First Lines: “Man falls down before the Angel of Death like a beast before the slaughterer.” The priest’s low voice echoed across the cavernous church. Thin shafts of sunlight cut paths through the stained-glass windows high above the altar.
Welcome to the world of 16th century Venice, where no one is who they seem and secrets are all a person has. This was on my to-read list for a while, though granted it only came out a couple months ago. Still, when I saw this was going to be a historical fiction mystery in the YA genre, I was all over that. I don’t get to read many books on Italy, let alone Venice. It sounded like fun.
Cassandra Caravello was born into the world of wealth. She’s been pampered all her life, treated to luxuries like extravagant gowns, fabulous parties, and a handsome fiance. But Cass wants something more. Ever since the death of her parents, Cass has wanted nothing more than to escape the rules of society and the labyrinthine canals of Venice. But when Cass stumbles upon the body of a murdered courtesan with an X slashed across her heart, she’s drawn into the dark underbelly of Venice, where criminals and courtesans mingle. With the help of a poor artist named Falco, Cass tries to find the murderer. Will she be able to find the murderer before he murders her? What secrets are Falco hiding? …Can Cass keep herself from falling in love with a man beneath her station, especially when she’s betrothed to someone else?
…I think I wrote that quite fantastically, if I do say so myself. I guess that’s what happens when I just spent my entire afternoon reading.
Anyway, I ended up finding this book sort of so-so. I had a few issues with the story itself and the characters.
I guess I’ll start with the story. Admittedly, the mystery is set up quite well. It’s easy to pick out the people you think may be responsibly, while second guessing yourself and thinking well, it could be this other person. However, I didn’t feel a whole lot of suspense or desire to find the killer. I was more interested in the smaller mysteries that Cass kept stumbling upon, the secrets the people around her were keeping. Those were far more interesting than finding a killer.
There are also a lot of unresolved plot lines at the end, and I don’t know whether those are going to flow into the next book (I sure hope so) or if they were simply forgotten. But considering they played a larger part in the story, I’m going to assume they turn up again. But be forewarned that not all your questions will be answered, questions you definitely felt should have been answered.
As for the characters, I really just had a hard time getting a feel for them. I tended to like them, but I just couldn’t categorize them, you know? Like, Cass would say that she liked doing something, and then spend the rest of the book not doing that. It was a little bizarre. And I didn’t really feel the emotions Cass was feeling either. It made the love plot quite weird and slightly uncomfortable on my end. However, there were a couple of characters that I will not name that really stood out to me. They were intriguing, and I’d probably read the next book just to see them again.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad story. It’s great to see Venice in this time period through the eyes of a spunky teenage girl. It’s her first time seeing courtesans and mingling with lower classes. The setting is cool and enhanced the story a lot.
Overall, I thought it was a good read, even if I felt unsatisfied in parts.