here’s where things get interesting. If you follow this blog, then you know I have a deep and intense hatred of insta-love on principle. This happens between Cass and Falco in the first chapter. Falco runs into Cass, puts his hands on her and BAM she’s intrigued. I’ll admit, though, that Falco is the swoon worthy, sassy artist that I fall for myself. I loved their partnership with all my heart, even if the romance did wear on me. This is just because I’m jaded with ya love at this point and need a miracle to make me invest deeply in a ship these days.
Which is why I was intrigued by my own reaction when the love triangle is introduced with Luca, Cass’s fiance. Usually, despite the insta-love, I always go for the guy who seems to clearly have the girl. Often times, the second guy who really has to fight for her attention … well, it’s obvious he’s never going to get her anyways. So I always ship the the insta-love ship despite myself. With this one, though, it was different. I found Luca’s far reaching devotion to Cass so sweet, and his awkwardness around her endearing. Given the statistical trajectory of ya love triangles, I still don’t think he’ll get the girl, but gosh I hope he does. I’m a Luca lover, hands down.
Enough love triangle talk! I don’t want you thinking that’s all this book is, because it certainly is not! In the beginning, I thought I had a handle on how this book was going to go. Girl gets kidnapped, Cass and Falco find her, catch the kidnapper – yay book! …this is not what happened. Paul kept on pulling out a new facet after new facet and suddenly there was body snatching and experimentation on dead people and masquerades and murders and more kidnappings and my jaw slowly dropped. The level of intricacy with even just the major side characters warranted a round of applause. I was also masochistically pleased that not every loose end was tied up by one thing in the end. There are multiple things going on of equal levels of creepy. Even if I didn’t adore Cass and Luca and, yes, even Falco, I’d be hanging on to figure out just what in the world is going on.
I also appreciated where the love triangle went in the end. Which is huge for me, so you know.
All in all, I recommend this for those who enjoy well crafted plot and setting, as well as a spunky female lead. If you are morally opposed to love triangles and insta-love, you have been warned, but I wouldn’t write this book off just because of that. Which is a huge thing for me to say, so I’m not just saying that. And now that the covers have been redesigned once, it’s a fairly safe bet that your covers will all match. (I have the hardcover pictured above and an eARC of Belladonna, so nothing is going to match for me ever. :P)
Anyways, go! Go read! I’m snatching up Belladonna RIGHT NOW.