Fantasy Book Review: Venom

Venom by Fiona Paul

Cassandra Caravello has everything a girl could desire: elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, invitations to the best parties, and a handsome, wealthy fiancé—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 fiancé or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Cass lives in a historic Venice where status and reputation are everything in society. But Cass feels stifled in her refined life of privilege and lack of freedom. She’s engaged to a young man she barely knows, but feels she has no other choice in her future as women do not have the same liberties as men. The author does an amazing job of conveying the feeling of being trapped and repressed. And when Cass meets Falco, he opens up a whole new world of possibilities to her. It’s no wonder she feels an immediate pull and attraction to him.

Cass and Falco investigate the murder of a young courtesan, which brings the two together yet exposes that Falco has been holding back a dark secret. This lush, historic backdrop to a thrilling mystery and romance is impossible to put down. Packed with suspense, drama, secrets, and a heart-tugging love triangle – Venom is the first in a new trilogy. This impressive debut is beautiful, emotional, and intense. Fans of historical fiction and romance shouldn’t miss this one.

Fantasy Book Review: Thieftaker

Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson

Boston, 1767: In D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker, revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others…until he is asked to recover a necklace worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family.

Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can’t stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see.

Ethan Kaille (which kept reminding me of Nathan Hale, rhyming the name and this taking place just before the Revolutionary War) is a talented detective. As a “thieftaker” Ethan tracks thieves and brings them to justice, with the added help of his natural gift for spells. Unfortunately, pre-revolutionary America was not a time for wanting to be accused of being a witch, so Ethan has to keep his abilities as secret as possible. I loved this character. He’s brave and honest, with a good heart and a hard past. You would think that the hero of a pre-revolutionary story would be a patriot, but instead his political ties remain with the British. At least for now. Ethan is a fascinating character with an incredible past I’m eager to read more about.

The author does an impressive job of weaving fantasy into historical fiction, and even introduces a few familiar names from history during the Stamp Act from American history. The magic itself is a bit confusing, as most has to be conjured from blood and verbalized in Latin – yet not always. I would have liked to see more explanation behind all of this. With plenty of adventure, mystery, magic, drama, and thrills – genre fans won’t want to miss this one. Thieftaker is a fantastic series debut that I can’t wait to see continue.

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