Ads 468x60px

Monday, January 21, 2013

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Venom by Fiona Paul

Title: Venom
Author: Fiona Paul
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: October 30 2012
Publishing House: Philomel
ISBN: 9780399257254
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


Secrets can be as powerful and deadly - as poison

Cassandra Caravello has everything a girl could desire; elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, invitations to the best parties, and a handsome, wealthy fiance - yet she longs for something more. 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 the body of a murdered woman - with a bloody X carved across her heart - she's drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a poor artist with a mischievous grin...and a habit of getting into trouble. Will Cassandra find the murderer before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiance or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Beauty, romance, and mystery weave together in a novel that's as seductive and stunning as Renaissance Venice itself.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Upon reading the premise for Venom, I instantly imagined lavish masquerade balls, illicit trysts between lovers - not to mention swoon-worthy romance, dangerously seductive courtesans fluttering fans and batting eyelashes at gullible men and all the mystery and danger that shrouds a secret society. Did I get what I wanted? Not exactly.

The story starts of with our protagonist, Cass, attending the funeral of Liviana, one of her friends who just died of an illness. It is at this funeral where, while taking a breather, Cass finds herself getting body-slammed by none other than Falco and, not surprisingly, insta-love ensues. That night Cass, who is known to venture into the cemetery located beside her aunt's home to write, finds her friend's grave disturbed and her body gone only to be replaced by another corpse with a bloody X on her chest. Unluckily for Cass though, someone seems to have spotted her and she soon finds that her very own life is in danger. Cass must find out who the killer is before she becomes his next victim.

Let's start with the characters. Cassandra Caravello is a beautiful young woman who feels trapped, like a bird in a gilded cage. She says she's impulsive, she's different from the other girls but I truthfully could not see that. She was one of those typical damsel-in-distress type of heroine, and was totally bland and boring. When she talked about feeling trapped and needing to escape? It was nothing more but talk and no action at all. What irked me was how terribly dim she was at times. She stumbles upon a murdered girl and what does she do? She keeps it to herself and tells no one else but Falco who was conveniently there when she found the body. Don't tell anyone, he says, don't go to the guards. I didn't like how adults were so blatantly disregarded in this book and assumed to be useless - didn't Cass consider that she was ill-equipped to search for the killer? I also don't understand why she didn't reckon that there was something highly suspicious about Falco, didn't she think that it was strange that he was always appearing out of nowhere at the strangest and most inopportune moments? Maybe yes, at first she did harbor a few misgivings, but then she soon gets distracted by their clandestine outings and because Falco is oh-so-handsome and mysterious and dashing, she fancies herself infatuated with him. I could not comprehend her attraction to Falco, I mean yes, he's a talented artist and there's something to be said for men who are artistically inclined but seriously I could not see their connection. Maybe it was the thrill of all the sneaking around and secrecy and the prospect of disobeying her aunt and forbidden love and all that in addition to teenage hormones that made it such a rush.

Another thing that irked me was when Cass received a mysterious letter containing a threat to her life, she started jumping at her own shadow and became paranoid of everything around her. But Cass, instead of proceeding with care and taking precautions continues to put herself at risk by sneaking out in the middle of the night with nothing more but a lantern and sometimes a knife. I was quite surprised at how lucky Cass was - not once during any of her midnight excursions was she hurt or injured.

Falco is the love interest. He is, in typical YA male romantic interest fashion, the bad boy. The rebel who takes you places you've never been, who flashes you a devastating smile and expects you to fall at his feet, who makes you feel things you've never felt before. Falco is all that and an artist to boot, but might I add that he is undeniably, irritatingly cheesy. And I quote, "Your beauty lights up the darkest night, I could paint an entire chapel just for you. Maybe I will someday." I did not find that a particularly swoon-worthy declaration of love. Falco might think himself smooth and all but I certainly didn't.

This book also contains the dreaded love triangle. As stated in the premise, Cass has a fiance named Luca who is surprisingly absent for most of the book and is introduced to readers in the latter part of the story - I thought he would have a bigger role in the book. He, I suppose, is what Falco is not - a gentleman, refined, charming (or so you think) - and has been studying in France for the past three years. When he returns though, he is not the bookish, gangly boy that Cass remembers and has grown, unsurprisingly, into a handsome young man, with - you guessed it - bulgy muscles and has some secrets of his own. Cass is obviously torn between her fiance and the artist she claims to have feelings for.

Initially - meaning the first quarter of the book - I was fine with the boring characters because the prospect of a mysterious killer on the loose and gruesome deaths spurred me on. Imagine my irritation when I was around more than half of the book and still nothing was happening, all I got was scene after scene of Cass sneaking out in the middle of the night to meet with Falco, going here and there to look for clues when in actuality it was just an excuse to spend time together. In short, the threat to Cass's life and the search for the killer gave way to romance, romance and more romance. Shouldn't she have been afraid that someone was out to get her? Wasn't she scared that her own life was in danger? With the way she seemed to dangle herself out as bait, plus her flagrant disregard for own life, apparently not. The plot was sadly underdeveloped; the clues that would supposedly lead to the killer and the false trail that pointed to Falco - which were obviously a farce - were painful to read. And when the killer was finally revealed? I had to resist doing a facepalm because of how Cass found out the killer's identity. The events leading up to it were, frankly, quite random and the explanation for it all was vague at best and after finishing the book all I could think was, "What in the world just happened?". The ending was rushed and the events leading up to it were way too convenient to be believable - randomly stumbling across men carting bodies; randomly entering an art gallery with suspicious paintings - and I felt like nothing ever did get resolved. It was nothing more but a jumbled mess of identities revealed, secrets uncovered and the obvious realization that underneath beautiful, picturesque Venice danger and secrets abound.

If you pick this one up expecting a thrilling murder-mystery set in historical Venice you will sadly be disappointed. Venom is a book filled with insta-love, an underdeveloped plot overshadowed by romance, boring characters, an insipid damsel in distress type of heroine and a premise that promises more than it can deliver. Secret societies? Sadly, I found none.



  1. I love your honesty! :D I like the cover though. Thanks for the review.


  2. Hi! I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award! It’s an award for bloggers who have less than 200 followers. If you want to accept it, you can find the rules here:

  3. Am I ever glad to read your review. I am a huge mystery fan and this sounds like it doesn't deliver. I can't stand a weak character either, so I am passing on this. Thanks for your thoughts.

    1. Venom was a huge disappointment and I really expected so much more from it. It had such a promising premise too. Thank you for dropping by.

  4. OMG..insta-love, a bland MC and a love triangle..but the cover is so pretty..LOL Nice review, so sorry this disappointed!