Viper was a YA Fantasy highlight of 2019 for me, and it was an ache to wait a whole year for the follow up after seeing Marianne come into her power, take back her autonomy and seize the title of Viper from the man she called father.
The wait is certainly worth it as this book starts fast, twists and turns throughout, and even amongst the quiet points there are revelations and new understanding.
At the end of this book I was slack jawed with shock at this ending and now I have to wait ANOTHER year for the final instalment Vulture.
I mean Bex…. how COULD YOU LEAVE US LIKE THAT!!?!?
Trigger warnings: knives, threat of rape, implied rape, torture, dismemberment.
Please note: MINOR Spoilers of key plot points that set up the rest of the narrative.
It is Marianne’s wedding day, supposedly to unite the Eastern Isles by Viper and future King wedded, but it is not a happy day for many and turns into disaster in the night when an assassin stabs Torin with Marianne’s own blade and leaves her to take the blame.
The King in his own tussle with Marianne has refused to abdicate uses this advantage to put her on show trial and have her sentenced to death before Torin can wake up and defend her.
Thanks to a needle left in her last meal Marianne breaks free and is set with the impossible task of clearing her name, making things up with Bronn, travelling to the Western Isles to raise an army under her birthright but all she really wants to learn is healing magic to heal the Islands not make further war.
Can she do it?
I may have fallen a long way, but there’s still an enormous drop beneath me.
Whilst the first book Viper is more bright and swashbuckling in tone, Venom is darker, riskier, introspective and more political, and a lot less of the action takes place at sea with more time spent exploring the Western Isles and Marianne’s heritage.
Venom really explores the consequences of unchecked ambition and untested leadership, or ‘running before you can walk’ as Marianne focuses on herself and what she wants forsaking what is needed by her crew, and her people, as she can’t seem to make up her mind; one moment she wantonly risks lifelong alliances to mark her territory as Viper, jealous and callous in her feverish need to stamp her authority and then the next focuses less on being the Viper and more on the possibility of Mage and True Heir to the Western Isles.
Mistake after mistake, misplaced trust after misplaced trust, neglect after neglect, insult after insult piles up making the outcome of this book her own making, but we are still on her side for we the reader know her head may be foolish but her heart is always in the right place.
His anger has fully ignited my own and all the fury that’s been building inside me for weeks, months, years, spews out.
In places Venom feels a bit like The Empire Strikes Back in how Marianne seeks out instruction in the magical arts, travels to distant strange lands to find it, including one of ice and snow and another of courtly graces and disciplined warriors only to find the betrayal runs deeper than she ever imagined.
By the comparison you can guess that this book is not going to end well as middle of trilogies so often do and indeed it sets us up with a fiery need to know what happens next and how will her heart, mind and body recover from the events of this book.
For a moment, I’m lost in the memory with ghosts, weighted down by their sorrow…
Overall, this book hits the ground running then settles down into an undulating rhythm like the sea, but there is blood in the water and always a shark-like menace in the background- who indeed will be the Palpatine in this tale, who will betray, and who will be no longer for this world?
It’s all to play for in Venom, how far Marianne is willing to go, or falls you will have to find for yourself and then scream in frustration for Vulture in 2021.
I am lucky enough to be taking part in the Blog Tour today and I am delighted to be hosting a Guest Post by Bex Hogan telling us of the Creation Story of the Mysterious Twelfth Isle, a destination in Venom and seat of power in the West. Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour for the Creation stories of the other Islands!!
Venom by Bex Hogan (Book Two of Isles of Storm and Sorrow) is published by Orion.
Thank you so much to Becci Mansell and Emily Thomas at Hachette Childrens Group for my copy and inviting me on the Blog Tour.