Monday, July 11, 2011

Early Review - The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric (4/5 stars)

The Undrowned ChildReading level: Middle Grade/YA
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Size: 464 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 9, 2011
ISBN-13:  978-0385739993
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC through Amazon Vine
Rating: 4/5 stars

I got an advanced reading copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program.  I love historical fantasies, especially ones set in Europe, so this sounded like an excellent read to me.  In general I really enjoyed the story, all of the history, the fantastical creatures, and the Venice setting.

Teodora has always longed to visit Venice.  Finally her scientific parents are called to help with the problem of Venice sinking and Teo is allowed to accompany them.  There Teo is hit on the head by a mysterious book and drawn into the world between the layers of Venice; it is a world where mermaids print propoganda fliers, cats talk, and the very fate of Venice is at stake.  Can Teo, with the help of the studious Renzo, save Venice before the whole city is destroyed and succumbs to absolute evil?

There were a lot of things I really liked about this book.  I loved how much history is entwined with this story, I love even more that the author tells the reader which parts were real history and which were fabricated in the Afterward.  I love the shear scope of fantastical creatures that enter this story: there are mermaids, werewolves, vampire eels, giant talking cats, winged lions, and more.   Teo herself is an admirable heroine and Renzo also grows on you as the story continues.  I also enjoyed the epic struggle between good and evil that takes place in this story.

The plot is complex and takes a while to set up.   I think it took a little too long to set up.  As a reader you get the basics of the plot pretty quick; Teo has to save Venice from ultimate destruction.  The plot stalled a bit in the middle for me.  It always seemed like there was one more thing Teo and Renzo had to do before the epic end battle, and it was drawn out a bit too long.  My only other complaint was that some times things were thrown into the story with little reason; for example in the end battle there are suddenly dark elves present and I was like...huh?...when did they get here?  These little extras made the story increasingly complicated without adding much to the overall story, they also made the writing seem a bit scattered at times.

Overall this was an excellent historical fantasy of epic proportions.  I loved learning the history of Venice and about the city itself.  I loved the wonderful fantastical creatures that Teo dealt with.  Teo and Renzo were excellent characters and it was fun to watch them solve mysteries together.  My only complaints are that the story lagged a bit in the middle and little things were added in that made the story a bit too scattered and complicated.  If you cut a hundred pages out of the middle and consolidated some of the mini-quests that Teo and Renzo went through mid-book, this would be a perfect read.  I did like the book overall.  It should be appropriate for middle grade or older readers (although it is a bit dark with talk of torture and lots of battle scenes).  Readers who enjoy historical fantasy should find this book especially engaging.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:

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