By Michelle Louvric
Published by Orion
ISBN 978 1 4255 702 0
Here we are again in Venice, that enticingly beautiful Italian city where so many writers like to set their stories. In the hands of a skilful author, the ancient narrow streets, crumbling palaces, dark canals and tumultuous history combine to make the city the perfect place for a story to play out.
In Michelle Louvric's captivating fantasy The Undrowned Child, the city is as much a character as a setting. Venice broods, watches and draws mere human characters into its murky past and unsettling secrets. It hides many secrets, some real and some imagined.
Venice has been waiting for 11-year-old Teodora to arrive. Separated from her parents and everything she understands, she is swept into a watery underworld where dark forces threaten the ancient city's existence. What can Venice want from a young girl like Teo? Why has the city been waiting for her for so long?
It's June 1899. Two eminent scientists and their adopted daughter arrive in Venice from Naples. For years, Teodora has begged her parents to take her to Venice, but they have always refused, never explaining why. The city is slowly sinking and buildings are collapsing. Teo's parents have been asked to find a solution to Venice's problems.
One day, while rummaging around in an old bookshop, Teo has a small accident. A book falls from one of the high shelves, and hits her on the head. She is only slightly injured, and the bookseller insists apologetically that she keeps the book as a gift.
It is then that strange things begin to happen to Teo. She suddenly finds herself in a frightening, alternative Venice under siege from supernatural elements intent on destruction. Strange phenomena are stirring, and a bewildered Teo finds herself caught up in a fight to save the city.
The Undrowned Child is packed full of adventure, suspense and history. Ghosts, mermaids, moving statues, invisible children and a fearsome creature living in the watery depths under the city all play their part in Louvric's gripping and elegantly written supernatural fantasy.
It doesn't take long for the reader to work out who the eponymous undrowned child is, and what part she has to play in saving Venice from total destruction.
The plot, characters and setting of The Undrowned Child are so rich in detail, and so persuasively alive, that readers have no choice but to accept that all this could just be frighteningly real.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com