Exciting, highly original adventure for 8+ readers
The characters are definitely a strength in this novel (and in others I've read by the same author). These Venetian fantasies are peopled by a mixture of humans and creatures (some real, some fantastic) with strongly differentiated characteristics. I love the determination and tenacity of little Amneris, first seen in peril in the prologue as she climbs up into a tower where death may await her. From this opening, we jump back three months to see how this climax is reached, meeting Tockle, son of kaleidoscope makers, and Biri, Amneris's best friend, along the way. The child characters are realistic and recognisable and I'm sure many children will view them as friends and will recognise aspects of their friends (and of themselves) in them. The evil and magical characters are gloriously larger-than-life and inventive.
The novel is tightly and intricately plotted, with plenty of clues (and red herrings) as to how it will all fit together. I certainly wasn't able to predict the details of the story and there is more than enough to surprise and delight a child reader. Michelle Lovric uses magic and fantastic beasts to help the children, working within the quest and fairy tale traditions of magical helpers, but it is their own bravery which ultimately spurs them on, resulting in a satisfying tale for young readers.
Overall. I would readily recommend this for young readers of fantasy and adventure. It has all the characteristics of the best-loved children's stories, including larger-than-life characters alongside believable child heroes, magic and mystery and clear lines between good and evil.
From the publisher's website:Fogfinger rules Venice. His Fog Squad and spies are everywhere. The Venetians fear him and obey him. Every year one of their children is lost in a grisly Lambing ceremony. The child must climb the bell tower and let the Fate in the Box decide their destiny. Most end their days in the jaws of the primeval Crocodile that lurks in the lagoon. Or so Fogfinger tells them. But a chance meeting by a green apricot tree between Amneris and Tockle may be the beginning of the end for Fogfinger.
Silk and sewing, a magical glass kaleidoscope, mermaids and misunderstood Sea-Saurs, talking statues and winged cats, blue glass sea-horses, a spoiled rich girl and a secret society are just some of the ingredients in Michelle Lovric's exquisitely imagined and superbly plotted fourth fantasy set in Venice.