Venom by Bex Hogan
From Goodreads: Marianne has never wanted to be a fighter, but with unrest and discord threatening the Twelve Islands, she will have to battle threats both inside and out in an attempt to attain peace for her homeland.
Marianne is now the Viper, but her hopes for peace in the Eastern Isles are being frustrated. The corrupt King remains on the throne, bandits are proving hard to stop and Marianne is not sure who among her crew she can truly trust.
For the islands to prosper, the invisible bond that once existed uniting land and sea must be reinstated. There’s only one way that can happen – the return of magic. To do that Marianne must put aside all her fears: she must return to her roots, the Western Isles, and call on the power that runs in her blood.
She must become a Mage.
Only then, can she possibly command the army needed to finally take down the King.
CW: for torture.
It took me so long to get around to this book. I was ridiculously excited when Venom came out, because I really loved Viper and every little thing about it. So I started reading it as soon as I had it in my hands. And I just couldn’t do it. Maybe a page or so in, I realised I’d hit a slump. And so, as much as I’d anticipated Viper, I decided the best thing I could do was read something else, and come back to it when I felt more like reading it.
And I am glad that I waited. Because Venom was exactly as good as I hoped it would be, and I am so happy I didn’t ruin the wonderful story for myself by trying to push through it when I wasn’t feeling it.
Venom begins beautifully, with a good dose of tension and angst. I’m not going to say exactly what happens, because I want to keep this review spoiler-free but it is so good and tense! It’s one of those brilliant calm before the storm moments when, even though you can pretty much predict what is going to happen next, it still hits you hard when the thing happens.
What truly sold this book for me was Marianne, and her awesome kick-ass character. She’s the perfect balance of ruthless and cunning and kind and sympathetic. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, and she’s absolutely phenomenal in a fight, but it’s very clear that she doesn’t enjoy hurting other people. The fact that Hogan takes time to show how great a healer she is reinforces this idea that Marianne is a reluctant fighter at best, even though she’s so damn good at it.
I also loved how magic seems to be such a dangerous thing in this world. Two books in, I’m still not entirely sure I understand much about the magic system. If I have any gripes about this book, I’d say that I still want to understand some of how magic works in this world, so that I can feel like parts of the plot going forward make sense and don’t feel like they happen because ‘magic happened’, but I feel like Venom did a slightly better job of working in magic than book one did. At least, I understand a couple of the rules for how it works now. But I do enjoy seeing how much Marianne struggles with her desire for magic, how corrupting it can be, and how it is so well woven into Marianne’s ambitions and yearning to save her world.
For anyone hoping for some romance, Venom is a bit light on that front. While it didn’t bother me particularly, I feel it’s fair to mention since a lot of people like a good side helping of kisses, flirting, and loaded looks with their YA. This book is not going to be that, but I have it on good authority that there may be more still to come in book three!
Mostly, I liked seeing more of the world being developed and seeing how the different islands function, as well as how they’re slowly falling apart. It was cool to get a sense of how much rests on Marianne’s shoulders, and it really made me sympathetic to her, because my god, that girl goes through a lot. There were some moments that really had me on the edge of my seat in a so-stressed-I-don’t-want-to-look-away sense. There were moments where the pacing lagged a little, and a few scenes where the story kind of meandered a bit, but for the most part I was desperate to find out what happened next. And then I got to the end of the book and now I slightly hate Bex for ending it the way she does because I need Vulture in my hands right this moment, thank you.
Overall, I’m giving Venom a 9/10. I thought the plot was fairly tight and tense, the stakes were always huge, and I love Marianne. She is one of my favourite YA heroines at this point, because she feels so real and flawed, but she’s ultimately good even in the face of such terrible odds. While I still feel like the magic is a little underdeveloped, I was excited to learn a bit more about it in this book, and it gives me high hopes and expectations for book 3.
Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below ❤