Back in March I ran into this book during a children's and YA book sale. I won't lie, this book has the most beautiful cover art of any book I've ever seen, and that would be one hundred percent why I picked it up. Even the end pages were gorgeous!
But then I picked it up and read the blurb, it was set in Venice! One of my dream European cities. Ok, so the premise sounded like it had promise too, but really, I might have bought it anyhow.
Venice + Pretty book= sold.
It's nice to have no real expectations about a book when you start. I've never seen this book in a bookstore before or since I picked up (i grabbed the only copy at chapters) and I've never heard of the author or seen a review for this or any of her other books. So it was a perfect clean slate.
The first thing I noticed was what a distinctive and unusual voice it had. Set over a few short days in June of 1899, this book is written with a lovely lilting prose that never talks down to it's readers. The eloquence of the two children is starkly contrasted by the supremely fun slang of the the mermaids. "Keep yer noggin' mouf shut, ye great dafty!" or "My gib was atwitch, I might of knowed it. Human childer smell most peculiar, I do declare freely". Between the prose and the world Michelle Lovric has created I was quickly swept away.
The premise is simple, Teodora, and Lorenzo (super great names!), must save Venice from the machinations of the evil Bajamonte Tiepolo (seriously, I need a bunch of cats that I can give some great old Italian names too). Otherwise known as Il Traditore, Bajamonte Tiepolo was banished from Venice for his crimes against Her in 1310, but his ghost is back for revenge and he is building a fierce-some army of pirates, ghosts, vampire eels and a sea monster who can destroy the city of water.
With a great deal of action and adventure, reams of fun characters, (honestly when is the last time you read about mermaids?) and the fascinating history of Venice itself, it may have been impossible for Michelle Lovric to go astray with The Undrowned Child. She's managed to create a very unique story in the world of children's lit, which, considering the broad range out there, is impressive in and of itself.
Obviously a huge lover of Venice (she lives there herself these days), the story also reads as a love letter to Venice. I was already fascinated by Her colourful history and unique setting but I think Michelle will inspire many others in a fascination with the floating city.
After perusing her website, I was surprised to learn The Undrowned Child will have a sequel. A fully complete story in itself I'm not sure what the next book will cover, but I can't wait to find out. The Mourning Emporium (I'm telling you, this woman has a way with words! another fab title) is set to release November 4th in the states and December 15th in Canada (how obnoxious!). It looks every bit as pretty as the first!
The Undrowned Child, By Michelle Lovric
Published by Orion Books, February 2010